Our local ementary school's 5th and 6th graders had been planning an elaborate reprise of last year's Haunted Forest with me. They had written up and revised a story, assigned roles with redundancies built in, tasked individual students with objects to bring, even sketched out a map of the woods where things were to occur.
But with steady rain and dangerous, branch-snapping winds, what to do? Saturday we awoke to very loud winds and utterly dead electricity. The county's power grid was down, battered offline by storms riding a pressure front. Tree branches and entire trees crashed down from our mountaintop to the valley's bottom. We made do at home, igniting the stove with matches to perc coffee, feeding the goats and chickens as sleet whipped nearly horizontally, stopping by the community firehouse to use the showers.
Gwynneth and I brooded as we walked the sodden path from the firehouse to the school. We were joined by other kids. Suddenly, a brainstorm struck: do the event inside the school, along the main corridor between the classrooms. Yes, and have the fully made up kids (werewolf, ghost, serial killer, George W. Bush) take up positions... as wax figures! Then, once a tour group had been guided past them, they'd silently creep out of their stances and sidle up behind the group...
The kids discussed this, voted for it, then went into a frenzy of improvisation, revising all of their plans in less than one hour. A sprawling outdoors event was squeezed and remixed into a haunted hallway. Props, decorations, surprises were thrown together, repurposed, made whole in furious children's creativity.
We opened the doors at about 5 pm... and it went splendidly. A first tour group of nearly ten kids and their parents were read a story, led past the wax figures, then down a dark hallway of increasingly-scary surprises, pictures, sounds, dead bodies that leap up from the floor. The terrified, shrieking tour partly stumbled into the warm, brightly-lit party room at the end, and my 5th and 6th graders raced back to their positions in the dark corridor, thinking of new tricks, and yelling "again, Mr. Alexander, again!"