I left the house the other morning to the first sighting of an overnight frost for the season, a sure sign of autumn.
I enjoy this time of year. The leaves have changed color. The nip in the air. The taste of fresh apple cider and hot, delicious soups. The football.
A lot of my fondness for this season has to do with Halloween. In enjoyed dressing up in the costumes as a kid, although I stopped when I was probably around 11 or 12.
We would get a lot of good candy back then. Cans of pop from a couple of houses, some homemade popcorn balls, chocolate bars, gum, etc. One of my great-aunts always made gingerbread men. We made it a point of driving up every year.
These days, no one really goes around our neighborhood of trick-or-treat. We still get a couple bags of candy and leave the porch light on just in case, but not a single kid shows up. It's probably a lot to do with the road I live along. If I was a kid these days, I doubt I would want to walk along it in the dark.
The biggest thing for me, though, has always been hearing the stories of ghosts and goblins and other creatures that go bump in the night.
Those tales of the unknown that put just enough of a scare into you that you look over your shoulder every few minutes to make sure you're not being followed.
A year ago, or maybe it was two, I tried asking for people to send in their favorite local ghost story. My hope was to have a nice collection to publish on Halloween to provide a fun feature and help put people in the spirit (pun intended.) I?received one submission.
So, I'm not asking for ghost stories this year, but if you do happen to know any good tales from our area and feel like sharing, tell them to your neighbor, write them down and preserve them.
There are plenty of books out there with good ghost stories from West Virginia. Maybe you can go to your local book store or library and see what they have to offer along those lines.
Of course, reading a story and actually experiencing something supernatural are two completely different things.
I'm sure we all know someone who claims to have had an experience at some point in their lives. There are a few stories I've heard from my great-grandparents' time, and other current family members have told of seeing shadows or hearing voices. I won't name names, of course, because that's their business if they want to share.
But I can mention an experience of my own. I've always believed in the possibility of ghosts and such, but it's one of those "prove it to me" things. I need to have solid evidence of something before I'll even begin to consider the possibility.
About four years ago, I had the opportunity to go to the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum in Weston, W.Va. for an event with a paranormal group from a particular television show on a particular science-fiction cable network.
Those of us there were divided into groups and taken to different sections of the complex.
At one point, while sitting alone in a room, I began asking a bunch of random questions to no one in particular.
At one point, after asking a specific question, I could swear I heard someone respond, very quietly, "Yes."
Others claimed to have had flashlights turn on and off, or spin in a circle, or say they saw shadows, but the most I had was a simple one-word answer.
To this day I remain skeptical about whether I truly heard what I?thought I heard. It was late at night, after all, and I was tired. But it certainly left an impression.
One year, my family took a weekend trip to Gettysburg, where they have turned ghost tours into a mini-industry.
There's one on almost every block of the main roads, and many buildings which hold night-time tours promising a ghostly experience.
I've not seen any there, but I've heard from people who say they have seen and felt many a strange thing while walking through the town.
Then, of course, there are the local stories about the old state penitentiary in Moundsville.
Yes, this is a time of possibility and mystery. When the cold begins to bite at your nose and that crunch of leaves behind you could be just about anything.
The full moon adds that extra bit of something to the strangeness and feeling of foreboding in the dark of night.
You never know what might be lurking around that next corner; what is truly behind that light, chilly breeze. It could be an animal or something else otherworldly.
Keep that in mind while out there this time of year, and keep looking over your shoulder.
(Howell, a resident of Colliers, is managing editor of The Weirton Daily Times, and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or followed on Twitter @CHowellWDT)