There was an old house near the end of Dibble Street West that sat empty for years. But just before Halloween, it was all lit up. No one saw a soul move in — no truck, no car, no one in the yard raking leaves — nothing.

The day before the big night, word spread that the walkway up to the old place was lined with skeletons draped with cobwebs — very lifelike, now that I think about it. Anyway, back in those days Halloween was a big deal. Kids had built-in radar for the best places to collect loot. Come Halloween day, every kid in the neighbourhood wanted to be first in line at skeleton alley.

That year, I went out with my older sister. She’d tell you the same story, more or less. We stuffed down our supper, and headed straight up Dibble. I must’ve pulled her arm off.

When we arrived, there was a line-up halfway down the walk. The kid ahead of us said the guy at the door was some kind of magician, that he thumps his stomach, gags like he’s about to throw up, then pulls something out of his mouth — all we had to say was Trick.

We were ten kids from the door before I got a decent look at him. He was an oddball, no doubt about it — balder than a bowling ball, and his ears stuck out like saucers. His jaw was huge, like hinges on a garbage truck. And his clownish smile stretched from ear to ear.

He never said, Trick or Treat? He just stood there, goggling at you. But it didn’t matter. Every kid said Trick anyway.

While we waited in line, he croaked up a brass doorknob, two keys, a paperweight, a sealed envelope, a cassette, and an expensive looking ring.

It was my turn. He pulled up his shirt, bopped his bulbous stomach, and burped. Up comes — you won’t believe it — up comes a paperback novel.

My sister wouldn’t take a thing. She said it made her gag. But everything he coughed up was perfectly dry. All the kids thought he was hilarious.

We joined the crowd around the doorstep to watch the next trick. He drummed his stomach — nothing. He walloped it again — just air. He threw up his hands, as if to say he was out of treats, and slammed the door.

Everyone was waiting for him to come back, when at the snap of a finger the whole place went dark.

But that wasn’t the strangest part.

Something weird happened a few days later — with the girl and the paperweight.

She notices a stain on the bottom and shows it to her mom. Her mom has a fit ’cause she thinks it’s blood and takes the lump of marble to the police station. The police don’t believe the burping magician part, but they say they’ll investigate. They march over to the Regurgitator’s house and it’s a tomb — empty to the bare walls. So, they run a few tests and, lo and behold — the blood matches some cold case ten years old.

They got fingerprints, too — not the girl’s, just a suspect’s. And they nabbed the killer — still living in town — pretty nervy.

That started an avalanche. Other kids started taking a closer look at their treats. The letter turned out to be a will. Some greedy uncle hid it to cheat his nephew out of an inheritance. The brass doorknob matched an old cellar door the kid remembered — talk about skeletons in the closet. On and on it went. Kids who got a treat matched it with some secret known only to them.

The paperback? I spotted circled letters in every chapter. I figured out a pattern and the letters spelled out an address, and HELP. That story hit the news. Kidnappers had hidden some poor kid. Guess where the police found him?

It’s true what they say — things done in the dark always come to light — one way or another.