Like so many others, Katie Darnton will hand out Halloween goodies Saturday night. But the 85-year-old Clarksville woman wishes people would focus upon the lighter elements of the observance. Darnton said she has traced her ancestry to Rebecca Nurse, who was hanged in July 1692 during the infamous Salem witch trials.


Like so many others, Katie Darnton will hand out Halloween goodies Saturday night.

   But the 85-year-old Clarksville woman wishes people would focus upon the lighter elements of the observance.

   Darnton said she has traced her ancestry to Rebecca Nurse, who was hanged in July 1692 during the infamous Salem witch trials.

   Darnton said the persecution in Massachusetts so long ago was an “example of where hysteria can take you,” and she’s concerned that too much emphasis is put on the darker side of Halloween.

   The Oct. 31 observance has its roots in Celtic tradition, and precedes the Christian celebration of All Saints Day on Nov. 1.

   While the original Halloween festivals may have been more about celebrating the end of harvest, the holiday has taken on ominous tones over the years.

   “Halloween is fun, but watch the dark side,” Darnton said. “There’s no reason for Halloween.”

   Darnton remembers going door-to-door as a child to solicit treats. She evens admits to pulling a prank or two. But she’s concerned that too much attention today is put on the negatives.

   “All I’m saying is change the tone of it,” Darnton said. “It’s OK to have fun and go out and do something good for your treat.”

   Darnton has lived in Clarksville for a quarter-century, and says she didn’t just hand out candy. Trick-or-treaters who stepped onto her porch were asked to perform a dance or tell a joke.

   “It wasn’t just ‘C’mon, give me something or I’ll wreck your house,’” Darnton said. “You gave something of yourself. Sometimes, the jokes were a little bad, but the kids loved it.”

   Darnton said she’s researched her family history extensively and has written about her thoughts on Halloween.

   While she’s gotten hate mail for it, she’s also gotten quiet compliments from parents and others.

   And, like Rebecca Nurse, Darnton isn’t keeping quiet. Nurse was 71 and what her neighbors called a “model of Christian behavior” when she was accused of witchcraft.

   Nurse’s case helped change public opinion about the validity of the witchcraft trials, and Arthur Miller used her as the central character in his 1953 play “The Crucible”
   “I think people should speak out,” Darnton said. “They should know the truth. We need to see this in a much broader perspective.”