In college, my two roommates and I rented an apartment on the main drag of our college town.
Halloween in my college town has always been a spectacle. Basically thousands of people from all over the state, and even out of state, dress up in outrageous costumes and go galavanting up and down the main pedestrian mall until they’re too drunk or too cold to feel their own feet.
Having participated in this event the previous three years, I knew better than to go outside. Not because of the crowds. Not because of the debauchery. Because October in Wisconsin is FREEZING, especially when you are trying to parade around dressed as a “sexy vampire” or “sexy butterfly” or whatever they were trying to sell college girls that year.
Nope. Our awesome apartment looked right over the pedestrian mall, so we could watch the reverie and drink all the beer we wanted, without having to leave our warm apartment or wait in line.
Now, we were still in costume (it was Halloween, after all.) I was a car-crash victim, since it meant I could still wear a sweatshirt and yoga pants. All I had to do was smear on some fake blood, and make my face look dead(er) using makeup I already owned. Who knew all that purple eyeshadow would come in handy?
My roommate, Eunice, was a great deal more creative than I. She dressed as a mad-scientist. She got her hands on a lab coat and safety goggles, and used black makeup to make it look like something just blew up in her face. I’m not sure if my other roommate dressed up. I’m pretty sure Husband (then Boyfriend) didn’t.
The evening was quiet. Once or twice we had people ring the doorbell, asking to get into the party. We loudly informed them that there was no party at our place (4 or so people do not a party make), but maybe check the apartment across the hall from us, as they were having their own celebration with a number of guests.
For some reason (I don’t remember why), around midnight, I opened our door to see the hallway FULL of smoke. You couldn’t see the front door. My roommates, boyfriend and I decided it was in our best interests to leave. Actually, I may have hollered at them something along the lines of “HOLY CRAP, OUR HALLWAY IS ON FIRE!” and forced them out the door. The tenants across the hall were also trying to escape.
As we walked down the steps leading to the front door, we started stumbling and falling over one another. For some reason the carpeting on the stairs was ripped out and pulled up. We all spilled out into the mob outside our front door.
Several of the tenants called 911. Actually, I think I probably hollered something along the lines of “CALL 911! QUICK! DO IT NOW!” Apparently I become loud and bossy during a crisis, instead of actually doing anything myself.
Luckily, there was a noticeable police presence that night, trying to control the horde of partyers, so Eunice, the mad scientist, went to find one. It didn’t take her long.
“Sir!” she said, “Our apartment is on fire! Please come help!” He took a look at her. With a lab coat. Covered in (fake) soot. With her hair sticking straight up.
“Yeah right,” he replied.
I’m pretty sure at that moment Eunice’s brain exploded. But she did drag the officer to our building. At that point, the firefighters also showed up, and headed in the building.
There was no fire.
Turns out some one (probably one of the persons turned away from the party that didn’t exist) broke in through the back door, tore up all the carpeting and sprayed several fire extinguishers into the hall, creating the “smoke” that sent us all catapulting out of the building.
Apparently, landlords don’t like to have to account for their tenants’ unnecessary 911 calls at midnight on the craziest night of the year. Though she was MAD, our landlady was ultimately a good soul and didn’t hold the nights events too much against us.
Lesson learned: It’s better to go bar-hopping on Halloween than it is to stay at home.