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Subject: A Halloween Story

(as presented at the SECO)

This version of the story was a combination of the original, along with the modifications by Bill the first class enrolled in the ACTIVE Chemistry Mentoring Program Richey and Laura Guenther. It was presented by the first class enrolled in the ACTIVE Chemistry Mentoring Program* at Miami University, Middletown, Ohio.

Before show: As people entered the room, they were given a copy of a riddle, but not told what it was for. Scary music playing; dimly lit room; room set up with 2 large plastic pumpkins glowing.

Begin with the {goldenrod messages demo}; nothing is said while this is being performed. The Ghost of Guenther then introduced herself and ran methane gas into a large black cauldron of soapy water. She lit her hand on fire to prove she really is a ghost. {methane mamba demo} She then began to recount the story.jack-o-lantern

A young boy and his friends are out trick-or-treating on Halloween night. They are nearing the end of their fun when they decide to visit the house of an old woman who lives at the end of a nearby street. Everyone in town feared old woman Guenther, but the courageous few that had visited her house on past Halloweens were rewarded with the biggest and best treats. Tonight this group decided to make their initial visit.

As the friends reached the lane leading up to the Guenther estate, they noticed some mysterious signs posted on an old tree {two message sign - "Beware" and "Turn Back'} They experienced a chill but laughed it off. They noticed that the wind was blowing but no leaves were moving.

Ahead they saw it - the Guenther estate. Backlit by the rising moon, they understood why the the Guenther estate word estate was a misnomer. Old woman Guenther's house was in a disastrous state of disrepair. With broken windows and hanging shutters, it looked sinister at best. After only a moment's hesitation, everyone in the group, except one, began to walk up the long lane. They had hardly noticed that Tommy stayed behind. They were focused on avoiding the thorny brambles and ground cover that encroached on their path. As they drew closer to the house, they saw the vine - laden wrought iron fence. The dead leaves of the vine moved independently of the wind, beckoning them like bony fingers. The porch was decorated with strangely illuminated pumpkins. Their pulses quickened but Michael mustered his courage and boldly rang the doorbell. After what seemed an eternity, old woman Guenther slowly opened the creaky door. She silently dropped an object into each bag. The beggars turned and retreated down the long, dark, twisty lane. Only Sarah and Brian remembered to mumble a weak "thank you" before they dashed off.

When the friends regathered at the street, they looked into their bags to see what they had received. To their amazement, each got their favorite king sized candy bar. "How did she do that?" they wondered. Tommy was astounded and slightly embarrassed that he had chickened out. He decided that if they could do it, then he could too. But he was still reluctant to venture up the hill until his friends promised to wait for him at the end of the lane.

When he reached the front porch he rang the doorbell. At that very moment two pumpkins on the porch responded in a wicked manner! {lycopodium powder demo done in a pumpkin & {elephant toothpaste demo done in a pumpkin} Tommy tried to turn and run but he was frozen by fear. Suddenly the front door opened and old woman Guenther said in a very deliberate tone, "And for you, a special gift!" as she dropped a heavy object into the boy's bag. She disappeared into the house as quickly as she appeared.

Tommy ran as fast as he could back to the street, screaming the whole way. Upon hearing this, his friends scattered, leaving him behind. When he got far enough away from the house that he felt safe, he ducked behind a tree to see what he had received. He pulled out a large, dusty, but ornate bottle.

He started to brush the dust off, when suddenly a genie came out of the bottle. {genie in a bottle demo} The genie said, "You have released me. You are the chosen one that must now solve my riddle. If you solve it correctly, then you will be granted three wishes. If you can not solve it, then you will surly die within the next 4 hours." The riddle is in your hands (audience encouraged to look at the piece of paper they received upon entering the room):

Conquered by a little light,
A flame will take away its might.

The genie then gave Tommy a map showing him how to find two special solutions which, when mixed together, would provide him with a big clue as to the answer of the riddle. He was also cautioned that he must burn the map after he finds the two solutions, but before he mixes them together.

Slowly, Tommy opened the map and examined it. Then he muttered, "not the old woods on the other side of the graveyard." Tommy recalled how he used to play in that old woods when he was younger. But since that time several people had disappeared from those woods and were never heard from again. Drawing a hesitant breath, Tommy set out to find the solutions. He ran through the graveyard but tripped suddenly and fell. It felt as though something or someone had grabbed his ankle as he was running. He quickly got back up and continued to run without looking back.

According to the map, the first bottle was to be found near the old oak tree where years ago it was rumored that an former co-worker of old woman Guenther was found dead hanging from a branch of the big oak tree. Arriving there Tommy looked up and found the first bottle. To get to the second solution, the map directed Tommy to the other side of the woods to a big elm tree. Up in the crook of a branch was the second bottle. Having both solutions, Tommy thought he was about to finally solve the riddle. He combined them, but nothing happened! {Halloween colors demo - only mix solutions B and C} Tommy couldn't understand why nothing was happening. He began to panic! He realized that the clock was ticking away. Time was running out. If he didn't solve the riddle soon, he could lose his life.

Cold and shaking, he put on his gloves. It was then that he noticed that his hands were bleeding; he was running out of time! {bloody picture demo} He remembered that he was to burn the map before mixing the two solutions, so he rolled up the map, stood it up and lit it. {mysteriously rising napkin demo} His hands trembled and his heart pounded. Next, he added a bit more of the solutions to see what would happen. {Halloween colors demo - add solution A to the already mixed B & C} He then saw the clue and was able to solve the riddle (Do you have the answer?). Tommy yelled out into the night sky - DARKNESS! The genie then appeared and granted him his wishes.

Original idea and story by:
Michael Geyer (m_geyer@thecatalyst.org)
Deer Park High School, Cincinnati, OH

Modifications by:
Bill Richey (Bill.Richey@mciworldcom.net)
Xenia High School, Xenia, OH

Laura Guenther (Lauragnth@aol.com)
Talawanda High School, Oxford, OH

* The ACTIVE Chemistry Mentoring Program is a part of the Center For Chemistry Education at Miami University, Middletown Campus, Middletown, OH.

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