The witch of Kippendavie rides her broom no more

Halloween on Kippendavie Avenue in the Beach will never be the same. The ‘witch’s house’ is boarded up, fenced off, and slated for demolition along with five other houses, to be replaced with a recently approved four-storey condominium property development.

The witch’s house and its strange inhabitant who haunted my childhood dreams will soon be just a memory. It began in the mid-1940s when I was about six years of age and attending Kew Beach Public School at the top of Kippendavie Avenue. I lived (and still do) near the bottom on the opposite side from the school. After a month or so of adult-accompanied walks to and from school, I was allowed to make the trip solo or with young friends who lived nearby.

One day while walking alone to school, I noticed a strange woman, tottering unevenly in fits and starts up the street ahead of me. She was dressed all in black, in an unfashionable, crooked-hem style of dress that reminded me of a witch costume worn by my friend on the past Halloween.

The woman’s hat, while not actually pointed at the top, was different from any I had seen.

I slowed down to distance myself from the woman. It was then that I spotted what was, to me, conclusive evidence of her witchiness – the footprints she left in the light snow were sharply pointed in the likeness of devil’s hooves.

Uneasily, my imagination conjured up what her feet must look like inside the shoes – surely very different from my ten little toes in their properly-rounded shoes.

There was no doubt in my mind: she must be a ‘witch’.

Soon, I reached the school and crossed the street. I saw the woman turn in, make her way down a long path, and enter number 66, a house set far back from the others on the street.

After that, my dreams were haunted by spooky houses and flying witches with one horribly fused, pointed toe on each foot.

Discussions with my friends gleaned the information that 66 Kippendavie was indeed haunted. I learned that the witch’s name was Sunbeam. You might think that a pleasant name associated with brightness and sunshine. But in my little world, populated with Marys, Anns, and Donnas, it seemed unearthly, and perfectly suitable for a witch.

During our annual Halloween trick-or-treating up and down the neighbouring streets, my friends and I always carefully bypassed the witch’s house. Dares to knock at the door of number 66 were sometimes issued, but never accepted. We would merely stop to have a good look at the perpetually broken pane of glass in an upper window, and watch for the shiver-inducing sight of Sunbeam’s shadow moving around the dimly lit house.

In my Halloween memories, there was always a gibbous moon sitting just above the roof of her house, waiting for Sunbeam to ascend and fly past it on her broomstick, forming the classic flying witch-in-front-of-the-moon silhouette.

As time went by, my fears lessened somewhat. They disappeared completely a couple of years later when, walking down the street with my mother, I called her attention to number 66. I told her that we kids called it the witch’s house, and described the witch, Sunbeam, who lived there.

Then I got the surprise of my life. My mother had actually gone to school with Sunbeam who, although a quiet person who kept to herself and was maybe a bit different, was certainly not a witch.

The mystery of the horribly pointed footprints resolved itself in my teen years when pointed-toe shoes came into style. I discovered that in my new shoes, my normal feet produced exactly the same footprints as those made by Sunbeam the first time I saw her.

Over the years, other people moved into number 66, and the house was spruced up and became ordinary. Only on Halloween did I think of the haunted house and the almost-witch who made me shiver long ago.

And soon the house and my memory of Sunbeam will be gone.


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