The Only Thing We Have to Fear Is?


Ipswich. Dangerous place. At least during Halloween season.

It wasn’t many weeks after my family and I arrived in this otherwise benign, reassuring little town that the terror began creeping in. Ghastly, ghoulish figures began appearing on utility poles downtown. Creepy ghosts, hideous witches, menacing skeletons, zombies and goblins and hags, Frankensteins and Draculas, mummies and Creatures from the Black Lagoon. On Market Street, the traffic crawled, and so did my skin.

As I understand it, all of this was mostly the fault of the Chamber of Commerce. Year after year, in the run-up to Halloween, they relentlessly goaded downtown merchants to decorate utility poles, the creepier the better. At stake: a public vote. Which business would be lauded for the most exquisitely hair-raising utility pole decorations?

Thank goodness, Electric Light Department manager Jon Blair finally stepped in to save us from this annual nightmare. In mid-October, Blair asked the Chamber not to incite Ipswich businesses to all this reckless decorating. At least not this reckless decorating of utility poles.

You can see why he had to take action; it was simply too dangerous. Blair knows that God didn’t create utility poles for such blasphemous uses, and why. Just think of the potential agonies.

This is not about drivers dangerously distracted by diabolical demons. Never mind small children screaming in terror as their mommies lead them down the sidewalk. Don’t worry about people considering relocation recoiling in horror and moving to Boxford instead, leading to massive economic decline for Ipswich. No. The real dangers of Halloween decorations on utility poles are far more terrifying.

What if there’s a problem, and a utility needs its pole climbed, but the worker arrives on the scene, and there’s a bat with a blood-drenched mouth baring its teeth at him, and he runs screaming back into his truck and spends the rest of the day hugging his knees and trembling? You can’t run a town that way.

Or what if there’s an emergency, and they need a certain utility pole to be climbed quickly, and they send an extra-brave worker, and he’s totally willing to climb the pole, but it’s swaddled in fake cobwebs, and as he climbs, the worker gets that cotton-candy-like stuff all over his gloves, and then in his eyes, and then his nose, and starts sneezing, and — well, the outcome is heartbreaking.

Or what if there’s a hurricane, and a utility pole falls over, and as it crashes to the earth, the werewolf clinging to the utility pole accidentally sinks its fangs into one of the pole’s own power lines, and half the town is plunged into darkness?

There are so many ways this can go badly, when you start putting ferocious and frightening Halloween decorations on your utility poles.

But no more. Not in this town. This Halloween, our utility poles are going to be bare-naked. Utterly ordinary. Perfectly accessible. Instantly climbable. Totally safe. The decorations may move to the streetlights or the trees. But not the poles. Never again.

Ipswich, we can breathe again. Let us give thanks.

The next time you walk, bicycle, or drive through downtown, and you’re thoroughly bored because the utility poles are so completely plain — rivaling the plainness of the utility poles of Rowley, Essex, or even Griffith, Indiana — take a moment to lift a prayer of gratitude to our Ipswich Electric Light Department.

Fun can be deadly. No way it’s gonna happen here.



Doug Brendel lives safe and secure on outer Linebrook Road, the land of undecorated utility poles. Follow him by clicking “Follow.”



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