Billy Bones (true name William Francis Waznowski) became a mortician by trade after his dry goods store failed. He bore a grudge against the competition that ran him out of business but despite that animus, when members of the Fleming family shuffled off this mortal coil, he did a splendid job of making them look lifelike in their coffins. The story reporting the fire to their store after the last Fleming died didn’t make it above the fold. It didn’t even make the business section. It became news in the police blotter, the section immediately preceding the crossword puzzle, comics and the classifieds. Rumors of a curse or hex abounded for a season, but time erased them.
Speculation at the time ran that the editor had a well founded fear of Billy Bones and he spiked the story personally. I’m not sure what to believe.
Things became suspicious when neighborhood children went missing on Halloween night as they trick-or-treated on Billy’s street. His house, brightly lighted, displaying pumpkins and black paper cats was a magnet for the children. He gave out full-size candy bars, not the measly treat-sized chocolate. On the night, he wore his best porcelain dentures, oversized, looking more like horse teeth than human teeth. His big smile as he handed out candy assured neighbors of his sincere intentions to be part of the community. Long after neighborhood lights went out as candy supplies were depleted, Billy’s stayed on, and some children went back for candy four or five times. That very open and generous conduct ruled out any possibly of foul play so far as the police were concerned.
However, the mystery of the missing children remained.
The Halloween practice that everyone had become accustomed to changed as the couple lighted the mortuary and children were invited in to accept candy from Mrs. Bones, who lay inside a coffin well into the viewing parlor of the funeral home. Full sized candy and no prohibition on repeat visits still made the place the go-to spooky place on Halloween night.
It was only years later, after Billy and his wife died, that the new owner of the funeral parlor found that the Butterfingers were actually buttered fingers, draped in chocolate and that the Baby Ruth bars were made from real babies, purchased in bulk with a discount rate from Planned Parenthood. The Snickers were handed out for shits and giggles. A curse or magic spell, which faded following the death of those who cast it, made the young believe that they were eating genuine candy.