Friday, October 24, 1997
Broom jockey object of fun,
not worship


BY CLIFF RADEL
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Trick or treat. Cincinnati is in the national spotlight again. No, it's not Marge or Larry Flynt.

witch
This letter-carrrying witch was ordered removed from the Anderson Township post office.
(Ernest Coleman photo)
| ZOOM |
It's a stuffed witch at the Anderson Township post office, a Halloween story that's now ping-ponging around the national press. Post Office Ditches Witch on Complaint, rhymed the Washington Post.

Ding-Dong, Post Office's Witch is Gone, sang the Chicago Tribune. The witch in question, a homemade holiday decoration, hung for seven days outside the Anderson Township post office.

After one anonymous complaint, it was taken down. And the story began.

The anonymous person implied witches are religious symbols used by devil worshipers.

If a witch could be put up at the post office for Halloween, the person reasoned, a Nativity scene would be expected to be in place for Christmas.

As part of the government, the post office abides by the separation of church and state. In these politically correct times, that means down comes the witch.

"We don't want to offend anybody," said Joe Meimann, the branch's customer service manager.

"We just wish," he added, under his breath, "this thing would die."

He's not getting his wish. The branch post office has received calls from radio stations as far away as New England. Internet jockeys from London have been in touch.

They wonder what all the fuss is about in Cincinnati.

Witch prison

The witch is now locked in a storage shed behind the post office. Plopped next to a lawn mower, she's a thin, wrinkled figure of boards, sticks, padding and high-top sneakers with red-and-black checks. Decked out in a black wig, sweat pants, cape and hat, the witch was made by the post office's custodian, Betty Lipps.

She wanted it to look as if the witch flew her broom face-first into a brick wall at the post office's entrance. Splat!

Betty even donated one of her old brooms to the project.

"Had to make it real," she said.

The witch was not joyriding. She was dropping off some air mail. In her guacamole-green left hand, the one with the emerald-green fingernails, she clutches a letter.

Addressed to "Hagetha," the letter carries real postage, a 32-cent Wolfman stamp.

That's from the U.S. Postal Service's movie monsters series.

Treat, not trick

The witch was meant to be a harmless Halloween decoration.

"It was just supposed to be fun," said Betty.

The former mail carrier is no devil worshiper. She's a member of the First Church of God in Hamilton.

"We just wanted to spice up the place," said Joe Meimann.

He's Betty's boss. He asked her to make a decoration for Halloween.

"We just wanted it to be fun for our customers," he said. "They get tired of seeing the same four blah walls."

I believe him. There's no doubting a man with a Bugs Bunny stamp tie.

But, I can also see where the anonymous complainer was coming from.

Many church groups and schools object to Halloween's devilish connotations. So, it's easy to understand how they might be touchy about witches and devils and goblins.

But this one-letter protest is political correctness run amok. Name me a religion that worships a faceless, green-skinned witch who's a bad broom pilot.

And puts monster stamps on her mail.

The witch's letter, by the way, the one with the Wolfman stamp, was destined for Salem, Mass. That's where hysterical people put innocent men and women to death in 1692. The charge? Witchcraft.

Three hundred and five years later, we're still stewing about witches. One of these Halloweens, we might cast off their spell. Then we could wake up and became a country where the desire to be more understanding is as strong as the urge to complain.

Now, that would be a real treat.

COMPLAINT SWEEPS WITCH FROM OFFICE Oct. 18, 1997

Cliff Radel's column appears in The Enquirer Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Call 768-8379 or fax at 768-8340.

RADEL ARCHIVE