This is shaping up to be a lackluster Halloween.

It may be a cultural shift in progress. Perhaps we're just tired of seeing skulls and demons leering at us from the seasonal aisle for six weeks, or looking at costume options that run the gamut from "Pirate" to "Sexy Nurse."

Perhaps we've decided that not everything has to be pumpkin-flavored. I swear, if the '50s had done Halloween with the same amount of overkill, there would have been pumpkin-flavored cigarettes.

Or perhaps it's the weather. Thursday was a raw scrape across the face, a foretaste of November's long slog into the dark cave of winter; no one wants to go out trick-or-treating in weather like that. A snap in the air, a crisp twist to the wind: Sure, that's Halloween weather. But this is the weather kids dread. It's hard to feel like Spider-Man when you can't feel your toes.

Nevertheless, the machinery rolls on. The season's clichés must be observed. And that includes stories here and there on "The Most Haunted Places in Minnesota."

Can't remember where I saw that, but the headline suggested there are Slightly Haunted Places that didn't make the cut. Well, there's a ghost who shows up at an old house in Mankato every 10 years and says "B..." Can't get the whole "Boo" out. He doesn't rattle any chains -- just sorta jiggles an ankle bracelet.

City Hall usually makes the list, because they strung up a crook in the tower. Yes, a jail, a courtroom, a hangin' place: your one-stop shop for justice, back in the day.

I was up in the tower a few years ago on a dank fall day. Leaden clouds scudded over the city like galleons bearing the cargo of the dead to the afterlife. The sun shone pale light over the ancient stones of City Hall. When I entered the room where the ghost had been seen, I felt a chill run through me.

There were two possible reasons:

1. Because the spirit of murderer John Moshik, the last man hanged in Minneapolis, still roamed the building seeking revenge from beyond the grave, or

2. Because it was cold.

I'm going with the latter option. Even if there is a ghost, how do we know it's Moshik? Does he hand out business cards?

Sometimes the spirit, they say, is wearing only boxer shorts. But that could just be an exhibitionist guy with his pants off. First time he shows up in skivvies, the cleaning man shouts, "Oh no, it's the ghost of a man hanged here 113 years ago this very month!" And the perv thinks, "Hey, this is going to work out great." C'mon.

You never hear about these ghosts:

The Ghost of the Failed Downtown Restaurateur. Every Saturday he appears, a drawn and haggard figure in white holding forth what seems to be a dish of fusion Thai-Swedish cuisine. "Trrrryyyy the herrrrrring," he moans. "It's infuuuuused with currrrrry!" Then he weeps.

The Ghost of the Pedestrian Who Believes That Button Actually Hastens the "Walk" Light. They say he can be seen stabbing the button repeatedly, condemned for all eternity to think it makes a difference. Supposedly it's the spirit of a fellow who grew tired of waiting, decided to jaywalk and Bam! Nailed as soon as he stepped off the curb.

The Ghost of My House. Yes, I think my home has a restless spirit. And I say that as someone who doesn't believe in ghosts. If spirits hung around the places where they divested themselves of their fleshly garments, hospitals should be full of moaning, and the cleaning crews would hose down the halls with holy water every night. But ...

There is something in my bedroom wall. Something that knocks. At night.

And only at night.

I'll wake up suddenly at 3 a.m. and hear sharp raps in the walls, and I tell myself: Critters. Animals got in the house. It's a squirrel.

Thunk. Thunk.

OK, a raccoon, then. THUNK. A raccoon who is banging his head hard on the wall. THUNK! THUNK! OK, a raccoon with a hammer.

You lie there, thinking of the great mystery beyond the veil, and wonder if perhaps a spirit roams the house, intent on waking you at 3 a.m. so you can feel small and cold and mortal.

Maybe that's why we're starting to tire of Halloween. You get right down to it, ghosts are jerks. • 612-673-7858