The right way to do Halloween.
There is a right way to do Halloween, and a wrong way, which might seem a strange thing to say about a holiday. Who is anyone else to say what form that spooky fun should take for you? But consider me the monster of the page, if you must, as I rattle my chains here in the dungeon with Igor, for I know of what I speak!
For example: There is a whole wave of people now who are like, “It’s Halloween! Time to watch a lot of serial killer movies!” This is wrong. True Halloween fare has to do with the grave, castles, and legend. In other words: vampires, reanimated corpses, werewolves, witches, ghosts, and I’m also amenable to creatures from mysterious lagoons. Get it right, people.
These are the entities that fire the Hallows Eve imagination. One of the reasons that It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown is a perfect celebration of the holiday is because of who the Peanuts gang dress up as when they head out for tricks or treats. Nobody is Elvis or a Beatle. They’re the ghoulies.
Halloween isn’t about us tapping into some sick voyeuristic vibe or any “look at how clever my costume is” shtick: It’s about dancing with the dead.
Ever since I was a kid it has blown my mind that Halloween was so…welcome. By pretty much everyone. I say that because almost all of us have been impacted by death. It has caused pain and loss in our lives. Halloween centers on graveyards and souls having returned, but it soothes us by exciting us. Gives us a jolt, as if we’re all some version of the Frankenstein monster and it’s time to come to life.
I had Halloweens where I dressed up as a football player or a Scuba diver, but it wasn’t the same as when I was a mummy with glowing bandages or Dracula determining who he might corner under a street light. I was in the Halloween zone! I felt like reading scary books and watching creepy old films in which I starred, in a way. That’s how excited my imagination got. I was part of a lineage of fear—and also fun—that had no end.
I’m the same way now, sans costume. I watch James Whale films. I read M.R. James. I get lost in lore. When I get lost in lore, I feel like I’m harvesting something. Mysteries of life and death. But not in some depressing, grim way. Rather, a macabre way, which is good.
The zone of the macabre is one of those rare places where the living and the dead come together. It’s like the break room between the worlds of right here and the eternal elsewhere. A hovering ghost is chilling with a hot chocolate, as you nod hello whilst feasting on a Twix. You don’t get that with a series about Jeffrey Dahmer or a movie of slumber party girls getting sliced and diced.
The sound of a crypt door creaking on its rusted hinges. The smell of decaying leaves carried on the night air. A rustling behind a bush in the forest. That’s what you want for Halloween. In real life, and in your imagination. October 31 is a special time when they’re one and the same.
So cut some eye-holes in that sheet, dust off “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” sit the kids down for Bride of Frankenstein, and don’t trick yourself out of Halloween’s very real treats.