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Wednesday, October 19, 2016
The True Meaning of Halloween, Charlie Brown by Stuart R. West
So many things frighten me. The odd thing is I love being scared. Just not by heights, serial killers, dirty bombs, nuclear fear, bio-chemical warfare, Trump, and shoe-shopping with my wife.
Maybe that’s why I adore dumb horror films. I know they’re not real, a vicarious and silly joy-ride. One I can easily recover from.
My wife doesn’t feel the same way. Recently, I somewhat hoodwinked her into watching The Babadook, a terrific Australian horror flick. I proclaimed it an art film to entice her into viewing with me. Not entirely a lie. Still, she hasn’t forgiven me. (Hey, part of the fun of horror films is watching them with someone else, a communal experience. I love to hear people shriek in theaters...for all the right reasons, of course.).
Halloween is near. Spookiest time of the year. My daughter always says it’s her favorite holiday (a girl after my own heart). But, why? Where did Halloween spring from with its ghoulish visual aids and strange customs?
As always, my faithful research assistant, Ms. Google, held the answers.
(Read the following with Vincent Price's voice in your head; of course, for those spooky-challenged among you, you can always opt out for Morgan Freeman): Halloween was initially created to honor the dead. Somewhat like Memorial Day, only more morbid. Blame the Gaels for their ancient festival, Samhain, the origin of Halloween. The Irish would set out food and drink, offerings to the Gods for good health and livestock. Cheapskates would go door-to-door in costume looking for food. Back then, singing or poetry was recited for the food. No tricks. Not a bad gig.
Soon, pranking spread, instigated by the cheeky British. Call it door-to-door blackmail. “Gimme candy or I’ll do something rather naughty.”
Christianity tried to adopt the holiday, turn it into a day of prayer for the deceased. I think they’re still trying to work the kinks out.
To me, Halloween represents the time to embrace the spooky. Love it. The crisp falling orange leaves of Autumn fill me full of melancholy, a remembrance of my childhood and the horror films I used to seek out (which was quite hard to do when you only had three—sometimes four—fuzzy channels). Have you seen the Val Lewton produced films from the ‘40’s? Scary, yet subtle and artistic. A nice starter kit. Move on to the classic “The Haunting” from the ‘60’s (and, PLEASE, don’t even get me going on the modern remake). From there, the sky’s the limit. I broke my daughter in on “Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein” and Twilight Zone DVD’s. She hasn’t looked back yet.
So. Put out the kids. Tuck the cat in bed. Turn out the light. Fire up the chimney. Cuddle next to a loved one and get scared. Have fun with it.
In my book, Ghosts of Gannaway, I try to cover all spooky bases without being gross (the anti-scary). Kinda based on a true story, the book details the history of a small mining town in the ‘30’s. There are ghosts, murders, an evil mining magnate, claustrophobia, bad juju, nightmares, romance (gotta have romance), shadows, bigotry, pollution, photographs that move, a funny native-American, secrets, mystery, cancer, things that go bump in the night and the fear of being buried alive. Everything that scares me wrapped up in one book.
Happy Halloween! Boo!