Everyone, Hail to the Pumpkin King!

It’s coming

The trees are starting to talk with their dried out and rustling leaves. The dry air is clear and crisp giving an unfettered view of the fat moon that hangs over my house, giving off enough light to cast shadows on the porch or even read by. I’m getting excited. My favorite day is coming and the anticipation alone makes me smile while I rub my hands together.

All Hallows Eve

Halloween is, in my humble opinion, the very, very, VERY best holiday that there is. It is perfection as far as yearly celebrations go. Think about it. It involves candy, scaring the hell out of kids, fiendish decorations and relatively few family entanglements. It is easily the most egocentric holiday out there and you are allowed, nay, REQUIRED to eat an indecent quantity of mini 3 Musketeers bars.

I grew up in a house that sat on the corner of a dead end street. This little road jutted like a finger into the woodlands behind my house. If you had walked down the street and then, once it ended, had continued on, eventually you’d hit Vermont, It was a long way and deep, uninhabited woodland. In short, it was heaven for all the kids who grew up there. We lived in those woods and new much of them by heart.

Halloween was always a big deal and the woods often became a major player in the antics of the evening. At the time of my youth, the dead end street was packed with young families and we all pretty much knew each other. Inevitably, some kid or group of kids would decide that they would make a ghost tour in the woods and invite passing trick or treaters to try their luck and survivability by walking into the jaws of the set trap.

We went for it every time. How could we not!?

The path through the “haunted” woods was often marked with either ropes or old bed sheets hung from lines. There was a guide to make sure that you didn’t miss something that made you scream like a little girl and usually four or five others laying in wait for you as you stumbled over the exposed tree roots, groping in the darkness. Ripe for the spooky picking. It was always a blast and injuries were usually limited to ankles and egos.

The bottom line; it was SCARY!

It was the house down the end of the street that played the spooky music that made you pause and rethink how much you really wanted that Mars Bar. It was the guy who always dressed up as something vampireish or vaguely Frankinstiny and would whip open the door at a hundred miles an hour and scare the beejeebees out of you. It was the scarecrow in the chair next to the front door that you knew, you JUST KNEW, was actually a person but you managed to get up the nerve to and poke it with a stick only to have him jump up and send you screaming down the path and back to the road, clutching your loot bag to your chest. That is what Halloween is all about. Well, what it used to be about, anyway.

Now days, we have become obsessed with making our world as safe as possible and as laudable a goal as that is, we’ve siphoned a lot of the fun out of it in the process. Halloween has lost its punch.

Call me old fashioned, and I suppose that’s true, but I liked the old Halloween. It was dark and spooky and you felt like the whole world had become a haunted house. This brings us to our neighbors. Where we live is right next door to two of the best Halloween lovers I know. They are both commercial artist and having no kids of their own, make up for it by essentially being giant kids in their own right. Every year, a small team of friends descends on their modest house and transforms it into something… awesome.

The criterion for the theme is that it needs to be something that they feel is creepy or disturbing. That can be almost anything. The first year we saw their handiwork, they had turned their front porch into a monkey house, complete with tire swing, banana peals and four or five volunteers in monkey costumes. If you got too close, they would fling candy at you.

The next year it was the “Night Clinic”. No one likes going to the hospital, right? Theirs sported a creepy looking nurse at the check in counter, sounds of screaming from behind closed doors, bloody medical implements, a head in a jar and the “waiting room” on the front lawn, seeded with volunteers sporting interesting and unlikely maladies.

Following that was the year of the truly repulsive Good Humor Truck. They actually rented a real one for this and “redecorated” with lovely items like the “poop pop” the “Beefsicle” and the “Clam Cake”.

Next year was the Hillbilly town of “Weenholler” complete with seriously sketchy inhabitants, coached by a good friend who happens to be a native of the back hills of Tennessee.

Last year, it was the bad 1960’s Caveman movie genre with an odd night club setting, thrown in for good measure. That last one was more bizarre that scary, but the execution was amazing.

When compared to the little fake cemetery and spooky music that take over my front yard for the night, well… there just is no comparison. That’s not to say that we don’t get Trick or Treaters. Living just one house away from a draw like that insures that I’ll burn through at least thirty bucks worth of waxy American milk chocolate in about a half an hour. Once the candy is gone, we’ll turn off the porch light and the spooky music. We’ll bundle up the kids and wander over to the neighbor’s house and see what we can do to help. The party will still be rocking there and the screams won’t be silenced for at least an hour more. It’ll be great!

Short Stack is just old enough this year where he might get scared a bit but Lulu Belle will be blissfully ignorant. At least we don’t have to walk through a haunted wood to get there.

Darn it.

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4 Responses

  1. At least, you have the memories…
    In Belgium, no Halloween… But one year, I befriended a little American girl (we must have been around 8 at the time), and for Halloween, we disguised ourselves and went knocking on doors in the neighborhood.
    I think the Belgian neighbors were very surprised to see two little girls ask them “Trick or Treat” (or in my case “Tweet or Tweet “- since I had not idea what Halloween was all about.)
    They did not know what we wanted and they gave us no candy.
    It is my only childhood memory of Halloween.

    I was aware that Halloween in the U.S. was unlike Halloween anywhere else (England, mostly) but I never really thought about all the kids missing out on the experience. I’m not one for exporting one country’s culture to another’s but I’ll make an exception for this one. The best european match I can think of is Carnival in Germany, though I have heard that the U.S. version is starting to catch on as well. Why the heck not!?
    -TP

  2. What a great post, it makes me want to travel in time and space to celebrate this Halloween of yours.
    Till now, for me Halloween has been just obscure stuff from movies and more recently, a bad exaple of globalisation. Our carnival can be fun, but it ceased to be scarry long long time ago. But your Halloween rules.

    Thanks, Grasswire and welcome! It really was a blast and though I realized that the goggles of nostalgia are a dangerous filter through which way to recount your life, in this particular case, I think it really was that great! I put it upon everyone who either lives in a Halloween enjoying country or any other place where a holiday exists for the purpose of being creepy, to get it back to its spooky former shape. If we all band together, we can scare the living daylights out of small children everywhere! Now that’s a laudable goal!
    -TP

  3. It’s great when people really throw themselves into an event. It’s so different to the Halloweens I’ve seen.

    My first experience with Halloween was back in 1976 in Toronto Canada, when a boy came knocking at our door in the afternoon in normal clothing and declared “trick or treat”.

    It took me a few seconds to realise what he meant (we didn’t have Halloween here in Oz back then) . I didn’t have anything to give so I said, “here’s a buck go across the road and buy yourself a chocolate”. He then petulantly yelled at me, “BUT I’VE GOT TO DO ALL THE OTHER HOUSES IN THE STREET!”

    Ever since that time I tend to see Halloween as another time of crass commercialisation and grasping shitty little kids.

    Halloween has been “marketed” in Australia and it’s about as authentic and relevant here, as Christmas in Japan.

    That’s too bad. Halloween needs to be about two things and two things only. Candy and getting scared! I will flatly refuse to hand over candy to kids who are either not in costume (and here I mean a REAL costume, not just some lame excuse of a disguise) or don’t say, “Trick or Treat”. So far, I haven’t had the house egged for turning them down but then again, I live on an island. I know the kids by name.
    -TP

  4. I think I was on the tail end of the golden years of Halloween when I was growing up. I’m glad for that.
    A lot of it’s been taken over by community safe parties sponsored by fire departments. I’m sure they are fine, but just not as scary (and no pillow case full of candy either).
    It’s strange that people still believe the old “razorblade in the apple” urban myth. When I look for it on the net, there don’t seem to be any incidents of that in real life.

    Nope. it’s an urban legend. What depresses me is that if one person gets hurt (or supposedly gets hurt) then the reaction from everyone tends to be, “Well, no more of THAT!” and I for one, think it’s a crying shame. Kids get hurt. It’s how we learn about out abilities and shortfalls. With some luck, getting a little hurt is all there is to it, but trying to keep everyone safe leads to banality, which is just no fun at ALL!

    Trick or Treating needs to be at night… when it’s DARK! It needs to involve indecent quantities of chocolate and Pixi Stix and there should be little to no organization from parents. Let the little goblins and ghouls go and do their thing. Feel free to follow them around to watch for cars but generally, just stay out of the way and let them enjoy the night. Either that or bend all your energies and will to scaring the beegeebees out of them!
    -TP

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