Let’s welcome Dev Jarrett today, who has a story to tell us about his Halloween memories.
My eighth Halloween began on Christmas Day when I was seven years old. Looking back, I don’t even know if Halloween was that big of a deal to me until that age. I mean, make-believe is the realm of children, and pretending to be someone else is just another day in the life of a child. Trying on different masks and different identities is a normal part of finding out who we are. Some of us realize that we enjoy trying on ALL the masks, ALL the time, I suppose, and turn into writers—or maybe schizophrenics.
When I woke up on Christmas morning in 1978—yeah, I’m that old, so what—I found the most amazing gift ever. A “King of the Gorillas Movie Makeup Kit” was nestled under the tree next to the handheld Electronic Football and Simon. I loved all three of these gifts, and I think I played both of the electronic games until I wore out the buttons, but the biggest deal was the movie makeup kit. Yeah, the age recommendation was ten and up, but thankfully Dad (as he usually did) ignored that shit.
I remembered the Planet of the Apes movies and I thought of how cool it had looked in those movies that the actors spoke and their makeup moved with them. This was like that. Realism! Instead of simple face paint, this amazing kit had individual molds of facial features. You had to mix the gelatin stuff together, then pour it into the molds and wait for it to set. When they were cured, you had rubbery appliances to attach to your face with the special glue. After that, paint the appliances and the exposed parts of your skin and put the cowl thing on—clearly the lamest part of the kit. I mean, it doesn’t even really look like hair.
It had enough of the mix for two applications, so I knew I couldn’t wait. I asked Dad to make me up – and I guess in that sense, it was a big kid’s toy, and Dad was the big kid. He made the pieces and trimmed them to fit me, and painstakingly painted me up. And it was so friggin’ cool! Somewhere in my parents’ house is a dusty photo album containing a picture of me in a Star Wars t-shirt and gorilla movie makeup. I knew, absolutely, that this was what I wanted to be for Halloween next year.
I would be the King of Halloween. The KING. After so many years of wearing boxed costumes with dead plastic mouthslits, I was going to look REAL. Next fall, I’d be the scariest monster roaming the streets of my neighborhood. We packed everything away carefully and I waited for the calendar to roll around to October of 1979. While the other kids would have plain plastic masks with eyeholes and stupid costumes, their “Trick or Treat!” muffled and lifeless, I’d be able to show a moving gorilla mouth and say something super pithy and cool, like “Trick or Treat, human.” This would be SO badass.
Halloween finally came. I was excited, ready to take my place as King of the jungle and the neighborhood King of Halloween. Dad hooked me up, carefully constructing the disguise that would make me look like something out of a movie. The mixing, the placement, and the painting took so much time, and all I could do was sit still while he created my alter ego. When he finished, he took my sister and me out to walk the neighborhood. Mom stayed home to pass out candy.
Dad walked from house to house with us, but stayed on the street while we went up to the doors. The first few houses marveled at my glorious disguise, oohing and ahhing over the intricacy of my makeup. In all honesty, the rest of the costume was regular streetclothes, but the makeup more than made up for any shortcoming in the wardrobe department. I began to think I was receiving more candy than the other kids because my gorilla makeup was absolutely the best. My pumpkin-shaped bucket of candy was heavy with the good stuff, none of that orange- or black-wrapped peanut butter taffy shit.
Damn right. The King of Halloween. The King, baby.
But I didn’t know what waited around the corner.
Barely out of sight of our house, already riding high on the idea that I had absolutely the best costume anyone was going to see this year, we went to a house with streamers hanging across the entry to the front porch. The porch stretched all the way across the front of the house, and it was festooned with hanging cobwebs and more streamers. They’d swapped out their usual porch lightbulb for a bright orange bulb. It was cool to see someone else in the neighborhood making an effort for the holiday. We went up the walk to the door and rang the bell, and Dad waited at the curb.
The timing was perfect. The front door opened, and I was already expecting new praises for my amazing getup. I was distracted, and didn’t see the maniac. He jumped over the side railing of the front porch and charged toward us, howling like a monster.
When I look back on it now, I think he must’ve been dressed as Leatherface from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but at the time, it was only a giant (a grownup? dressed for Halloween? WTF?) guy in a bloody shirt and lumpy plastic mask lumbering toward us and screeching. He may have even had a chainsaw, I don’t know.
The self-proclaimed King of Halloween lost his shit. He dropped his bucket of candy, yelled, and ran for his goddamned life. My little sister ran too, but I think my reaction probably scared her more than Leatherface. I sprinted back down the front walk to the street, screaming at the top of my lungs, and launched myself into my Dad’s arms, crying. I ruined his shirt, burying my face in his chest. He was laughing, and in the same situation, I suppose I’d do the same.
He held me for a moment, and protected me, and he told me everything was okay, and soon the effects of the jump scare passed. When I turned to look, tears still streaming down my tiny gorilla face, the Leatherface guy was apologizing while laughing, and had brought my dropped bucket of candy out to the street. Dad assured him everything was cool, that I was okay, and in a few minutes, we continued on our way.
The King of Halloween, the kid with the awesome movie-quality makeup job, had been handily dethroned by a guy in a lumpy plastic mask whose mouth couldn’t even move. Ugh. How embarrassing.
I’ll always remember that Halloween. Halloween is such a fun day that it’s celebrated practically every day in our house, but that one was the one that truly scared me for the first time.
I was super terrified, and you know what?
It was fun.
So now my wife and I have carried on our own Halloween tradition for the past 25 years, and every year our neighbors know us as the “Halloween House.” We dress up, we play our parts, and really get into the spirit. One year, Jennie actually built a working guillotine for a dungeon-themed Halloween! Last year we had a Pet Sematary, and this year’s theme is a Witches’ Sabbath. Let’s see how many kids (and adults) we can scare this time. Come visit!
Dev Jarrett is a writer, a father of five, a husband, and one of those guys the US Army trained too much. He speaks Arabic, he can break ciphers in his sleep, and can still break down and reassemble an M4 rifle and an M9 pistol while blindfolded.
He’s visited many different countries in the past quarter century, and can’t talk about most of the adventures he’s had. On the other hand, it’s public record that he’s received a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart, so make what you will of that.
Till death do us part… sometimes.
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From the time they move in, Chris and his wife Molly are struck by the preponderance of ghost stories surrounding their new home. Chris wonders why nightmares still plague him—then, he realizes the reason. He and his family are not alone in their house. An evil older than Fort Huachuca, older than time itself, lives there. Now, enough sacrifices have been made to its blood hunger that it can finally give birth to a powerful, deadly offspring intent on dominating our world.
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