Shades of Halloween Past
Who doesn’t love Halloween? Scary stories, vampire movies, costumes and parties and most of all when you’re a kid, trick-or-treating!
When I was a kid in California where the nights don’t get as cold as a lot of other places, my brother and I treated trick-or-treating like a non-contact sport. We knew the rules. If the porch light is on, they’ve got candy. Only one hit per house, unless they’re giving out candy bars and a big group of kids is coming along so you can filter in among them and pretend you haven’t been there already.
Back in the days when grocery bags were still made of brown paper and held a lot more than the namby-pamby little plastic bags that replaced them (and are now polluting our oceans), we could fill them up in the hour and a half allotted as trick-or-treat time. When we got older and could stay out later, pushing the 9:00 cut-off time, we dropped off our full bags one year and started on another.
How old do you suppose is too old to go out trick-or-treating? Well, that depends on how creative you are. One year when I was sixteen, my parents had just bought a new refrigerator. I took the box it came in, cut holes for eyes and arms and a chute for dropping in candy, and no one knew there was a teenager inside. A little silver spray paint and some random dial knobs had turned me into a robot, height and age unknown.
Then we always went through the candy and discarded anything that looked like it might have been tampered with. That was silly. Our neighborhood was a small community and the houses we went to were all family homes. There were no bad people waiting for a chance to poison a child in those few blocks near my house.
Teenage Halloween wasn’t so bad when I finally accepted I was too old to beg door-to-door anymore. Halloween treats at parties have their own merits, especially imaginative cupcakes and cookies. We still got to dress up and with adolescence bringing on the pheromones, the costumes got sexier and kissing games began to feature. All in innocence of course. How disappointing it could be to meet a fascinating person at a Halloween party, then look them up at high school the next day to learn they had suddenly got younger and more ordinary!
The kissing games fell by the wayside as adulthood encroached on all our fun, but now that my driver’s license insists that I’m a grown-up, I can look back and see how Halloween fun has affected the person I grew up to be; one who enjoys cosplay and likes to read (and write) scary stories! I still watch the same movies I used to watch as a kid if I’m at home on Halloween night. The 1941 version of The Wolf Man with Lon Chaney Jr. was old before I was born, but I still enjoy it more than any of the remakes and have a copy of it on DVD.
Some years I may do no more than wear a wizard hat when I answer the door to give candy to the local kids (well packaged so they can see it hasn’t been interfered with) but Halloween is still a time of letting my imagination fly free into the dark recesses of what makes us afraid and why we still find it so fascinating. Reading scary stories in October gets me in that Halloween frame of mind and by the time the day comes at the end of the month, that wizard hat is all it takes to bring out my inner Bela Lugosi and add a little acting to my responsible adult giving out candy routine.
It’s all a bit of fun. Remember the old saying: “What’s the point of being grown-up if you can’t act childish?”
Happy Belated Halloween everybody!
Austin Crawley writes Horror and Dystopian fiction with a supernatural twist. His lifelong love of ghost stories and interest in comparative religions has led him to seek the darker corners of human existence and to exploit them in prose, touching on our deepest fears. he has been known to spend his vacations visiting places that are reported to be haunted.
Crawley is the author of A Christmas Tale, a story about three young women who perform a seance to raise the fictional ghosts of Dickens‘ A Christmas Carol with surprising results, and of Letters to the Damned, about a post box in a small English village that reportedly transmits written requests for favours to the dead and damned. His most recent release is A Halloween Tale, which came out last month, a haunted house tale filled with horrific, inter-dimensional terror.