The Halloween Mood
It’s that time of year again. Summer has come to an end, the days are getting shorter, and the color orange is starting to saturate our world of capitalistic vice and consumption. There’s pumpkin spice, well, everything and the general cozy feeling that comes with the season, and then we have the people who are annoyed with the deliriously evangelical followers of the autumnal cult of joy. Fall is the favorite season of many, and the favorite punching bag of others. Personally, I’m a big fan of the season and the mood it sets. I haven’t even touched on the best day of the season, in my opinion at least: Halloween.
I sit pretty comfortably in the opinion that Halloween is one of the best holidays. I’m not even close to being alone in that belief. In 2019, almost 70% of Americans celebrated Halloween. It dropped a bit in 2020 and looks like the downward trend may continue this year, thanks to the pandemic. But still, more than half of Americans, pandemic or not, are going to be indulging in the spooky, in the morbid, and in the deliciously decadent delights that horror can give. Children and adults alike love Halloween. Horror fans and otherwise love Halloween. The love of Halloween spans various belief systems and religions. How is this so? Why is Halloween such a hit?
I think that it has a lot to do with the fact that it happens at the end of October, just as fall is getting into full swing. Like Christmas, we start celebrating Halloween before the actual day with trips to pop-up stores for new costumes and goodies for our homes, visiting haunted houses and hay rides, and scary movies play on the television every night. Summer is the season that we spend mostly out of our homes, away on vacations and with school being out, mostly on a relaxed or nonexistent schedule. Fall begins with school going back into session, the return to routine and to the end of the vacation season. We’re home, we’re settling in, we’re getting cozy, and we get to do that as the lush beauty of nature prepares to wow us one last time. In the autumnal season, nature proves that she saves the best for last. The sweet smell of dead leaves and their lovely crunch under our feet as we walk, it romances us. Death woos and charms us. Pumpkins start appearing everywhere, flanked by decorative baskets of chrysanthemums. But alongside that magazine-cover pretty picture, there are skeletons, spiders, black cats, corpses, vampires, bats…all of the ambassadors of the decidedly spooky. And they go together wonderfully. I put a seven-foot werewolf on my front porch, but I’ve also got mums and pumpkins. I put out a small cemetery in my side yard with zombies and skeletons climbing out of the graves, but they’re surrounded by beautiful falling leaves from the large tree. The beauty of nature’s death pairs nicely with the human macabre.
Halloween also has the distinguished position of being a holiday that normally doesn’t come with family obligations. Every season comes with a holiday that carries some sort of requirement that can stress us out. Halloween has no such demand. It stands as one of the special days on the calendar that is set aside purely for fun. Obligations are minimal, usually, and having to eat a big dinner next to your judgmental aunt is still at least a month away. Halloween is so much more casual. I know the history of Halloween and I know the pagan-held beliefs of the day, but it has become a day of laughter, fun, sweets, and ridiculousness. It has a few songs, it has a lot of movies, and it has costumes. Halloween is an absolute delight, and I know that I start looking forward to it every August. I sometimes hold out through September before bringing out my spooky and corny decorations, and sometimes I don’t. But, at the very least, the month of October is dedicated to Halloween in my house. My giant porch werewolf and the many other outdoor decorations pale in comparison to what I have inside of my house. A disassembled skeleton hangs from my dining room chandelier, I drink my coffee from Halloween mugs and have my evening tipple in Halloween glasses. For crying out loud, I have Halloween bedding and bathroom hand towels! I love every stitch of it. All of it.
The U.S. is an enormous country with many different regions and not all of them necessarily have four seasons, and yet, they still celebrate Halloween. I live in Eastern Pennsylvania where we certainly experience the full four seasons, but Halloween is pervasive in this country of ours regardless of whether autumn happens or not. Again, why? I’m not an academic and I have no deep philosophical answer for you. What I do have is my observation, and my knowledge of both your average person and the horror community. Halloween is popular because it’s fun. Being scared is fun. Horror carries a stigma of being sick and taboo, and yet I rarely meet a person who doesn’t have a favorite scary movie. People tell me all the time that they don’t like horror, but they love Halloween. Yes, it’s the day for the horror-lovers, but it’s also the day for the “normies” to take a walk on the spooky side and it turns out, they have just as much fun as us horror folk. It’s fun! That’s not a deep answer, but it is an obvious one, and a truthful one.
So, if you’re like more than half of us and celebrating Halloween, enjoy it. Have the fun. Watch the movies, eat the treats, put up the decorations, and do it with people that enjoy it as much as you. Do a Halloween night recitation of Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven” and eat some apple dumplings. But could you do this horror author a favor? Pick up a scary book from an author you’ve never read. Give a smaller name a chance. Ray Bradbury’s The Halloween Tree is a terrific book and everything by Stephen King can be appropriate at this time of year. But there are so many horror authors out there who are putting out works that will surprise you with the imaginative takes and amazing storytelling and it’s a shame to only read the biggest names, or only a few names. Try something new, someone new, and allow yourself to be surprised and delighted. After all, ‘tis the season!
I’ll start you off. I’ll throw some authors at you, and you pick what thrills you most.
If you love monster books, authors Hunter Shea and Mary SanGiovanni write some of the best monster-based fiction out there. Wile E. Young is really climbing the ranks here as well.
If you love a good haunted house book or gothic horror, check out Catherine Cavendish.
If you like really strange, creative horror that takes unexpected turns, Wesley Southard, Stephen Kozeniewski, and Armand Rosamilia deliver.
If you like it spicy and want your horror a little sexy, check out Sephera Giron and Jessica McHugh. But don’t be fooled by the erotic bent of these works, they are every bit as brutal and horrifying as any other horror book, just with an added bonus.
Do you like horror that doesn’t really fit into a category but can be emotional and somehow beautiful? Robert Ford and John Boden belong on your shelves, then.
Grab a short story collection from a new author. As a reader, I find the best authors out there put together amazing short story collections. Most of the authors I mention here have short story collections in their bibliography. Also, try one of Matt Wildasin’s Horrors Untold volumes. They’re wonderful and varied fun.
Lots of authors write Halloween-themed works. Ronald Kelly, Kevin Lucia, Douglas Clegg, and yours truly have Halloween works out there.
I’m barely scratching the surface here, and could spend all day pointing you to terrific authors, but if you start here, and do a little digging of your own, I guarantee you’ll find your new favorite author. Happy Halloween!
Somer Canon lives in Eastern PA with her husband, two sons, and three cats. She loves to read and write and although she is polyamorous when it comes to genres, horror always seems to be her favorite.
Halloween is a night of spooky fun…at least it is for the living. What about the dead? What kind of fun do they have? Read and find out how the no-longer-living entertain themselves at the expense of very much alive and disrespectful people!
A Fresh Start —
Still hurting from her divorce, Melissa Caan makes a drastic life change for herself and her two young children by moving them out to a rural home.But the country life came with some extras that she wasn’t counting on. Doors are slamming, she and her children are violently attacked by unseen hands, and her elderly neighbor doesn’t like to talk about the murders that happened in the strangely named hollow all those years ago.Ghost hunters, witches, and a sassy cancer survivor come together to help Melissa fight for the safety of her children and herself.All she wanted was a fresh start, will she get it?
Slaves to Gravity (with Wesley Southard) —
After waking up in a hospital bed, paralyzed from the waist down, Charlie Snyder had no idea where life would take her. Dejected, broken, and permanently bound to a wheelchair, she believed her life was truly over. That is…until gravity no longer applied.It started out slow. Floating from room to room. Menial tasks without assistance. When she decided to venture outside and take some real risks with her newfound ability, she rose above her own constraints to reveal a whole new world, and found other damaged individuals just like her to confide in.But there are other things out there, waiting in the dark. Repulsive, secretive creatures that don’t want Charlie to touch the sky. And they’ll stop at nothing to keep her on the ground.