What Halloween Means to Me
It’s once again the season of shadow and darkness. A time when the autumnal chill brings goose bumps to the flesh, and the creatures of the night stalk the boundaries of civilization and imagination. Whether campy and fun or grim and gory, the Halloween season delights and frightens millions of Americans and the phenomenon continues to expand around the world. Halloween has always been my favorite holiday, and my love for the season only grows with each passing year. Even those who are not fans of the horror genre exhibit a soft-spot for Halloween. After all, if you’re going to suffer a few scares, why not embrace the season?
As a child, Halloween had a magical connotation for me. October was the time of the year that my imagination could run amok, unrestrained and free as I glanced out at the darkness. I knew werewolves hungered for my flesh, the dead clawed at their wooden prisons and craven ghosts of lost souls passed beneath the decaying autumnal spender, looking to drag me into the shadows if given a chance. And what child hasn’t dared all these things, especially on Halloween night? The fear of that monster in the closet and under the bed becomes a rite of passage this time of year. As a species, we enjoy and even crave a good scare.
Yet, why does Halloween appeal to me? What is it about the season that calls to me? I think there are a few reasons and I suspect that I’m not alone in some of these thoughts. I grew up something of an outcast, partially self-imposed but largely due to growing up a gay teen. In some ways, I spent years hiding behind a mask, but on Halloween night, everyone shares that mask. For one night, millions of Americans become outcasts. For those familiar with my memoir, The Demons of Plainville, you know that I also grew up in an environment that sometimes bordered on real-life horror. Again, you might think this would dissuade me from the holiday, but if anything it strengthened it. Perhaps my real experiences served as rich fodder for my imagination, or like many people, the season brought me comfort that worse things lurk in the shadows.
However, these days my rationale is different. I’m a storyteller and that’s the reason I’m here. This is the season that storytellers are embraced, perhaps more than any other time of the year. What other time do people crave tales of the twisted, otherworldly and macabre? As a ten-year-old as much as a grown adult, this is the season to liberate, celebrate and salute that dark imagination. I’d love nothing more than to operate a professional haunted attraction. The ‘Haunted House’ industry combines elements of storytelling and filmmaking to bring lurid thrills and chills to audiences of all ages. I’d love to take on that challenge some day here in Flagstaff.
Photo by Paul Albertella