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Oct 07 2012

Sunday Sacrilege: The October Country

Yesterday, I made the long drive from Morris to Duluth, made longer because I took a back-country route through the north country forest. I was a few days too late for the peak of the fall foliage; there was an occasional burst of brilliant yellow-gold, but for the most part the yellows had faded to parchment and the reds had clotted to a dull brown. Many of the birch trees were naked, pale, and skeletal, clawing bleakly at the cloudy sky. I’d missed the splendor and driven straight into Ray Bradbury time, where the atmosphere was all about the fading of the light and the dread of the dark.

And I was thinking all the way…man, but I love Halloween. It’s my favorite time of the year, and it’s also a great atheist holiday.

Growing up, I was definitely into Halloween. I would warm up by tuning in to all the horror movies that would appear on TV that month; late-night creature features and cheesy B-movie matinees; there would be radio retellings of classic horror stories; I’d read Bradbury (of course) and Poe and du Maurier. I’d thrill to those black & white stories where the gullible fool would pull the stake out of the corpse of Dracula, and the body would regrow guts and muscles and blood vessels and skin, and then the monster would resume its callous depradations. I didn’t care that the stop-motion animation of the transformation of the wolfman was jerky and static, it was a lovely terror. I’d work myself up to the point where I’d check under the bed before going to sleep, and avoid the creepy attic, and I vividly recall being absolutely certain there was something lurking in the darkness beneath the bench seat of my uncle’s ’57 Ford as we drove back from a late night showing of Die, Monster, Die at the Vale Theater.

Halloween itself was night of solitary exploration. I could go out on my own and stay out late, until the night was deep and dark; trick-or-treating was just an excuse to wander through dark neighborhoods, shuffling through damp leaves lit by jack-o’-lanterns. It was usually raining. I didn’t care. I’d find an excuse to stroll through the cemetery in the gloom, dreaming of Night of the Living Dead. Goddamn, but I could have been a Goth kid if this hadn’t been before Goth became a thing.

When I was older, and supposedly outgrew all that stuff, I found a necromantic resurrection with my kids — a new excuse to rent horror movies on videotape and take tours of the Haunted Mansion, the Haunted Woods, the House of Terror. Every year in Utah I’d take my boys to the Haunted Forest, and they’d skitter through the trails jumping in alarm at every creature that leapt out at them, and worst of all was the outhouse with the fanged, chomping toilet inside (I think it set back toilet training of my youngest by at least 6 months). Those were great times.

But wait, you’re thinking — atheists don’t believe in ghosts and ghoulies. How can I reconcile being a rational, materialistic, hard-nosed scientist and atheist with an appreciation of a holiday dedicated to the supernatural? How can I go even further and claim that not only is it compatible with naturalism, but is a great atheist holiday?

Simple: it’s not real, and we all know it. No one in my circle takes it seriously; sure, there are far right wing religious kooks who make claims of satanism and demons, but we know none of that is true. Do you realize how different that is from most religious holidays?

Think about it. Your Christian parents don’t tell you that Jesus isn’t real on Christmas; they don’t encourage you to make a joke of the supernatural manifestations of the holiday; you don’t usually dress up as Sexy Mary or a gore-splattered zombie Jesus for Easter. On Halloween, though, no one takes the magic myth seriously. We laugh at demons and monsters. We watch intentionally campy movies about supernatural creatures. Those haunted houses we tour in the month of October? Every one is trying to give you a scare because the relief when we discover it was all a goof feels good.

Recall the old Scooby Doo cartoon? Every spook was revealed at the end to be an entirely ordinary bad guy who was exposed as a liar, their mask pulled off, the expected “Curses, I would have gotten away with it if it weren’t for those pesky kids!” Imagine if religious holidays culminated in the pastor cheerfully yanking off the mask of myth and announcing that Hell wasn’t real, Satan was a legend, and no magical invisible beings would ever harm you.

That’s Halloween: an exercise in imagination and a guiltless celebration of old superstitions in which, for the most part, the dominant culture reassures everyone that it’s all a game, a day of just-pretend for the kids in which the final reward is a bag full of candy. At its most extreme, it’s a jolt of adrenaline and a startle as we indulge in a little titillation with scary stories…which all end with the release of realization that it was all imaginary.

I think I’d be able to enjoy every religious holiday if it were merely a celebration of cultural history and traditions, if instead of being burdened with the weight of supernatural significance, it was recognized as nothing but a fantasy. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if everyone saw Christmas the same way atheists do, as completely comparable to Halloween, where the freight of myth was seen as irrelevant to the fun of the celebration?

Unfortunately, Jesus just doesn’t have the charisma of Christopher Lee’s Dracula, or the tragedy of Lon Chaney Jr’s hangdog Wolfman. Christmas will just never be as cool as Halloween.

47 comments

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  1. 1
    montanto

    Wouldn’t it be wonderful if everyone saw Christmas the same way atheists do, as completely comparable to Halloween, where the freight of myth was seen as irrelevant to the fun of the celebration?

    Oh definitely especially since Santa Claus and the Nutcracker are far more visible and popular than the baby Jesus anyway.

  2. 2
    Patricia, OM

    It’s helping my little brothers tip over outhouses that I miss.

  3. 3
    Menyambal

    I was thinking the other day that Halloween is the people’s holiday. All the others are religious, or national, or commercial, or carry too many expectations, or have a purpose, or all of those at once. Halloween is just people running around having a good time being people—dressing up, sharing, laughing at fear and death, being entertaining, and eating candy.

  4. 4
    a3kr0n

    I have to admit, the one and only time I liked going to church was the Christmas pageant at night where they had the older kids do the baby Jesus in a manger thing up front. All the sidewalks where lined with paper bags with candles in them (luminarias), which appealed to the kid pyro in me. I even got to be in the pageant when I was older, but I liked lighting the candles up front each week better because I got to play with fire on a stick!

  5. 5
    Argle Bargle

    Who cares about the scary stuff? I like Halloween because of the free candy.

  6. 6
    Zeno

    Even the thought of Godzilla (Godzilla!) movies used to terrify me when I was a child. One of my classmates used to describe them to me with great relish, and it was enough to make me certain I never wanted to see one. Of course, if Japanese rubber-suit monsters were too much for my delicate psyche, certainly nothing more robust could be endured. I’ve never fancied horror movies. (The friend who hauled me to a midnight showing of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” was enormously entertained by my trepidation, which was acute.)

    Perhaps I’m not quite as squeamish as I used to be, but monster movies hold no charm for me and Halloween is just another holiday (and I don’t pay much attention to any of them). I’ll turn off all the lights that night, but it’s mostly to keep candy-begging children away from the front door.

    I’m a lot of fun at parties, too, as you can imagine.

  7. 7
    Dick the Damned

    Zeno, you get invited to parties? And you go, too?

  8. 8
    Eamon Knight

    Someone else can do the programmer’s joke about how Halloween==Christmas.

  9. 9
    Dick the Damned

    By the way, we’re having a completely secular Thanksgiving tomorrow, (which is pretty much the norm here in Canada).

  10. 10
    Rev. BigDumbChimp

    Even the thought of Godzilla (Godzilla!) movies used to terrify

    With a purposeful grimace and a terrible sound
    He pulls the spitting high-tension wires down

    Helpless people on subway trains
    Scream, bug-eyed, as he looks in on them

    He picks up a bus and he throws it back down
    As he wades through the buildings toward the center of town

    oh no

  11. 11
    cm's changeable moniker (quaint, if not charming)

    Mmm, Halloween.

    Glow-in-the-dark vampire teeth, 7 pence a set at Tesco.

    Why, yes, I was at the supermarket this afternoon.

  12. 12
    lilandra

    Aron and I found ourselves at a rest stop near a cemetary a few weeks ago. To top it off it was on the clear night of a full moon. It would have made a great scene for a slasher movie. As a young Christian that would have spooked me before. Now that I don’t believe the stories that the world is demon-haunted, there was nothing to fear.

  13. 13
    Sastra

    The days of groups of kids running around in the dark at night seem to be gone. In the small Midwestern town I live in, Trick or Treating is from 3-5 on a Sunday afternoon and every single kid or group of kids has at least one parental chaperone with them. Sometimes the parents dress up, sure — but there’s no mayhem here, no sense of being out on your kidly own, running amok and taking forbidden peeks into people’s living rooms as they open the door. No bravery, no adventure. Hell, there’s precious little knocking or ringing of bells, even: most homeowners just sit on their porch steps with open bowls of candy so the kids don’t have to leave the sidewalk by more than a few steps. The adults are always, always following, watching, prompting and saying thank you.

    This is as true for the middle school kids as it is for the toddlers. I’m not sure if it’s the result of ancient panics over poisoned candy and child abduction — or just another way for parents to show how involved they are in every single aspect of childhood.

    At any rate, regarding seasonal cinema, I’ve always considered horror movies — particularly ones which involve the paranormal — as excellent vehicles for skeptical analysis. This is the way the world would look like if there really WAS a supernatural. None of this faith crap. None of this “it only works for those who believe in it” shit. None of this Personal Testimony which can’t be proven and leaves no trace and requires a special way of knowing. On the contrary, in horror films on the supernatural, we’ve got good, solid, repeatable, convincing evidence.

    For a change.

    And yet so many people who believe in real magic seem to think these little thought experiments in implication and prediction support the idea that yes indeed, this could happen you just never know. They love to see those who doubt getting their come-uppance — and seem to miss the fact that this repentance entails a heck of a lot more than what convinces them.

  14. 14
    AJ Milne

    The best bits of all the Christianized holidays are from the pre-Christian traditions. Or obviously mutated from them. The tree at Christmas, the (now chocolate) eggs at Easter, the ghouls of All Hallows Eve…

    There’s a certain strange justice to it. The spectral remains of the ancient, tribal traditions having the last laugh on the imperial religion that killed them.

    I’d have little objection to religion in general were it all celebratory folk traditions of this character. And I wonder if some of them always were a bit like that: games and stories around a campfire, and which no one really took too seriously…

    Some, I guess, I know weren’t entirely, at least. But what survives the state religion demanding formal orthodoxy is the fun, the whimsical–what people are most attached to and what the local clergy either can’t be bothered with or just can’t entirely monitor.

    So this is one way to civilize a religion: have a far nastier one try to stamp it out.

    I’m not sure that’s real helpful. But hey, the chocolate’s nice, anyway.

  15. 15
    Randomfactor

    They’re working on selling Hallowe’en out. I spent a few minutes the other day in a temporary Hallowe’en store selling overpriced premade costumes, and animated ghouls and mummies, and feeling vaguely sad. Can’t they let us have ONE holiday that isn’t a profit center?

    Of course, the hardware chain store started putting out its Christmas stuff LAST week.

    Thanks, Eamon Knight, for beating me to it. And 19 hexes on you.

  16. 16
    drew

    I guess I see Halloween as a time of harmless transgression. It’s not just about scary. Forgive me for going here but it’s also now a time for women to be sexual(ized) without being “sluts”. I’m not so comfortable with that, given that it’s likely to be taken wrong, but again I think it’s the holiday of stepping out of societal boundaries. That’s transgressive as much as people celebrating the scary like withes or devils or even the really scary – death. Or threatening to trick someone if there’s no treat. Or as much so as a nerd being a superhero. And not just in comic books but in real life (for pretend) if for only one night.

    What “holiday” could appeal more to a skeptic than Halloween? It’s a temporary throwing away of our assumptions as we all celebrate that freedom together!

  17. 17
    Sastra

    Randomfactor #15 wrote:

    Can’t they let us have ONE holiday that isn’t a profit center?

    Really? The days when kids made their own costumes out of rags and rubbed coal on their faces — while neighbors handed out treats like apples and homemade popcorn balls — was before my time. As far as I can remember, it’s always been about cheap-o store-bought costumes, masks, decorations, and candy. Complaining that Halloween has become commercialized sounds to me a bit like grumbling that the tourists are ruining Las Vegas.

  18. 18
    Paul K

    Ha!

    My kid is eleven, and has never worn a store-bought costume. All home-made, and he has usually planned and at least helped make it. Just today, he stuffed four black socks with fiber-fill, pinned them to a black turtle-neck, made a black paper hat, drew six eyes on it, and went to an early Halloween party* as a spider, and won Best Costume. Keeping it real and un-commercial is what makes it fun for all of us.

    *It’s national 4H week, so our club did this in celebration.

  19. 19
    cicely

    Goddamn, but I could have been a Goth kid if this hadn’t been before Goth became a thing.

    Me, too.

  20. 20
    Sastra

    Paul K #18 wrote:

    Keeping it real and un-commercial is what makes it fun for all of us.

    Oh yeah? Well, when I was a kid we wore paper-thin shiny cartoon character sheaths which ripped when you looked at them and stiff smelly plastic masks with tight elastic bands that slipped over the eyes when you ran across the street and we sucked on wax lips and stuck candy corn in our teeth and we LIKED IT THAT WAY!!!!

    Actually, even way back then (I’m PZ’s age) there were plenty of home-made costumes which kids made themselves — especially ‘sarcastic’ ones made by the older ones. Today, I see a fair number of clever and intricate home-made costumes which I suspect some parent has labored over mightily.

    Your kid sounds great.

  21. 21
    Susannah

    I always loved Hallowe’en. Mom – my strict fundamentalist missionary mom – went all out, designing and building costumes. We won prizes every year for her creations: the scarecrow with real straw and a stuffed crow sitting on the broomstick arms, the escaped convict, black and white striped pajamas (painted), ball and chain around his ankle, number on the back. And the upside-down man; that was me, with Dad’s shirt for pants, his pants and shoes on sticks over my head, and a stuffed head hanging down between my legs. I peered at everyone through the fly. Fun! And that year, I led the parade.

    And then there were the goodies; we took out pillowslips for loot bags, and brought them home full. And the freedom to wander in the dark, far off our regular haunts, making spooky noises in the shadows to scare the little ones. (Out without their parents, too.)

    That was a fundamentalist Christian Hallowe’en. I need to emphasize that, because these days, people believe in those witches and ghosts. And they’re afraid; we never were; why would we be? We were Christians; we were therefore protected.

    I don’t know when or why things changed. I know that by the 80s, churches were all up in arms about the “celebration of evil”. Nobody was laughing any more.

    Just another way today’s Christianity is radically different from the Christianity I knew in the mid 20th century.

  22. 22
    magistramarla

    I’m taking my masseuse to the haunted tour of the hall at my hubby’s school. The campus isn’t open to the public, so she’s excited to get to see the historic building and hear the ghost stories. I’m my usual skeptical self at those tours, but it’s always fun to watch the reactions of the gullible young spouses.

    BTW – We watched the remake of Dark Shadows last night. It was a hoot! Very campy and fun. Johnny Dep and Michelle Phieffer seemed to be having a blast.

  23. 23
    Paul K

    Sastra, #20

    I’m just a couple of ears younger than PZ myself, so I remember all of that! I come from a big catholic family — 12 kids, eventually. No way were my parents going to pay for costumes (unless we agreed to wear them as clothes afterwards, which I think my dad would actually have gone for.) We went as ‘bums’ every year: coffee grounds and cold cream on or faces, in our dad’s clothes left over from the Depression (really).

    That is, until my last year of trick or treating. My best friend’s mom was an ‘Avon Lady’ and a stylish, but quirky dresser as well. She made us into lovely young women, with real human hair wigs, huge false eyelashes, and high heels. We lived in a neighborhood where that could have led to serious trouble, and, back then, we were definitely on our own, and stayed out late. Luckily, no kids recognized us as kids.

  24. 24
    brucegee1962

    Like all fantastic literature, I think the core of horror is based on something true. You know how, in many of the best Lovecraft stories, at the very end it turns out that the hero is turning into one of the very monsters that he’s been fighting against during the entire story? Poe has many of the same qualities — the villain is the character we identify with far more than the victim. The real truth of horror fiction is that the scariest monsters are always the ones that live inside our own skulls, and we’ve got to take them out and wrestle with them from time to time.

  25. 25
    Zeno

    Zeno, you get invited to parties? And you go, too?

    Well, not often in the first instance. And even less often in the second.

  26. 26
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    Oh, I so much love that my kids are finally big enough to celebrate it a bit. It’s growing in Germany, although lots of it is just cheap.
    But we had some kids trick or treating last year and we had some scaaaaary food (blood soup with maggots, gravestones on mouldy greens, witch-fingers, eyeballs and giant spiders for dessert).

    Simple: it’s not real, and we all know it.

    Actually, my daughter puts great importance on making clear that things are make-believe. There’s a monster, iehhhhhhhhhh, mummy, save me! (but just in game, there ARE no real monsters)

  27. 27
    Holms

    To me, Halloween says ‘wacky foreign customs’.

  28. 28
    claremilner

    I had a moderate C of E upbringing but was never allowed to do anything on Halloween. I was delighted a few years ago when my boyfriend found out and suggested we should decorate, carve a pumpkin, etc. Thought I might be a bit too old to trick or treat though ;)

  29. 29
    Alexandra (née Audley)

    Christmas will just never be as cool as Halloween.

    God, I love Halloween. I’ve always loved Halloween. Being from a (mostly) irreligious family, we never did the religious thing for holidays, but being forced to pretend to enjoy being with family sucks.

    But on Halloween, we were allowed to do whatever the hell we wanted to do. Trick or treat? Okay. Take rubbings of headstones at one of the local cemeteries? No problem. Go to a friend’s house and OD on horror movies? Just be back by midnight– no matter how tired we were, we had to go to school the next day. Ah, good times.

    As I’ve become an adult, that never really changed. Sure, I’m more apt to go to a party than to hang around a graveyard, but being able to make a costume* and act silly all night still has it’s appeal.

    This is the first Halloween that I won’t be celebrating in proper fashion, but I can’t really complain because I will be recovering from delivering DarkFetus. I still plan to dress up– I’m going to make an Alien chest-burster costume (terribly appropriate, since I’ll be recovering from a c-section) and hand out candy. Should still be hella fun. ;)

    *Two of my recent favorites: Prom queen horror movie victim and Walter Sobchak.

  30. 30
    Alexandra (née Audley)

    Also: My neighborhood* does a “haunted house walk” every October, which we all use as an excuse to tell spooky stories and oooh and aaah over the interiors of our neighbor’s houses.

    *It’s a historically protected neighborhood. My house is one of the newer buildings and it was built circa 1815.

  31. 31
    FossilFishy (NOBODY, and proud of it!)

    My best Halloween memory comes from my twenties rather than my childhood. My girlfriend and I decided to go as a strand of DNA. We used cut styrofoam balls and ping-pong balls as molecules and tape as the bonds on black shirts and pants. The ladder bonds were old pantyhose stuffed with rags and they joined with velcro.

    We went to two parties that night, one with my friends and one with her’s. At her friend’s party we spent the whole time explaining what we were. The first thing we heard when we walked in the door at my friend’s party was “Look, it’s DNA! Do mitosis, do mitosis!” We spent a lot more time with my friends after that.

  32. 32
    epikt

    FossilFishy (Νεοπτόλεμος’s spellchecker) says:

    My best Halloween memory comes from my twenties rather than my childhood. My girlfriend and I decided to go as a strand of DNA.

    Good one. One year I put together a last-minute costume consisting of a flat-screen tv box, painted flat black and worn vertically. Sadly, only one person at the party figured out that it was the monolith from “2001.”

  33. 33
    Rich Woods

    @epikt:

    But the real geeks probably just glanced at you and thought, ‘Nah, that’s not 1:4:9.’

    Excellent idea, all the same. I liked the Private Eye cartoon which showed Arthur C Clarke’s tombstone as… well, you guessed it.

  34. 34
    ogremeister

    Susannah @ 21:

    I don’t know when or why things changed. I know that by the 80s, churches were all up in arms about the “celebration of evil”. Nobody was laughing any more.

    I suspect things started to change after 1973, when The Exorcist came out. The werewolf/vampire/mummy movie monsters of earlier days could be discounted as not real, but demonic possession carried an element of Christian reality to it that could not be so easily dismissed. Later movies like The Omen just exacerbated this notion. That seemed to be the dawn of the “Spiritual Warfare” era.

    Sure, there were earlier movies with a Satanic theme…but none of them experienced the widespread popularity which these did, to the best of my knowledge (I was 10 when The Exorcist came out).

  35. 35
    Susannah

    ogremeister #34:

    The Exorcist.

    You’re right; that could have been it. I was not in the US at the time, but I remember reading some panicky articles about it. They were saying you put your life in danger, even by going to see the movie.

    “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities …” (Paul or one of his coat-tail riders)

    We understood that passage as dealing with struggling against the faults in our own nature; by the 80s, evil had become externalized and Christians were fine; God just wasn’t finished with us yet. (PBPGIFWMY) “Greasy grace”, we old-timers were calling it. No work, just faith, slide into heaven with no effort, and any problems were Satan’s doing. And his evil minions’, of course.

    The Exorcist was part of that changeover. And Frank Peretti’s silly series. By the turn of the century, my church was considering studying his books in Sunday School!

  36. 36
    gillt

    I’ve been reading pharyngula since around 2003. This is the greatest post of all. Yes to Bradbury, yes to scary movies (all month), yes to haunted houses (Fort Wayne’s converted church, The Haunted Castle), and maybe someday yes to repeating it all with offspring.

    If you haven’t read it already I recommend “October Dreams: A Celebration of Halloween” stories by Poppy Z. Brite, Koontz, Bradbury, Jack Ketchum, Straub. etc.

  37. 37
    alektorophile

    I hate to sound like a grumpy old man, but being of a southern European persuasion I rather resent the ongoing spread of Halloween-ish celebrations to my corner of the world. Hollywood-inspired and profit-driven, it is now an inescapable addition to the festivities calendar stores impose on us. I have lived in the US and carved pumpkins myself, handed out candy, and so on, but somehow the Halloween I have seen here is a rather sad affair, with clueless teenage kids wearing a cheap death mask or even not bothering with a costume demanding sweets or even money.

    Ok, the traditional visiting of graves at this time of year is far from fun, and not even a fraction as interesting as a Mexican Dia de los Muertos, but we already have a festivity involving costumes, carnival. It lasts weeks not just one evening, it involves much better food and wine, and the costumes are not just limited to the ghoulish and macabre. Chicken costumes for me and my toddler for next February are almost ready.

  38. 38
    Sastra

    Susannah #35 wrote:

    The Exorcist was part of that changeover. And Frank Peretti’s silly series. By the turn of the century, my church was considering studying his books in Sunday School!

    Oh, Peretti! That was his name. Back in the late 80′s someone suggested This Present Darkness for a book discussion group I was in. As I recall, the woman who brought it up said it was a thriller with an important message.

    Right. I thought the book was horrible — and I thought it even worse that someone, anyone, could possibly think that this sort of “spiritual warfare” — with angels and demons following people around and influencing events in reflection of a cosmic battle between good (true Christians) and evil (everyone else) was in any way likely to be true, or something to “think about” or “good to know.” The Christian who proposed This Present Darkness seemed a bit surprised to hear blunt criticism. I suspect that, up to that point, all discussion of religion had been done with others in her church — or at least other Christians, who would be diplomatic. Welcome to diversity.

    Bad enough as fiction. Peretti’s series (it was a series? Omg) was probably the spiritual role model for the Left Behind books.

    I was glad to have read the book. Normally, it’s the sort of thing I’d run from — but it’s proven useful in understanding the mindset of Spiritual Warfare. That’s a theology which places you at the center of the action: anything you do, no matter how mundane, could be of grave and lasting significance. The spirits watch. High Drama and high foolishness. Trick or treat, indeed.

  39. 39
    Jeff L

    I’ve always liked Halloween, and always made my own costumes (and so has my daughter since she’s been old enough to).

    Between the different places I’ve lived, I’ve gotten to experience Halloween different ways. In elementary and middle school, we lived out in the country. Not backwoods deep country, but rural enough that walking around my neighborhood wasn’t much of an option. So, trick or treating those years consisted mostly of driving around with one of my friends to houses of people we knew and knocking on their doors. We always saved a certain house for last. There was an old couple that lived there, and they’d invite us in for hot spiced cider and cookies.

    My freshman year of high school, we’d moved to a traditional suburban housing development (Lake Linganore for anyone familiar with Maryland). A girl and I were the only high school students on our street, so we were the chaperones, taking all the smaller kids around the rest of the development. That was the most candy I’ve ever gotten on Halloween.

    The rest of high school and then college and immediately afterwards were understandably devoted more to parties than trick or treating. I do remember though, when they brought underprivileged kids trick or treating in the dorms.

    The first few years taking my daughter trick or treating were in a city (Wichita Falls). It wasn’t a very urban city, but a lot of nice houses on small lots. It was pretty much like the setting in most Halloween movies I’ve seen.

    When we moved to a different neighborhood with a reputation as one of the nicer neighborhoods in town, we were completely unprepared for our first Halloween there. We ran out of candy within half an hour, and when my wife ran out to get more, it took her over half an hour to get back in because of the traffic. We were prepared the following years. I weighed our candy once, and we gave out over 50 lbs. A neighbor who was strict about giving out 2 pieces of candy per kid gave out 2000 pieces, and he ran out about half an hour before us. So with the amount of kids going through, it makes it more worth getting into the spirit. For the past several years, we’ve done up the house pretty good, and I’ll stand out there in a costume to scare the older kids. It’s scary enough that a few younger kids refuse to even walk up our driveway.

    So we’re looking forward to Halloween again this year. My daughter’s already planning a party with one of her friends for the weekend before, and trying to come up with new props for our house for the big night.

    And for the cynics, most of the kids do have decent costumes, with a large portion still being homemade. It is irritating, though, to see high school kids walking around without being dressed up at all, but still asking for candy. Damn punks get off my lawn.

  40. 40
    Sastra

    Fatboy #39 wrote:

    It is irritating, though, to see high school kids walking around without being dressed up at all, but still asking for candy. Damn punks get off my lawn.

    Try asking them cheerfully if they’re supposed to be Justin Bieber, or Hannah Montana — and act like you’re serious. Next year, they’ll probably either have a costume, or stay indoors.

  41. 41
    Worldtraveller

    Halloween has always been my favorite holiday, and luckily, my wife’s as well.

    When we owned our home in Tucson, we used to go all out decorating. We had a fog machine that kept the entrance occluded for the most part. I rigged up a motion sensor ghost that would drop down (I had to manually reset it, but I was working on something to reel it back up…), we filled our swimming pool with body parts, a giant alligator head, and half a dozen blocks of dry ice. Then we had a huge party…it was funny, because the neighborhood kids discovered that it was fun to show up, just to see the effects, and all the goofy adults in costume having fun. :)

  42. 42
    Susannah

    Sastra #38:

    It was a series? Omg

    How to make a million bucks without half trying. Write a mindless novel incorporating as many exaggerated religious clichés as you can. (Writing talent is not required; it may even be proscribed.)
    Make everything black and white; everyone in the out group are irredeemably malevolent, and powerful to boot. Make the good guys win anyhow. Rinse and repeat.

    All you need is a laptop and a few afternoons per book. And a complete absence of conscience.

    See Hubbard, Lindsey, Peretti, LaHaye for models.

  43. 43
    ogremeister

    alektorophile @ 37:

    we already have a festivity involving costumes, carnival. It lasts weeks not just one evening

    I quite enjoyed Carnival during the few years I lived in Europe. But I don’t think extending Hallowe’en to more than the one night would be on par with that.

    In some places where it has — the previous evening called Devil’s Night — some of the more raucous cavorting has expanded to include arson. I’d rather they just stick to the tamer tricks in lieu of treats.

  44. 44
    epikt

    Rich Woods says:

    @epikt:
    But the real geeks probably just glanced at you and thought, ‘Nah, that’s not 1:4:9.’

    Yeah, that probably gave it away. That and the legs.

  45. 45
    Part-Time Insomniac

    Whenever someone asks what my favorite holidays are, I tell them:

    1. Halloween (Samhain to those who know what that is)
    2. Christmas (Yule – see above)

    I look forward to scaring the kids this year, or at least as much of a scare as I can get in my workplace on top of Halloween being rather sanitized these days.

  46. 46
    Rick Pikul

    A small nitpick: Even in the original Scooby Doo, one of the monsters was real and not some guy in a costume. Mind you, it wasn’t a phantom but rather an out of control robot.

  47. 47
    sheilagalliart

    Although raised as a fundamentalist xtian, back in the day, Halloween wasn’t seen as an ‘evil’ holiday but just a day to dress up and, best of all, BE OUTDOORS AFTER DARK! It was always my favorite holiday, and I could never figure out why school wasn’t dismissed for Halloween. After all, we got out of school for much more mundane occasions such as Lincoln’s birthday, Columbus day, and a full week at Christmas. My bedtime was 8:30 pm year round, and always had to come inside before dark except for Halloween. And the old ladies in the neighborhood gave out full size Snickers and Hershey bars! Except for the ones who forgot it was Halloween and gave apples and pencils.

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