Pumpkin Spice Lattes, pumpkin carving, trick-or-treating, the onset of chillier weather, and scary movies. Those are just a few reasons why October is my favorite month. When I was growing up, before my parents divorced, we would all help decorate our big two-story house for Halloween. We went all out. Cobwebs were strung like tinsel on the trees outside. We had our very own cemetery in the front yard with pun filled headstones and even a shallow grave. When costumed trick-or-treaters would walk up the porch steps, they would be treated to fog wafting across the porch and serenaded by spooky music. They would then be greeted to three animatronic dummies that would wave and lift their arms up and down. My father created them and named them “bloody men.”
After we were done decorating, my mother would make hot chocolate for everyone and we would spend the rest of the evening on the porch drinking hot chocolatey beverages in the chilly weather and tell each other ghost stories. As the days crept closer to All Hallows’ Eve, my father would create unique costumes for the four of us. My favorite costume creation was when my father turned my two older sisters into a pair of giant fuzzy dice. Complete with felt and everything. We would go trick-or-treating and then when we got home we would sort out and trade our loot we hated with each other on the floor of the living room.
For me, Halloween was never a time to dress up in expensive, store bought costumes and greedily horde candy. It was a time when the entire family would spend much needed quality time together. It was one of the few family traditions we had and I miss it dearly. All good things eventually come to an end and so did this tradition.
Perhaps that’s why my interest latched so tightly onto the horror genre in literature and cinema. I’m trying to find a little bit of the magic that fueled my now broken family’s discarded tradition.
When readers ask me why I write horror stories, I don’t really go into this reasoning. Usually, I give a sarcastic response about wanting to torture my creations. Normally, it gets an eye roll or a guffaw of laughter. That’s all I try for (if you really know me that’s generally my type of humor).
Of course, if you really think about it, Halloween is the time for reclaiming lost magic. The origin of the sugar-laden holiday can be derived from the Irish mythological festival of Samhain, one of the four seasonal festivals of the year. At least that’s what Wikipedia states and we all know that’s reliable so take that for what that means. Now, according to that mythology, Samhain was a time when “doorways” to an alternate dimension known as the Otherworld, the realm of the dead, were opened.
Whether you believe in that stuff or not, you have to agree that books are magical objects.
“Books are a uniquely portable magic,” stated Stephen King in his book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft.
If you’re a constant reader of my weekly rants, you’ll know that I often use this quote from King. I use it because it’s the best description of literature. A book is a gateway into another world. If there was actual magic in this world, it most certainly has died off by now. All of those portals to the Otherworld have closed. But you can still find magic when you crack open a book.
So when I get asked what I’m going as for Halloween I smile at them and say “I’m going to be a magician.”