Halloween has always had a special place in my heart. An obese child, I loved nothing more than a holiday in which it was permissible to binge on unlimited amounts of candy that people would give you. For free! My siblings and I would pour out our pillowcases full of candy (we’d long since dispensed with those tiny little plastic pumpkin containers that could barely fit anything in them). We would then trade candy, so that everyone could get what they liked and get rid of what they didn’t. Things like Twizzlers and Twix were hot commodities- Mounds got thrown in the trash. I wasn’t big on chocolate so I tended to trade most of mine for the sweeter stuff. Halloween was my first introduction to the concept of bartering- and boy could I make a deal when it came to Fun Dip.
When I was little I would go trick or treating with my parents and my older brother. Then, when he was too old for my parents to tag along, it was just the two of us. Then, he was too old to go trick or treating at all, and it was just me. I didn’t really have any friends to go trick or treating with, but I didn’t want to go alone. So I ended up going with a boy named Sam from my church. I don’t remember Sam’s costume that year, but I remember mine very well. I went as a Mexican. I rented a poncho from a costume shop and drew on a big mustache with permanent marker.
Clearly, looking back at this I am mortified. I’m not quite sure how I was unaware how offensive this was to both the Mexican community and Mustache wearers, but in my defense I was 11 at the time and was not aware of much of anything. Come to think of it, I have a very clear memory of my first grade teacher dressing us up as Native Americans in celebration of Thanksgiving, having us run around the classroom mimicking Native American calls. I also remember witnessing in middle school a classroom performance of a scene from “To Kill A Mockingbird” where a classmate borrowed her friend’s foundation to perform the scene in blackface. So I think it’s fair to say that Virginia was kind of messed up. The good news is, everyone is a lot less ignorant now and they’ve since dispensed with the overtly racist scholastic activities.
But back to Halloween. I loved the candy, I loved the dressing up (obviously), but it wasn’t until later that I realized just how much I loved the horror. I love being scared. I love it so much. That feeling when you’re alone at night and you’ve just finished watching a scary movie and you’re convinced there’s someone in your closet and you hide under the covers even though you’re 25 and how is this still something you believe will help? I love it. Most movies try and manipulate the audience’s emotions, whether subtly or overtly. The thing I love about horror movies is that that is the entire point of the movie. It’s solely meant to scare you. If it can tell a good story at the same time, that’s just a bonus.
I remember (somehow) watching all these horror movies as a kid. The theme song to Halloween was one of the first things I learned to play on the piano. I don’t know how I was allowed, but I saw Scream, and Halloween, and The Silence Of The Lambs, and The Ring. They terrified me and thrilled me. And yet, even though I managed to see these films, I still remember begging my parents to let me see Final Destination 2, which they refused because it was rated R. How all the rest of these movies slipped past them I’ll never know.
The thing I love about Halloween is that it’s the time of year where the horror is allowed to leave the movie. You’re allowed to be scared in public. There are rides and amusement parks and events and mazes dedicated to scaring you. One of my favorite things growing up was going on the Haunted Hayride with my family. You’d get on a truck and sit on bales of hay while you drove around a forest through different horrific stops. It was like a haunted house on wheels.
I have tickets to the Haunted Hayride in Los Angeles this year, set in an abandoned zoo in Griffith Park (which I’m already thrilled by). As for Halloween itself, I don’t know what I’ll be doing. I don’t eat candy anymore, so that’s out of the picture. I could dress up, but I don’t know what I should be (and don’t worry, I learned my lesson when I was 11).
But there is one thing I definitely know I will be:
And loving it.