I love Halloween, and it’s rather obvious. I like to think of Halloween as kick-starting Christmas. It’s a time for giving (candy and toys), for socializing with friends and family, and also for telling spooky stories. It’s the pre-game to my Christmas “Football”. I talk about ghosts and mysteries and murder. I start planning my costume and what I’m going to do up to 8 months in advance. When I walk through a haunted house, it’s like someone else walking through a museum. I just love this holiday.
So– How did I get into this stuff?
Slowly. As a kid, I was sick with hay fever from seasonal allergies. Even as a young adult, I had Pneumonia on Halloween. It wasn’t something that I’ve been into my whole life, but more of something I stumbled into– especially since *gasp* my dad HATES Halloween! (Blasphemy, I know!)
My earliest memories of Halloween are of a hideous clown costume that my mom made me wear. Twice. That’s two years of itchy, face-painted clown. Once I got beyond the clown years, I was old enough to choose my own costume and things got infinitely better. My mom is crafty, and each year she’d hit the September fabric sales and make us kids pick out our costumes. Once the fabric was purchased, you were stuck with whatever you chose. I was a ballerina and a witch (twice), Annie Oakley, and a knight. I vividly remember those loveable home-made costumes because the highlight of Halloween was always the elementary school parade.
Before Halloween was turned into a “fall” celebration in the public schools, there was always a huge party. Each classroom would urge children to wear their costumes to school that day. All day you’d play games and eat sugary foods… and it all started with the costume parade. One classroom was designated the starting point and they’d line up and parade into the next classroom. They went in one door and out another. At the end of the parade, the classroom of kids that just witnessed the parade would join in at the end. The parade was huge with each classroom joining in the parade at the end. When you got back to your room, after parading about the whole school, you sat down again and watched the rest of the parade. It was epic. Seeing so many different costume ideas was really amazing and it opened my eyes to the possibilities and endless imagination afforded to kids by Halloween.
Truly, anything is possible on Halloween. It’s part of the magic that makes the holiday so much fun.
As I grew older, the dressing up lost it’s luster. When you get to a certain age, some adults start to tell you that you’re “too old” for Halloween. For me, this happened when I was 12 years old. For two Halloweens I’d been getting the “you’re too old” vibe from adults passing out candy. That year, I was reluctant to go trick-or-treating, but my mom asked me to take my younger sister door-to-door. It just wouldn’t have been fun to stand and watch, so I threw something together. I wore my witch tunic (now horribly small on me), wrapped a key-ring belt around it, and carried a plastic axe. I decided to be a serial killer because they look like everyone else. I admit. It was lame, but given the time constraint of about 5-minutes and no costume, it was better than dressing as a “pedestrian”.
I will never forget the face of the old man who glowered at me and made me explain my costume. I almost wish he’d just flat out refused to give me candy. Though, I try to keep my “old-man” experience in mind when I give kids a hard time for not really dressing up. (But I’ll get to that…)
I started to make my own costumes. In high school, I made a grim reaper costume and I went trick-or-treating at the mall with my friend Tasha. She made me feel like dressing in costume was natural. (Go-figure she would later go on to become an actress.) I had a really good time that year and vowed to keep the Halloween spirit alive; though, my interests in dressing up and getting candy had shifted to pumpkin carving.
I’m somewhat obsessed with carving pumpkins, and almost every year since my freshman year of high school I’ve designed a new pumpkin pattern to carve. I keep the new pattern to myself, and then share it online after Halloween. I’ve done a grim reaper pattern, a voodoo doll, several werewolves, a zombie, and the Disney white rabbit. I’ve also been getting into the sculpting (3D carving) since 2006, and those turn out really well too. My favorite sculpts were Darkness (from the movie Legend) and the very first sculpt I did that was a skull. Despite my fascination with carving, I’ve only ever won one pumpkin carving competition. The design tradition is alive and well this year. I’ve got my new design ready to go. I even have an idea for next year too.
College offered new challenges to Halloween festivities. My freshman year of college, I was invited on a group outing to “Nightfall”, Old Tucson Studio’s Halloween production. I enjoyed it immensely. The shows were fantastic. I loved the haunted house. I wandered in the middle of the group– “somehow”, the girls ended up in the front of the group and the boys at the rear. The group stopped when a haunt actor poked his head around the corner and asked “did you see it?” The girl at the front of the line was terrified and ran back to get someone else to go first. I volunteered. When asked if I saw “it”, my response was “What? See what? What am I supposed to see?” Which, apparently, freaked the other girl out even more because I was talking to the scary guy. (I really did want to see “it”– I thought I was missing something cool.) That’s when the chainsaw turned on and everyone pushed past the “did you see it” guy. After the haunted house, I laughed uncontrollably through a comedic mad-science sketch which was meant to be both funny and disturbing.
In college, I also invented what I called “reverse-trick-or-treating” to express my love of Halloween– which, several years later, was reinvented as “boo-ing” by some retail outlets. I filled cheap tumbler cups with candy, dressed up, and took candy to my friends. Once, I even went door-to-door in the dorms with a candy-filled cauldron, and I scared a 200 lb football linebacker who didn’t want to take candy from a masked stranger– I was in my grim reaper costume.
I’ve always enjoyed storytelling, but my love of telling ghost stories didn’t develop until my mom took me on a ghost walk of Tucson, Arizona by the Lost Souls Paranormal Investigators. The tour was started by Amy Allen who now stars on the Travel Channel’s hit series “The Dead Files”. Ms. Allen’s group researched Tucson history, investigated the locations, and started giving tours. Their tour is amazing. That tour is also one of the reasons I largely focus on historical relevancy when I write blog entries. Many hauntings are linked to historical events, so delving into the past seems logical if you’re going to properly investigate a paranormal claim.
College ended with Pirates of the Caribbean– and even though I had to work that night, I made my own party at work. I gave all my co-workers pirate name tags and eye patches. We talked like pirates all night. I worked the register (so I could sit because I was still 3 days into my Z-Pack for Pneumonia). I even brought in candy to share with everyone… which was somewhat ironic since I worked in the on-campus convenience store that sold candy…
My post-college Halloween got infinitely better and more fun when I met and married my husband, who also loves Halloween. We’ve collaborated on some epic Halloween adventures. One year we did witches, and “made” full-sized candy-bars by adding different ingredients to the cauldron. My husband chose Persians one year. We did mad-scientists and built a PVC gurney so we could pull candy out of the chest cavity of a corpse. My all-time favorite was pirates because of the candy-cannon— an air-cannon/potato gun we built to look like a cannon. It shoots mini-candy bars. We’ve created wonderfully magical Halloween experiences for the next generation of kids. At my house, if you dress up you get candy. And, even though I’ll give someone grief for not dressing up– if you do a trick for me, I always make sure to give the good sport a handful of candy as I mentally stick it to the old man who once spurned me as a young adult out trick-or-treating.
My husband and I are just beginning to have Halloween adventures with our son. I can’t wait to make Halloween Gingerbread Crypts with him like we did with our Cub Scouts. I hope he loves Halloween as much as we do. I hope it’s as magical for him as it has been for me growing up. It really is a holiday full of imagination and wonder because the options for what or who you want to be for a single evening are as vast and deep as the depths of your own imagination.
This Halloween, I hope you remember to have fun and be safe. But most importantly, I hope you capture some of the wonderment that it held for you when you were little… and if you’re not in the states, I can’t blame you for not celebrating the 31st– but take a moment to celebrate anyways because you’re never too old to let your imagination run wild if only for one night!
Happy haunting and Happy Halloween!