Exploring Halloween: That’s Not Horror, That’s Nauseating

Samhain. Halloween. Whatever you want to call this point on the Wheel. I promised I would write about this time of the year. In the past, I have railed on and on about how I loathe the commercialization of this time of year. But not this year. I promised a close friend who is enamored with all this creepy and crawly with Halloween/Samhain, that I would try a different tact. And so I here I sit. In front of my MacPro…trying to figure out a way to start all of this. Well, as they say – perhaps the beginning is as good a place as any.

The Movies

Growing up, the only English television I had was the European Armed Forces Network (AFN). My idea of an “awesome” show was a badly dubbed Godzilla movie. ANd AFN put those things on at midnight, way past an eight year old boy’s bedtime. But a bit of begging and cajoling, allowed me to stay up and watch. That same year, I was set loose on the American Housing community we lived in (Hainerberg). I had watched the Charlie Brown Halloween special and decided I wanted to do as Charlie had – be a ghost – complete with bed sheet and eye-holes cut out of it. The more I learned about Halloween and things go bump in the night, the more I enjoyed it.

The Wolfman, Dracula (1958). Hour of the Wolf. Frankenstein (1931). The Birds. An American Werewolf in London (yeah, its noted as a comedy, but it borders on horror as well). The Omen. Dawn of the Dead. Halloween (one of the most truly frightening films I saw as a kid). Alien (yes, you can have horror in space). Now, Halloween and Alien I saw in the theaters. The rest, I stayed up late on a Friday in my family’s small three bedroom apartment in base housing to see on AFN. But topping all of those is The Blair Witch Project which scared me with every turn….

I think part of my dislike for Halloween showed in the late 1980s. Horror films started to turn to bloody scenes as a way to scare people. That and graphic depictions of the loss of limb or finger or toe, or ear, or loss of an eye. The more gruesome the death. The more intense the film made such depictions and utilized that as a vehicle to scaring people. Gore does not frighten me. It makes me nauseated. I don’t want to jump back in fright, I want to vomit into my popcorn bag. To me, that’s not horror – that’s just tasteless.

Haunted Hayrides and the Such

And for me, its the turn towards gory, explicit depictions of violence that do nothing for me. In fact, its a huge turnoff for me. I have seen this down in the massive horror sites as well. You pay money to enter into what is essentially a massive haunted house combined with the sprawling acreage of a haunted hayride. Being scared by someone that pops out of nowhere can be fun. Your date grips your hand, the two of yell and scream at the moment and are prodded toward continuing the walk-through. Have a guy menacing me with a running chainsaw, while there’s blood spatter on the wall, and gruesome body parts strewn about? That’s not scary to me. That’s a scene where I want to protect myself and my date. Where I look at how to take the chainsaw guy’s legs out from under him, incapacitate him, and we feel from the area with our lives and body parts still intact. That’s not scary to me.

When the gore started to be the highlight of nearly every scary film, and the natural attraction towards depicting that to your friends at Halloween parties and Haunted Hayrides and the such — that’s where I stepped off the Halloween bandwagon. And essentially, you get the idea how I’ve managed to come to this point.

Changing the Mindset

One thing I have learned in close to fifty years of being alive — if you don’t like what you see, or what you hear, or what you read, or what you experience — change it. When a movie comes on that I am turned off – I follow through and turn it off or change the channel. When invited to Haunted Hayrides and the such, I tend to politely turn down the invitation. I grok that others find that type of stuff scary, and fun. I don’t need to be the killjoy to their fun. And I certainly don’t need to rial on and on to them about why I feel that way. And I definitely don’t need to change things so that the blood, gore, and such is removed from Halloween altogether. There’s certainly enough room for what they are wanting and what I am wanting.

For me, Halloween has started to take on a different meaning – particularly after spending a lot of time thinking about this particular question that was posed to me – and digging deep into my reasons of “why”. Halloween is a community thing. More now than ever before. There’s a more Spiritual side of it, which I will explore in the next blog post (directly focused on Samhain), which reaches into the aspects of the Ancestors. But Halloween does have a community feel to it. Trick or treating, for example, is a time-honored tradition of little kids dressing up and going about the neighborhood to receive candy, and other treats. You trick or treated in your neighborhood. The people who were home to hand out treats were people you knew. If they were walking through the neighborhood, and your drove past them – you would wave to one another.

From a spiritual sense, this is the turning of the Wheel from one year to the next. My perspective is slightly different – in that each day harkens the beginnings of a new year. But this also points to a time where the winds were starting to bring colder weather. A time where families tended to stay indoors. Perhaps, this time can also be seen as that last time that you make the rounds through neighborhood – checking in how each neighbor is set for the coming winter, and making mental notes on who may need help during the winter. It certainly sounds plausible and possible. It may not be the primary focus, where the thinning of the veil brings ancestors forth in our thinking, and waking moments. But I believe there is certainly some merit to that.

Changing My Perspective

Its still difficult to get excited about this time of year. But that’s merely habit setting in. It will take a while for the mindset to change, but it will. I can change the perspective, by removing the things that I am uncomfortable with – and embracing the things that make sense to me. I’m not erasing or destroying the lines between what Halloween should be for anyone else. They have the capacity to change that for themselves. I only hope that they can be thoughtful enough to remember that blood, guts, and gore is not really for “everyone”….

Next blog post, I’ll change gears from Halloween, and step towards more Spiritual aspects with an eye on Samhain.

Loving Fall, Hating Halloween

I have to confess, I love Fall. The beautiful colors of the leaves as each ends its time within the birth-life-death cycle. The russet blanket that will eventually cover my backyard, forcing me to grumble as I set upon the task of raking all of the detritus up, and pack it away for a friend’s compost pile. But those grumbles are just my way of greeting a grueling task – in secret, I admire the beautiful colors, and the fact that I spend a short period of time outside. Then there is the cooler weather, which allows me the capability of getting outside, as Texas ceases to be an outdoor Easy-Bake oven. There is a lot to love about this time of the year.

And there’s actually some aspects that I dislike about the oncoming blitz of Fall….but one stands out above a lot of the others:  Halloween. When I was much, much younger – I enjoyed the childhood ritual of trick-or-treating….for about three years. Somehow, when I turned nine – I just was never really enamored with Halloween any longer. And now, forty years further down the line….it remains the case with me.

The costume side of things is “ok” — I have been known to don a costume or two in the past few years for office parties — and I have spent more than my share of evenings handing out candies to some of the cutest ghosties, goblins, and their equally cute mothers. But I really believe that’s about the end of what Halloween is. Just a time of the year to hand out candy to small children, and smile at their parents. Anything beyond that is truly wasted on me.

Yes, this even goes for the horror and shock movies. Honestly, I do like a good campy horror movie – the Bride of Frankenstein, the Three Stooges Meet the Wolfman, An American Werewolf in London, and The Fog are typically something I can sit and watch. But the newer films seem to be all about spraying blood and body parts everywhere, while Tara Reid or Rose McGowan scream endlessly throughout the film. Just not my cup of tea for an evening.  No thanks, I’ll stick with Blade Runner, one of the first two Alien movies or Prometheus.

Sure, there’s also the schlocky “adult” parties that are bandied about in the office. But that feels more like a need to drink for the sake of drinking – or to find some bed partner for the evening, where you stretch your fogged brain to remember what the other person’s name is and/or what happened last night. Damn, I’m pushing fifty years of age here…I don’t quite have the ability to be a racing machine anymore.  Think more along the lines of an El Camino with a camper wedged into the bed.

It took quite a few years before I began to realize what it was about Halloween that I disliked – the manner in which the dead were portrayed. The dead were made out to be evil, mindless, driven with a desire to do harm. But I see those that have passed beyond the veil in a different light. They have transcended this existence and moved on to another. What happens beyond the veil – I don’t know, nor do I suspect I will until I pass from this existence – but those that have moved on are not evil or mindless or bent on destruction of those that are in this existence.

I do “get” the idea of Halloween – the ‘spirit’ of it all, if you will – its a time geared towards the children – allowing their fertile minds to create and focus thoughts onto the noises made by the ‘unseen’ forces. But I will be honest, I prefer the aspects of Samhain that I have encountered in my walks throughout Paganism. A night to honor the ancestors that have passed beyond the veil. A time when the veil is thinnest, allowing for prolonged communication between the two existences.

Yes, there are those that love a good horror film, and those that enjoy a good haunted house where they are scared/excited over an innocent “threat”. And there are those that enjoy being in the company of others, gathered around a bonfire and toasting the memories of those that have passed away in the last year – and those ancestors that slipped from this mortal coil even further back. For me, I prefer a quiet night in the backyard (if the weather permits), a cool glass of iced tea, and a lawn chair – where I can watch the moon move across the sky against the backdrop of the stars. Where I can marvel at how wide, great, and unknown the world around me is – and how I can find connection to nearly everything there – in one form or another.

Yeah…I’m a party pooper….