This is the time of year that, more than usual, we deal with our fears. Ghosts, ghouls, goblins, witches, skeletons, bats, vampires, werewolves, tricksters and sugar-supercharged children in for the night but not down for the night.
Halloween was not a big deal when I was growing up because we lived in the country, miles away from neighbors and therefore trick-or-treaters and doors that concealed bowls of candy. We tended to celebrate at home.
The first time Halloween sent actual chills through me was the chilly autumn I was about 14. A carnival was in my hometown, which was 8 miles from my home and even farther for my classmate Edward.
Somehow, though, we got a ride to town for the carnival, and as we wandered past the tents that held games, contests and foods, we saw a tent that promoted a “two-headed baby” inside.
We excitedly bought tickets and went in. Sad to say, the sign was correct, as far as it went. It never used the word “live,” however, and there’s the rub. I won’t describe what we saw, but it has never left my memory. I had trouble sleeping that night and nightmares for years when sleep finally would come. Edward and I left the exhibit as quickly as we could and didn’t enjoy the rest of the night.
That was my worst Halloween, but I recall Halloween-type memories that struck me with fear.
In the 1970s I read the novel The Exorcist, and it was indeed frightening. I was out of the country at the time and didn’t have access to the film version, but I had read all the reports of theatergoers throwing up and passing out while watching it. When I finally got to go see it, I experienced that common feeling of the expectation being worse than the actual event. I was the only person in the movie house laughing his head off, so to speak, for two straight hours.
I will admit on this Halloween’s Eve, though, that subsequent viewings of the film made me jump and squirm, and to this day I think it is one of the scariest movies I have seen.
Stephen King is a Halloween staple for 12 months a year, and the novel that caused me the most jitters was Salem’s Lot. I was living alone in a house with no curtains and little furniture. Big dark windows faced me as I sat in my easy chair in the living room and read at night.
There was a passage in the book about a vampire hovering outside the window and asking to be let inside. I couldn’t help but look up from my novel to the darkness outside my own window, wonder whether King knew what he was talking about, and hold my throat with one hand. The better to ward off trans-species bats, you understand.
Real-life scares are much worse than anything Halloween has to offer – I know that now. But let’s hear about some of your best frights from some dark and stormy trick-or-treating night.
Reach Glynn Moore at firstname.lastname@example.org.