Halloween’s one of those things that doesn’t really make sense unless you look at it from more than one angle at once (like all the best/important things!) So…
It’s ghost story time, time to pass on things that go bump and all that. The picture above, George Frederic Watt’s Minotaur, was used as an illustration in a book called “Murray’s Manual of Mythology” that was in my parents’ house when I was little. My brother and I were devouring this book at an early age, but this picture always scared te heck out of me. I remember daring myself to look at it in daylight, then really wishing I hadn’t as it got dark. Quite often. I found it online a few days ago, and haven’t seen it for years before that – I misremembered the image as being of the creature sat at a table with it’s knife and fork ready. I’d often look at the book, being drawn to that page – in the kitchen, getting under my mother’s feet in an attempt to not be too alone. The picture captures something of the bovine stupidity of the creature, and I think that that’s what scared me about it – it’s realistic, not just in the outward rendering of the painting, but the personality.
I was easily-scared as a kid (I still don’t have much capacity for horror films). I remember a very vivid dream of walking downstairs to the living room in the dark, and finding my father’s jogging suit standing upright, facing the wall – empty, but filled out as though someone were in it. I stood in the doorway, terrified, thinking that I should move before it saw me, and then it turned it’s head to look at me. The scary thing being that there was no head, of course. That one – unlike the minotaur -still gives me the shivers, writing this now, alone in the house, in the dark!
If you want some cracking ghost stories, you could do worse than look at Emily Carroll’s excellent “Through the Woods”. I’m about halfway through reading it, and enjoying it immensely – provided it’s not too dark when I’m reading it!
Arguably traces it’s roots back to the Celtic Samhain, the day that the Dead have their holiday. If you know loved ones who are dead, and most of us do, spend time in their company on Halloweeen. Walk through the woods, singing to the dead. (No need to restrict this just to Halloween, of course.)
This transcends the scariness, for me.
It’s a time of year when everyone wants in on the act! Along with Samhain, it shares it’s time of year with Diwali, Bonfire Night, and Martinmas – the latter of which has been co-opted as celebration of the birthday of the Protestant Martin Luther. A common theme of light, explosions and revolt runs through all of this, an upturning of the order of things that it shares with it’s counterpart April Fools Day, on the other side of the year.
So, I wish you a happy, scary, soulful or revolting Halloween, as you wish. Or a combination of the above!
Oh, I nearly forgot to mention the commercial juggernaut form of Halloween, which really is scary. If you want to gorge yourself on Toffee Apples and pumpkin while wearing a “sexy” Pokemon or Mario Bros. costume, go ahead – I won’t watch!