I love Halloween. Or I used to, anyway. It’s still one of my favorite holidays, but as I’ve matured, it’s lost some of its luster.
Going trick or treating and getting my hands on all that candy was probably the biggest thrill, but my older brother is a master story-teller. His rendition of “The Golden Arm” had me shaking and running for the security of mom’s lap.
“Come back,” he’d call from under the makeshift tent in the living room. “I’m not done!”
But I didn’t care. After a while I’d peek around the corner in time to see the flashlight disappear under the sheet and hear Jim moan, “Give me my golden arm…”
I saw Alfred Hitchcock’s movie “The Birds,” one Halloween after coming in from Trick or Treating. It scarred me for a very long time. I think it was because I looked up at the TV, just as the birds were attacking the children, as they ran from the school. The close-ups of their eyes and beaks of the birds as they pecked the children traumatized me, and I had nightmares for weeks.
Even now when I see a flock of birds gathered on the wires or a jungle gym, I tend to quicken my pace. I’m not afraid of birds. There’s just something that’s triggered whenever they begin to gather in enormous numbers.
Other scary movies that I remember growing up include, “Rosemary’s Baby,” “The Omen,” “The Exorcist,” “Salem’s Lot,” “Carrie,” and “Poltergeist.” I usually woke up in the middle of the night and ran to my parent’s bed, where they’d reassure me there was no one after me, and yes, I could sleep with them.
I loved watching “Creature Feature,” too. This late night Fright Fest consisted of a collection of frightening movies that included such classics as “Dracula,” “Frankenstein,” “The Mummy,” and “The Werewolf.” These movies were old and cheesy, but they still gave me nightmares, too.
You’d think I’d learn my lesson, but the rush I got from being scared to death was exhilarating, and soon a lack of sleep didn’t faze me a bit.
But then something happened as I grew up. Real life got scary enough that I didn’t need the thrill of made-up ghosts and goblins. And the last Haunted House I went to scared me enough to last a lifetime.
I went to a haunted house with my boyfriend and his little sister the year I graduated high school. Deanna was a little daredevil and ran up ahead of us in the dark hallway. At one point, a man with a fake axe jumped out at us and we screamed and ran into a dark room, with only a faint light showing the way to the other side.
Eerie music surrounded us, and I could hear the screams of people on the second level. Bruce opened the door and went through, but as I followed him, someone pushed me back and the door was shut on me.
I panicked and screamed for Bruce to help me. I struggled to find the doorknob as the lights flickered. My heart started to race and I couldn’t breath. I pounded my fists against the door, still screaming.
Suddenly, the door burst open and there stood Bruce and Deanna,laughing. They had come up with a plan to scare me and were holding the door shut on purpose.
I was so mad I didn’t talk to them the rest of the night. And I haven’t been to a haunted house since.
But that’s all right. I’m content to taking it easy, passing out candy, and watching the neighbor kids enjoy the treats.
Halloween is a young person’s holiday, anyway.