Today, Horror Fans, our talented contributors have taken a break from covering our beloved horror genre to share with you some of their favorite Halloween memories and traditions. Enjoy….
Chris Thalman: As a kid I really enjoyed trick or treating, which may explain why I grew up to be a Democrat, since it involved asking strangers for handouts. (I’d like to believe the future Republican trick-or-treaters put in some work first, maybe raking leaves or helping with a hostile takeover of a neighbor’s lawn or something. But I digress.)
My mother, who a few years later would become a professional costume designer, made all of my Halloween costumes, save one. In the third grade she made me a robot costume that won me some sort of grade school costume contest. My prize was a Bugs Bunny AM radio. So, yeah. Pretty awesome. I also remember a pirate costume, involving eye patch, bandanna, and the obligatory coffee-ground beard (why Folgers Coffee doesn’t sponsor a Halloween special is beyond me). –See Jason’s entry at the bottom for proof.
But like I said, she did all my costumes save one. The last one. I was by this time a bad-assed sixth grader. (Note: I was never a bad-assed anything.) Sixth grade was, in my lovely and odiferous hometown of Beloit, Wisconsin, the last year of grade school. So as a sixth grader I was, in effect, in my senior year of grade school. Old enough and bad-ass (see previous note) enough to make my own costume. After all, trick-or-treating was part of the social contract: kids make cursory attempts at dressing up, adults give them candy.
So while I may not have been terribly bad-assed, I could half-ass with the best of them, as my costume would amply demonstrate. I wore jeans, a gray hoodie with a crumpled towel to serve as hump, and some sort of dark makeup around my eyes. Honestly, there was not a lot of effort that went into this thing. This was the Halloween equivalent of dressing like a dog by saying “woof.” But the costume worked well enough, to get me candy anyway, except at one house. The last house. The last house I was ever to trick-or-treat at.
I’d always been tall for my age, and by this point in the evening, my half-assed costume was showing its age. The towel had refused to stay in prime hump position so I’d pulled it out and draped it around my neck. In the dark, whatever I’d used for makeup around my eyes didn’t show up at all. So I looked like some random kid wearing jeans and a hoodie asking for candy. Thirty years later I could’ve said I was dressed as Mark Zuckerberg, but since he wasn’t even born yet that explanation wasn’t available to me.
I rang the bell, presented my intentions (to whit, I get some form of treat lest there be tricking), and held out my bag, waiting. The old woman fixed me with a suspicious stare. She held it for what felt like an uncomfortable amount of time before informing me that I was too old and that she wouldn’t be giving me any candy. I don’t recall, but it’s entirely possible that words like “ruffian,” “troublemaker,” and “rapscallion” were uttered as well. I was only 11! I protested, but these fell on deaf ears, perhaps literally (she was quite old). We argued about how old I was, to no avail. There was, here, at the last house I was ever to go trick-or-treating, no candy for me.
I can’t be sure, but I probably made up for it by stealing it from my younger brother. He’s never been that bright, so he probably wouldn’t have noticed if I did (Hey now! I resemble that remark – ed.).
Dr. Abner Mality: It should go without saying that Halloween is my favorite holiday of the year. It might be the one day of the calendar where I stop stitching up corpses and conducting necro-galvanic research in order to relax and enjoy myself. Over the years my memories have been many. I went on a kick where I dressed up as different Batman villains like Nicholson’s Joker, Two-Face, and the Penguin. In 1989 I spent the whole day dressed up like Mercyful Fate’s King Diamond, standing on a busy 9th street in Rockford, Illinois and waving an upside down cross around. Probably caused a few accidents that way…
I would say my best Halloween escapade came in the late ‘90s, when I worked in an actual spookhouse at Machesney Park Mall…the OLD Mall, not the dull outlet store complex it is today. The spookhouse was a homemade affair put together by my friend Scary Dan in a vacant store. It was a long, narrow area made up like a maze progressing from mild scares to stronger stuff at the end. I had the honor of working the very last section before the exit. It was…you guessed it!…a mad scientist’s laboratory, complete with sparking electric gadgets, jars full of two-headed mutants, distorted fetuses and eyeballs….and a hospital bed where I got to work on screaming victims!
This was an atmosphere I could relate to. Flashing strobes and fog gave the little room a crazed appearance. I was done up in my trusty bloody lab coat which I still wear proudly to this day. My real weapon of war was a handheld rotary saw that was rigged up to emit an ear-splitting whine as well as a shower of sparks. When the next unsuspecting slob came through the door at me, I would let loose with a maniacal cackle and get that saw cranked! I had a number of screaming victims tied down in that bed, awaiting my saw and most of the times, there was some other fiend helping to hold the victim down.
If everybody was doing their job properly, we had a mighty strong effect on the customers. But there was one particular guy playing the part of the victim who was EXTRA good at his role. The name of this young man escapes me, but he had only one arm. The other one was basically a stump that stopped just short of the elbow. This was for real and not a joke. Despite his disability, this guy was real receptive to my revolting ideas. We had a fake arm and a lot of phony blood made up for him. When the customers came into the lab area, they saw me apparently sawing his arm off. The guy would unleash some agonized screaming and wiggle his stump around while I laughed insanely.
A lot of people lost it when they noticed that stump was REAL! In the ultimate tribute to our effectiveness in “Doc’s Dungeon”, one girl vomited the minute she exited the room. Another night, there was a big tough looking black guy with a bald head who was so paralyzed by fright he would not go past me! We had to “drop the act” in order for this guy to get out of the spookhouse! Now THAT is when you know you’re doing a good job at the fright factory!
It wasn’t all a bed of roses and the effectiveness varied depending on who I worked with, but I don’t think too many people can say they spent their Halloweens causing others to vomit, faint and have nightmares! Good times!
Hunter C. Eden: I ruined Halloween for my wife. I got greedy. It wasn’t enough for me to have a life based around monsters and weirdness; I had to have a special day on which reverence for horror would rise to a throbbing and carnal pitch. God felled Babel for less. As a result, almost every Halloween we’ve spent has been at best forgettable and at worst—well, observe:
Halloween of 2010, my darling future wife and I are on a long, long, interstate car trip from Iowa City to Nashville, returning from a friend’s wedding. The day starts out pretty well with a lovely Italian brunch and a stop to explore the abandoned lime kilns of Hurtsville, Iowa. Not bad. Italians have a good sense of the macabre, right? And what invokes horror better than climbing through abandoned industrial buildings in the middle of nowhere? There was even something appropriately unsettling about the bleak and agoraphobic openness of the Iowa landscape. But Midwestern readers know all too well the cruelty of their geographic mistress, the ease with which the bucolic macabre can turn into the ass-squirmingly boring. We spent twelve hours in that car. Half a day we could have spent at a party or cuddling up together with a marathon of our favorite horror movies or going to a Rocky Horror showing or visiting a cemetery at night or anything aside from spending twelve fucking hours in a car, crawling from Iowa to Missouri to central Illinois to Kentucky to Tennessee. Oh, and that was twelve hours going over the speed limit. I know because I got a ticket. I hate Iowa.
Billy Boyce: I remember the day like it was only yesterday. The date was Oct 31st — cold, dark, rainy day in 1986, a day of bedlam, a day of reckoning — the day I became a man. I will never forget the horror, the horror. And the candy…oh, dear god, the candy.
I could smell the smoke from burning leaf piles all over the zone. I could see the looks on my fellow soldiers’ faces. Horribly twisted, bloody, and damn disgusting (That was due to the masks we were wearing, but I digress). And the worst thing? The screams. The screams of children. They will haunt me forever.
You see, I was new to the squad. But being ten, it was hardly my first battle. I was new to them. Could I be trusted? I was recently transferred to a new sector called Our Lady of Assumption. Being a transfer, I wasn’t sure if I was going to be accepted into the group, but I was. And I was asked to join one of the elite groups for one of the sugariest operations in all of Halloween history.
We knew we wouldn’t all come back. We were right. We were so right. The team was assembled from the best of the best — the cool kids. We met at a soldier’s house whose parents lived in the target zone. The target zone was chosen for one reason and one reason only: Candy volume (That, and a rumor of a lady who gave out KING-SIZE SNICKERS).
The zone was called GARDEN VILLAGE. It was a suburb-type zone, but with no curbs to trip over while running full speed with wide streets, plenty of room for our squad to run freely without being detected. But most importantly, there were barely any fences or hedge-lines. This was key for optimum candy extraction. You could run from candy-supplier to candy-supplier without having to walk up and down any driveways.
Uniforms: Light in weight but dark in color.
Headgear: Just masks. They allowed us to blend in but without the bulk of an intricate costume to slow us down.
Ordnance: Eggs and shaving cream.
Communications: “A-team” walkie-talkies.
Specialized gear: The pillow-case. Yes, not as elegant as some candy haulers, like the rock-hard plastic Hulk or Spiderman heads of previous missions, but we weren’t kids anymore. We were ten, goddamn it — veterans of wars-gone-by.
Everything was going according to plan…then…we hit a snag. Another thing I will never forget as long as I write this article. Something terrible happened. Even worse than the mini Elmer’s Glue bottles and pencils we got from one of our teacher’s houses.
There was a mole in the operation. The plan was to camp at one of the domesticated units in the zone. As we were walking back with our shit-ton of candy, we were blinded by a bright light. It was one of our guardians in a class-four grocery-getter. The worst one of the two. The female one, coming to take down one of our own. You see, one of our men was grounded and his older sister turned rat when she wasn’t allowed to go to a co-ed Halloween party so she told her mother of our comrade’s plans. Just another case of “bitchy-older-sister.” We’ve all been there. We knew something like this would happen.
But what we didn’t expect was what happened next: A gruesome tale I wish I could forget.
I saw the look on my friend’s face, PURE HORROR, when he realized his mommy was coming to get him in front of his friends. Her face was red, her mouth foaming. I almost turned my head when I saw what happened next. A big shadow emerged from the car. The dad. And he was taking off his belt.
Everything turned to slow-motion and went silent. My friend was grabbed by the back of his neck by his dad and flung into the car. He seemed weightless in his father’s hand, flailing and crying like a bitch. Then the unspeakable happened.
As our comrade was almost all the way in the car his father slammed the door but there was a problem. His sack of candy was so heavy he couldn’t lift it into the car with his wimpy, ten-year old frame in time…and….BOOM! The door closed on the candy-sack and it ripped open like a gutted fish. We all smashed our eyes shut in horror. Disgusted by what he had just witnessed, one of our friends puked right there on the spot. We were devastated and confused. The stench of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese filled the air and hundreds of exploded powdered “Smarties” filled our eyes and lungs. It was terrible. As the grocery-getter sped off, it left a trail of marvelous candy. “Bottle-caps” and banana “Now-N-Laters”, “Tootsie-Pops”, as well as every mini-version of every candy bar ever made was now scattered in the street. Hours of hard work gone to hell and getting pilfered by hundreds of Ghostbusters and Freddy Kruegers.
I didn’t consciously do what I did next, I just reacted. I jumped head-first into the pile of characters, trying to save what I could. After everyone scattered with handfuls of pillaged candy, I reached under my belly to see what I had saved in my moment of glory. I could only save one thing, but it was big. At first, I thought it was a stick or something, but as I looked down I realized it was — A KING-SIZED SNICKERS BAR — the holy-friggin’-grail of Halloween scores. The legend was true. In the words of one of our soldiers, Agent Fartstick, “It was glorious.” I had done good.
Knowing it would be stale by the time we got it to our fallen hero after his ass-whooping and extensive grounding, along with a shred of Batman pillowcase, we decided to bury it along with all of our huge Snicker bars, in a cornfield at the very end of Park St.
I have never spoken about this until today nor will I ever speak of it again.
I hope all your childhood Halloweens were as glorious as mine were.
This is Billy Boyce reporting for RavenousMonster.com……………………………..out.
Tiana Bodine: My favorite Halloween memory didn’t even happen on Halloween. When I was little — maybe three or four — I decided to climb up to the top shelf of my closet and retrieve the box of seasonal clothes my parents stored there. Amid the winter coats and snow boots, I found the prior year’s Halloween costume. So, naturally, I eagerly pulled on the costume, donned my witch hat, grabbed my plastic pumpkin, and headed downstairs to announce that I was ready to go trick-or-treating.
Unfortunately, it happened to be July.
Still, my dad didn’t want to disappoint me (I was extremely excited by this point), so he loaded me up in the car and took me to 7/11, where I got to load up my pumpkin with as much nickel-candy as I wanted. I’m told that the cashier thought this was the cutest thing she’d ever seen and gave us some of the candy for free, but I don’t remember that. What I *do* remember is having more foil-wrapped chocolate basketballs and butterscotch candies than I knew what to do with, and feeling pretty damn smug that I managed to get a jump on trick-or-treating months before all of my friends.
Robert Hibbs: I don’t know if it’s my love associated with the nostalgia of my childhood that hangs in the chilly air of autumn or my new love as a man child of going to drunken costume parties to gawk at women dressed in slutty costumes, but I’m a real sucker for H-ween. Aside from getting drinks thrown into the visor of my shitty homemade Judge Dredd helmet this year, an unofficial official Halloween tradition that some friends and I usually share is attempting to go on some kind of Halloween adventure as a throwback to the all-or-nothing days of door-to-door trick-or-treating and the odd fantasies of wanting to live out the plots of some of our favorite horror movies.
So, every H-ween we try to not just go out to a costume party, but somehow try to stumble into a Hocus Pocus situation. You know: get a virgin to light a black flame candle (which wouldn’t be hard to come by in the sweet crowd I roll with) and fight evil witches all night with the girl of your dreams, or a Thriller type of deal, only, after the choreographed sequence is over we have to fight for our lives against the horde of our former undead dance partners. Sometimes we attempt to accomplish this task like most people by going to more realistic haunted houses or known paranormal hot spots/devil worshipping covens, but most of the time our delusional attempts at making our Halloween nights something to remember usually end in a drunken misadventure which is probably for the best, but it’s still fun to try. Who knows? Maybe one year when the moon is full and the booze is just starting to numb the pain of being male, a Frankenstein’s monster, a werewolf, a mummy, the creature from the black lagoon and a dynamite chucking Dracula will try to kill all the drunken idiots singing along with the Ghostbusters theme at the bar and only me, my friends and a couple of college co-eds dressed as sexy bumble bees will be able to stop them. Hey, it could happen! Anything is possible on Halloween.
Bryan J Pasquale: When I was in high school, my neighbor’s boyfriend and I used to scare the crap out of people when they came up to my parents’ house for candy. He was an avid Fangoria reader and made his own Halloween masks in his spare time. Another thing he liked to do was gory makeup. For two years in a row, he would make us up to look pretty gruesome for starters and, as un-original as it may seem, we would remove the chains from chainsaws and run after people when they approached the house. These shenanigans caused several dozen kids to cry and run behind their parents and even made one girl pee herself so much that there was a trail following her as she ran. We got away with this without police involvement, mind you, and for two years in a row.
The second year, people started to get wise to our games. In an effort to change things up, I removed my mask, grabbed a shopping bag full of candy and ran around my parents’ house to get in line with the other trick-or-treaters, unnoticed. When my friend came running out of the garage with the chainsaw, I decided to act real tough (all part of the facade of course). Little did the kids know, I had a two blood capsules in my mouth and a homemade blood pack in my ripped sweatshirt. Upon acting tough with my friend, he hit me in the chest, bursting the blood bag and caused it to spray. I immediately fell to the ground and bit into the blood capsules causing enormous amounts of fake blood to come out of my mouth. It got the scare we were looking for and caused a large group of kids and parents alike to run screaming. That was probably the best Halloween prank I ever pulled. The following year I was finally driving and the focus of my pursuits changed substantially from scaring the kids in the neighborhood.
Christine M. Soltis: The month of October has always been an inspiring for one for me, while living in the four-season climate of Pennsylvania. Each year, as fall sets in and the leaves change color, showing off the stark trunk bodies of trees, horror seems most welcome as life begins to wither and the weather grows a cold chill. This season- change leads to windy nights and the scary sounds of leaves blowing around during a night walk. But this year, those night walks were different for me. There were no leaves blowing around, making scary sounds, or the eerie sounds of wind chimes off in the distance. This year, October felt no different than July; the fall season doesn’t seem to come when you’ve spent several months in California.
While it is difficult to compare two states in regards to horror, particularly if you have spent years in one and mere months in another, I will share my current observations. In my opinion, I recall seeing a great deal more of holiday horror spirit in Pennsylvania than I do in California. I admit that perhaps I don’t know precisely where to look, but I can’t help but note that I have seen only one Halloween store here and zero houses decorated for the holiday. However, I did get to see the Nightmare on Elm Street house near Sunset Boulevard one evening and I was surprised to see that people actually live there. I have also seen advertisements for independent film festivals and Universal Studios haunted attractions. Beyond that, I’m unaware of a big “horror” following where I am now. While California is not completely obsolete when it comes to horror, I feel like the climate itself is not conducive to create the creepy autumn atmosphere I am accustomed to. As I write this though, I am excited to see that there is finally a horror movie on the TV screen; Friday the 13th has come on AMC Fearfest. Seeing the ‘80s garb and old-fashioned methods of Jason Voorhees was the very first instance in California to bring about the Halloween spirit.
My time in California has come to a close, as I find it highly important to arrive back into my creepy, Pennsylvania weather to indulge in the joys of Halloween outings with good friends. I don’t dare miss it. Happy Halloween everyone!
Jason Thorson: My favorite Halloween memories include all of them. I LOVE this season. It moves me, sometimes toward a nostalgic teary-eyed mess, but mostly toward memories of hilarious hijinks and scary fun. I think back fondly of my family, my friends, and even my nemeses. Halloween ties together everything I’ve ever cared about and everything I’ve ever been good at.
My earliest memories, like most people, involve costumes and trick-or-treating. I was Bugs Bunny. I was a black cat. I was a witch – yes, I’ve always been progressive. In fourth grade I won a prize at school for my Great White Shark costume, which my mother made – the same professional costume designer mentioned earlier by my brother, Chris. The annual Halloween costume parades around the neighborhood of our grade school still seem vivid and fresh in my mind’s eye and I wish I could do it just one more time, walking around those four city blocks in a single-file line, giggling and guffawing with my thirty-some classmates.
I must have been thirteen the last time I went door-to-door for candy. We’d long left parents out of the equation and filled the void with mischievous misbehavior – going where we didn’t belong, smashing pumpkins, egging houses. My homemade Freddy Krueger garb – the steak knives shoved through the fingers of an old winter glove, leaving barely enough room for my digits, left me with sores and our exploits left us all with candy hangovers.
Later in my teens, Halloween was defined by a destructive, self-induced group-psychosis. One year, we stole thirty-eight pumpkins and held ragers in the basement, carving Jack-o-lanterns and killing brain cells like the plague. We dressed in costumes and flew around the city, carloads of goblins, hitting every party and ending up at any number of open-all-night eateries, a terrifying mass of bent teens. Some years, we’d head to the infamous Freakfest on State Street in Madison, Wisconsin before the city defanged it and corporations co-opted it, and we’d pursue debauchery until we were all literally out of our minds. These drug and alcohol fueled memories are full of edgy episodes featuring dangerous characters, and freaky young women, all recalled to my mind’s eye like a Rob Zombie video, only these memories are real. I’m lucky to have made it out of this period of my life alive, but I wouldn’t change a thing.
Throughout my twenties, much of my time was dedicated to playing drums in a couple of well-known thrash metal and death metal bands. This meant that for years my Halloweens were booked. I was working. The kind of work that’s not work at all. Metal is music’s version of a horror movie and our annual Halloween shows live on in infamy. Sometime during this era of my life I learned how to behave, I earned a college degree, and I met the remarkable woman who’d become my wife.
I’m now 36-years-old. These days, October is spent neck-deep in writing and editing articles for this website and lending my expertise to other sinister projects. Between that and my day job, there’s little time for much else. So, I don’t sleep much during the fall, until November rolls around, that is. I bet you think that I’m about to write that I don’t take part in any Halloween festivities. WRONG…On the contrary, we’re ritualistic. My wife and I hit up the Halloween stores multiple times, we pillage the pumpkin patches and carve up our best jack-o-lanterns, we set the Tivo to record ALL television that has anything at all to do with Halloween, we drag our less horror-centric friends to some of the better local haunts and we make sure to hit up at least one Halloween party, in costume (natch). And for one month of the year I’m not on the outside looking in.
And so it continues. Every October I’m eight, I’m thirteen, I’m eighteen, I’m twenty-three, I’m all of these, all at once. When the air rides in on the chill from the northwest and the smell of burning leaves fills the air, I look out my windows at the red, orange, and yellow mosaic juxtaposed against the slate grey sky and it all comes back around. This will never change.
Happy Halloween and from all of us at Ravenous Monster – Thank you for reading!