Tilting At Windmills: Halloween...Boo!
Published: October 17th, 2022
By: Shelly Reuben

Tilting at Windmills: Halloween...Boo!

Although time and again, we have been told that Halloween originated as a Celtic religious celebration, we respectfully poo poo such information, because in our heart-of-hearts, we know that this spine-tingling holiday exists only to trigger our imaginations and terrify us (Cackle. Cackle) with delight.

Remember that elusive woman whom generation after generation of children have been warned against? The one who sticks straight pins into apples and gives them to trick-or-treaters, so that after they take one bite, they will choke and DIE?

Ah yes. We all know about, believe in, and dread her. She lives alone, mere blocks from our own home (No. We don’t know in which house). Her porch steps creak when we climb them. Her hands are twisted and knobby; she has long green fingernails; and her voice crackles.

She‘s...a Witch!

A Witch!

A “bubble, bubble, toil and trouble” witch!

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This favorite holiday has no seasonal songs like “Wilhelm the Red Nosed Werewolf” or “Frosty the Abominable Snowman.” There are no Halloween main dishes, like severed hand under glass. There isn’t even a distinctive Halloween etiquette, like dropping in at a friend’s houses to watch a beheading or a burning at the stake. Because Halloween is essentially a solitary sport, directed toward an individual’s secret delights, dreams, fancies, and fantasies.

I know that children today enjoy dressing up and eating the loot they collect on Halloween night, every bit as much as I did when I was a child. But we were so much luckier then. And we had so much more. We had THINGS – Cheap. Inconsequential. Wonderful things – and they will never know what they’re missing.

Remember black, licorice-tasting moustaches? Remember those funny wax buck teeth? Remember wax lips? Wax lips were the best. After wearing them like Botox injections for a few minutes, they seemed to slip (surely of their own volition) into our mouths. Soft and pliable at first, we began the odd odyssey of chewing them. The taste was...indescribable. After all, wax isn’t food. It wasn’t exactly sweet. Just pleasantly non-intrusive. Chew. Chew. Chew. Swallow. Swallow. Swallow. A brief interlude of soft wax, a quick spurt of delectable red juice, and then, almost before it had started, the wax turned hard, began to disintegrate against our tongues, and we spat it out.

Halloween promised secret and delicious treats. Like taffy apples, hot cider, caramel corn, and soft, mouthwatering Bazooka bubble gum. There was the usual assortment of make-yourself-sick-by-eating-too-much candy, the prime suspects being Snickers, Mars Bars, Milk Duds, Chunkies (remember them?), and M & Ms. Best of all, though, were those tiny multi-colored candy buttons you could snap (with your teeth) off a long white ticker tape-like sheet. Pure sugar. Like candy cigarettes. The pleasures being not in the tastes, but in the elaborate rituals of eating them.

Halloween was then and still is a season of dreams. Dreams about: wouldn’t it be interesting if there really were ghosts? Dreams about pilgrimages to spooky and romantic castles in England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales. Dreams about rattling chains and beautiful women eternally trapped in horrible wax museums (thank you, Vincent Price). Dreams of possession by demons, exorcisms by handsome priests, and visitations by elusive figures from another dimension.

Other than the dreams themselves, we have anticipation of dreams – bad ones – after watching (maybe for the 10th time), 1931 versions of Frankenstein and Dracula, and 1935’s The Bride of Frankenstein ... still, after all these years, three of the best horror movies ever made.

Which brings us, more or less, to ... costumes!

In the fog-shrouded Way Back When, our parents did not buy costumes ready-made off the Internet. They made them (supplemented from Woolworths by masks, magic wands, tiaras, cap guns, and bows and arrows) at home.

Boys were Zorro, Daniel Boone, The Long Ranger, Tonto, Robin Hood, railroad engineers, and pirates. Girls were movie stars with pink feather boas, ballerinas, nurses, princesses, Annie Oakley, and Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz.

When we were too old for trick-or-treat, we went to Halloween parties instead, and our costumes evolved from cowboys and princesses to (for teenaged males) Sherlock Holmes, One-eyed Martians, Bat Man, and Elvis Presley, and (for teenaged females) cigarette girls wearing mesh stockings, Wonder Woman, 1920s flappers, airline stewardesses, and gypsies,

Heroes, fools, scarlet women, trollops, tramps, devils, demons, chefs, pirates, princesses, executioners, troglodytes, and kings.

We costumed ourselves. We dramatized. We laughed. We played.

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We still do.

It’s Halloween.

A season to be young.

A season to eat only the wrong things. To bite into apples and fear that eternal and lethal straight pin. To smile at the flicker of bright orange flames behind a Jack-O-Lantern’s grin. To pretend to be much more frightened than we really are. To laugh at fear. To laugh at ourselves.

To remember. To fantasize. To dream.

So, to all of you out there, I extend an invitation: Eat too many candy corns. Drink too much apple cider. Go “Boo” to your neighbors, husband, wife, employer, and the lady at the checkout counter at your favorite grocery. Tilt a witch’s hat rakishly over one eye. Look carefully past your shoulder to make absolutely certain that you aren’t being followed by a poltergeist.

And have a really wonderful time.

Copyright © Shelly Reuben, 2022. Shelly Reuben’s books have been nominated for Edgar, Prometheus, and Falcon awards. For more about her writing, visit www.shellyreuben.com