As a kid, Halloween was an awesome excuse to eat too much candy, misbehave and wear clothes you would normally be kicked out of school for wearing.
As college students, replace “candy” with “candy-flavored schnapps” and you more or less have the same story.
But what is the core of Halloween? Like most holidays, it has mutated horribly since its inception. You tell me what part of the Christmas or Easter stories have pudgy red, reverse-burglars or magic rabbits that ‘leave’ chocolate and I’ll show you a Hershey’s Sponsored Holiday Special. Halloween, likewise, is not as it once was.
Halloween originally comes from a variety of traditions that got squished together. Take a little bit of the fall-to-winter transition, some respect for and fear of the dead and spirits and the Roman tendency to steal local cultural traditions for the purpose of extra vacation days, and you have more or less the history of Halloween.
Somehow, a few thousand years later, this results in a drunk man dressed as a clown passed out behind your car. This is because people have lost the spirit of the season, and I think we should take it back.
The spirit of the season involves a couple of things — debauchery and spookiness. Most college students have the debauchery thing down pat, so far so that perhaps scaling it down a bit would fit in with the season. That’s right, CSU. You may actually exceed what the Romans thought was a wild party.
Oh, wait, those Romans, with the Colosseum and the public baths that got funky after dark. Nevermind. Go nuts. Worked out well for them.
Spookiness is something we’ve really lost, though. We have horror movies on an annual basis, but they seem to have mistaken the sensation of “fear” for “pre-sick”. If you could get the same emotional response from a crowd by videotaping a morbidly obese man wallowing in a wading pool full of sloppy joes, you’ve probably missed the mark.
All our good monsters are gone, too. Vampires are the main offender here. They used to be dark, edgy, damned creatures with mysterious powers and nigh invulnerability. Now, vampires come in two flavors. First there is the “horde of ninjas” flavor. If you could pull out all their pointy teeth, slap them in black jammies, and put Bruce Lee at the center, it’s not really spooky.
Vampire flavor two involves stalking high school girls while being hundreds of years old, which is apparently not creepy because they are also dead. The lesson here is that two very wrong things make a right.
Haunted houses are another attempt at bringing spook to the season. To get a true haunted house experience, hold your newspaper away from your face, and then suddenly, when you are least expecting it, read the next sentence. BOO! See? Jumping at you and screaming was totally awesome.
Having been to a number of haunted houses, I can vouch that the experience is pretty startling. But startling isn’t exactly spooky. If you gave a hobo five bucks and a rock and said at some point to spring out and bean you with the rock, it’d be pretty startling, but not exactly the spooky we’re looking for.
So if it’s not startling, gross or startlingly gross, as in the case of the tween-hungry vampires, what is the spirit of the season? What is spooky?
It’s an unknown, creeping sensation that something isn’t right with the world, that forces beyond comprehension wait to do harm for unfathomably alien reasons. It’s the sense that your neighbors may not be what they seem and may instead be irrational, violent beings. It’s the feeling that something is chillingly, unspeakably wrong with the world, that the monsters under your bed are the least of your problems.
In short, it’s the evening news. Happy Halloween!
Johnathan Kastner is a senior undeclared major with a physical and mathematical sciences interest. His column appears Wednesdays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.