Sunday, 23 October 2011

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

I mean really, who can resist a delightful pumpkin? Certainly not me!
(Carved by yours truly.)

Walking through the Frenchgate Centre, otherwise known as The Mall in Doncaster - that's what I call it anyway, and my English friends giggle at the innocent and stereotypical Americanness that I provide them on a daily basis - it's hard to miss this:

A rather whimsical, friendly-looking spider made out of balloons.

And upon stepping onto the escalator, you are suddenly reminded that it is October, and therefore very close to...HALLOWEEN!!

One of my favorite, favorite holidays. In fact I think it is my favorite. Christmas comes in at a close second.

Since my child's mind was reared on books like R. L. Stine's Goosebumps I can really come alive only at Halloween, when, as ancient lore has it, the liminal space between the living world and the spirit world is at its thinnest. Halloween night has been thought for centuries to be the night in which that veil is lifted. Hence, you must protect yourself from those spirits; they could be tricksters or even bad ones (The Exorcist comes to mind) trying to knock at your door. So we carve faces into pumpkins, like our ancestors used to carve gourds, and put candles in them, and set them at our windows and our doorstep, to try and scare away those spirits that might want to haunt us, for good or for evil.

And so! We have trick-or-treating, which, at twenty-eight I am unfortunately too old to do. Also I can just as easily stop into Morrisons and buy a bag of sweets all for myself and save the time and energy constructing a costume (Grizzly bear? Spongebob? A can of Carling?) and then going around the neighborhood knocking on doors in the dead of night.

However I am not too old for ghost stories.

Nobody is. Ever.

Just the other night I was at my friend's house for a girly night in, and amidst our cans of Strongbow and vodka shots and wine glasses, we rustled up a couple of old books, and read some ghost stories with the lights turned low.

I thrilled at this - I hadn't done this since I was probably, I don't know, eight. So it's been twenty years, give or take, since I sat upon old mattresses in the upper story of our play house that my dad built, me and my sister and a couple of our closest friends (neighbour kids from across the woods), and hunkered over flashlights, and read out a story ("High Beams" or "Big Toe" being the top choices) that gave us chills, with the branches of trees tapping on the roof above our heads:

The play house. Ducks and basketball goal give an idea for size. Downstairs: kitchen/rudimentary Drive-through McDonald's. Upstairs: Frightfest.

Frightfest itself.

Like I said, I'm twenty-eight years old and I'm still afraid of this book. There are pictures in it I still can't look at because I was so traumatized by them as a child. I can't believe my parents ever let me read this book. Or its sequel More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. I'm so glad they did. It's books like these that expand your mind and invite you to wonder, what is in the twilight mist in that copse of trees? Or, what if you hear a constant dripping sound only at night, what could it be? Or, what would a slightly demented hermit from back in the day have for dinner?

More Frightfest.

Grab you a copy of these, or your own favorite - and get some friends around for beer and popcorn and relive the fun! I guarantee you will have a scarily good time! Muah hahahahahahaaaa.

Happy Sunday!

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