Horror Writers Association Blog

Halloween Haunts: The Gift of Fear by Rebecca Cantrell aka Bekka Black


Halloween is about scaring the crap out of kids and then giving them sugar. Tricks. Treats. Making little lions and Spidermen and pirates and kittens happy while giving them nightmares. It’s my favorite holiday.

This year we’ve moved, but last year and for the ten years before that, we were a little insane about Halloween at our house. Here’s how it went:

We start early with the silhouette of the pregnant lady stabbing her unsuspecting husband as he reads. Maybe he should have gone to the store to get pickles and ice cream after all.

Then we raise the home-made vampire head and teeth to the top of the palm tree at the end of the driveway. Kids walking dogs stop by while we’e hanging it, asking what we’d be doing for Halloween this year.

We say, “Nothing special.” And they pull their dogs closer to their legs and grin.

The real stuff comes out Halloween day, so they can’t see where it’s set up or how it works. Adds to the scream factor. I’m the nice one, but my husband is gleefully unapologetic about terrifying kids and handy enough with tools and ropes and pulleys to do it. My son is firmly in his camp.

The path up to our house has been dubbed “The Walk of Doom.” It’s viewed as a rite of passage by the neighborhood kids. Some stand across the street, shake their heads, and won’t come closer. I run candy over to them (being the nice one). We’ve lived in the house for ten years, and every year since the first at least one kid makes it to the door and tells my husband proudly, “Last year I was too scared to come up here.”

The Walk of Doom starts when you walk past the motion detector and trigger the angry snake that flaps and hisses. Those are the first screams. They set the stage.

Then the worried kids (and parents) walk past the crime scene tape, spare a quick glance for the vampire face hanging from the palm tree, mutter about the fog swirling up from the fog machines, and make their way down the tombstone-littered grass to the beckoning front door.

Sometimes, they’re attacked by Torcorc, Bringer of Death. His picture’s over there on the side. He won us a free pool party for ten, so we’re fond of him. He’s an acquired taste.

Sometimes the kids make it all the way down to the middle of the lawn before we drop screaming wraiths on their heads. The wraiths bring on the sweetest screams, followed by laughs and, at least twice a year, the comment, “Dude, you scream like a girl.”

When they get the candy, they thank us. I think it’s because they’re polite, my husband thinks it’s because they don’t want us to drop anything more on their heads. He might be right, as sometimes they drop to their bellies after and combat crawl up the lawn.

At about nine o’clock we pack it all up and hide it back away for another year.

They say Christmas is about giving, and it is, but for us the sweetest gifts we give all year are the screams of fear and joy and handfuls of candy rewards.

This year, we won’t have that kind of Halloween. Any ideas on things I can do in Germany to chase away the no-Halloween blues? I’m going to have a disappointed husband and kid on my hands. There isn’t enough candy in the world to fill the hole.

TODAY’S GIVEAWAY: Rebecca Cantrell is giving away one digital copy of her book iFrankenstein. To enter post a comment in the section below or e-mail memoutreach@horror.org and put HH CONTEST ENTRY in the header. Winners will be chosen at random and notified by e-mail.

Rebecca Cantrell writes the award-winning Hannah Vogel mystery series set in 1930s Berlin, which is scary in a far too realistic way. Horror readers know her as Bekka Black, author of the iMonsters series—retellings of classic horror novels in the language of today, using only text messages, tweets, web browsers, and voice mail messages—including iDrakula and iFrankenstein. And you might get to know her through her upcoming gothic thriller penned with James Rollins—The Blood Gospel (preceded by a Halloween short story called City of Screams).


7 comments on “Halloween Haunts: The Gift of Fear by Rebecca Cantrell aka Bekka Black

  1. That might be fun! Banangrams but you can only use scary words. We play a lot of Settlers of Cataan, maybe we could do a Halloween version (I’ll give you one pumpkin for a zombie so I can build a crypt).


    Thanks for the suggestion!

  2. I remember living in Germany back in the late 1980s (Stuttgart), and Halloween was unheard of there. I carved a pumpkin and put it in our window, but it was a bit of a letdown, I agree. Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays as well; the fact that my birthday is just a few days before Halloween was always a wonderful thing as a child… I’d barely have time to feel the letdown of a birthday gone by, and I had Halloween to look forward to! But back to suggestions for you guys. I married a German, and his family lives in Northern Bavaria. Over the years, Halloween has become kind of known there. Have you been there long enough to have collected a circle of friends? If so, why not throw a Halloween party? Invite them over, go wild with decorations (OK, as wild as you can since I know you probably didn’t schlep all your good stuff over), make cupcakes with orange frosting, you name it. Dress up, come up with some games, show them how to carve pumpkins that they can take home, you name it! Let us know what you end up doing. 🙂

  3. Aw, I want to go to your house for Halloween! That sounds like a blast. Losing that as a family would be rough. Maybe you could transition to a scary movie marathon with special treats?

  4. That sounds wonderful. One house near us puts on quite a show every year. One year the father came out with a chainsaw and a hockey mask. The kids love it. Another year, it was misty out, and a neighbor played bagpipes all night. I love when people get in the creepy mood. Thanks for sharing.

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