Horror Writers Association Blog

Halloween Haunts: What’s Halloween Good For, Anyway? by Matthew Warner

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Warner_bioHorror industry laymen offer me a standard observation when Halloween rolls around.  “This is like your high holy day, isn’t it?”

Why, yes, Mr. Joking To Cover Up Your Discomfort, when I’m not carving upside-down pentagrams into my 4- and 6-year-old boys’ heads, you’re exactly right.  In a way, Halloween is our “high holy day.”   It’s an important springboard for our family traditions.

But it ain’t holy for us.  We’re not religious, so we’re gonna burn, you know.  Wikipedia says the holiday has something to do with Christianity and Samhain, but all we care about is the candy, man.  (And the Candyman.)  And the costumes.  There was that “devil vampire” costume, and that one where I dressed as Steve from Blue’s Clues, with Blue the dog bursting out of my chest.  And the walking chalk outline and the cowboy and the purple cat and the space man and the Mothman.

And the pumpkins carved like Cthulhu and Edgar Allan Poe and . . . yes, they look so much cooler once they’ve rotted.

And the trick-or-treating, with our street bumper-to-bumper with cars from other neighborhoods, hovering behind the candy scavengers as they collect the junk we purchased from the dollar store.

And the parties, with visions of kitty litter casserole and piñatas and . . .

And my wife’s annual Halloween card, with a short story written by a different writer every year, based on an original piece of her artwork.

Tradition.  The things that reassure us the world still turns.  Ironic, isn’t it, that a holiday whose imagery makes fun of death can do that.  No wonder it’s such a huge occasion for children, because they need that reassurance more than us older people, who can just drink our way out existential depression.  They need to know morbidity doesn’t have to be a fearful thing, that sometimes it can be oogly fun.  Halloween is a wonderful vehicle for that.

Kind of like horror literature.

TODAY’S GIVEAWAY: The HWA is offering one copy of On Writing Horror. Enter for the prize by posting in the comments section. Winners will be chosen at random and notified by e-mail. You may enter once for each giveaway, and all entrants may be considered for other giveaways if they don’t win on the day they post. You may also enter by e-mailing membership@horror.org and putting HH CONTEST ENTRY in the header.

MATTHEW WARNER’s  new collection, Dominoes in Time, comes out this fall from Thunderstorm Books and Cemetery Dance Publications.  It’s not nearly as happy and fluffy as this blog post.  Other works include novels about insanity, man-eating monsters, and a non-fiction collection about horror.  More info: matthewwarner.com

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