Horror and Halloween in Singapore by Christina Sng
When you grow up in a haunted house, you expect to see something supernatural at some point, especially when an aunt claims to have heard chains dragging along the hallway and another family member allegedly saw ghosts.
But my skepticism grew up with me when I saw nothing. Not even a moving shadow. It was terribly disappointing. Then we moved, and I left my childhood home behind, along with the ghosts.
When I was 7, it became clear to me that what was on TV was not reality. Reality felt crisp and real while fantasy was a fantastic ride to immerse in while I was there, only to be forgotten when it was over. That explains why I never have nightmares and can watch The Walking Dead right before I sleep and then sleep like a baby.
By the time I hit 12, I’d already seen The Amityville Horror and Poltergeist with my brother who is also a fan. I’d read every single book in the Dark Forces and Twilight series and yearned so much to celebrate Halloween like all the kids in the movies and books. But every October 31st came and went, a regular day like every other.
Those were the lovely days of the late 1970s and early 1980s when horror movies and books were abundant and exciting. I was absolutely enthralled. No longer afraid of ghosts or anything supernatural, horror became a safe fantasy for me to indulge in. Yet, I still had hopes that vampires were real and immortality, a possibility.
When I reached my late teens, like-minded friends began hosting Halloween parties. Alas, most hadn’t gotten the hang of dressing up yet, so for far too many parties, I was the sore thumb in a roomful of normally-dressed people in my Halloween costume.
Clearly, I needed to blend in yet still be myself.
Inspired by Neil Gaiman’s character Death and Morticia herself, I began to dress up completely in black. If I couldn’t have my Halloween, I’d become it, my alter-ego in real life.
In my twenties, it dawned on me that my all-black wardrobe was as much one of convenience as it was identity. To tell you the truth, I have no fashion sense whatsoever and putting on a black t-shirt and black jeans every day was and still is, the most efficient and comfortable thing to do.
The next three decades has seen Halloween merchandise gradually being sold in toy shops and supermarkets. Malls added Halloween decor.
The growing American expatriate community living beside the Singapore American School began an annual tradition in their neighborhood, Woodgrove. On Halloween night between 6-10pm, the streets would be cordoned off from traffic and American families would host a traditional Halloween for everyone who wanted to join in.
Universal Studios has gotten into the game as well, with the annual Halloween Horror Nights theme park. I attended one year with friends and loved it!
Clubs now throw Halloween parties every year and more folk organize Halloween gatherings. More people are starting to dress up during Halloween. My childhood dream has finally come true.
And what of me, now a 46 year-old mother with 2 tweens in tow?
When my kids were still little and excited to celebrate their first Halloween, we wandered around the neighborhood playground, giving away sweets and wishing everyone, “Happy Halloween”!
In recent years, we have begun trick-or-treating (okay, treating) in my Mom’s neighborhood where some ten houses along several streets give out sweets with one hosting a little carnival game. Houses that participate hang Halloween decorations outside so kids can ring their doorbells.
My Mom participates too. The outside of her home will have the same old dangling plastic skeleton and fake cobwebs. Some years ago, she had a witch on a broom and some lit pumpkins.
One year, we had a guy in Dracula gear giving out sweets in a street corner. It was brilliant because he’d just pop out for a moment with that huge cloak, sweeping it open to uncover a bowl of sweets for the kids to grab a handful of candy before vanishing soon after, most likely back into his home where the fan is at full blast or the air-conditioner running.
Because yes, it is sweltering here, even in late October. Temperatures are 84 degrees Fahrenheit if we’re lucky. But normally, it’s 86-93 degrees with 90-95% humidity. That really limits the kind of costumes we can wear. Even Batman would shed his cape and mask in this heat.
Each year, I remind the kids that the huge rubber mask they’re eyeing would be ripped off their melting faces after just five minutes of walking outside and the lovely polyester superhero costume would itch and stick to their already dissolving skins. There would be much scratching. And guess who’d be carrying the unwanted paraphernalia when they make a dash for sweets?
Even in T-shirt and jeans, I melt, walking up the hill with the kids and down with our bags of sweets (and unwanted paraphernalia). My daughter goes as a witch every year and my son, a pirate. Everything else is too hot to wear. I allegedly wore butterfly wings last year and flapped to cool myself down but there is no photographic evidence.
Somehow, I still end up as the sword or wand bearer (one year I was the pitchfork bearer which was fun for zapping kids in front of me) with a quick “Hold this, Mom!”, powerless plastic weapons thrust into my care when they’d walk up to a home to call “Happy Halloween” and receive sweets from the cheerful home owner or assigned Halloween sweet distributor.
While it hasn’t been the Halloween of my dreams with the heat and unwanted weapon carrying assignation, the kids love it! They are the ones living my childhood Halloween dream and I couldn’t be happier for them.
By night’s end, everyone is bathed in a sheen of sweat. We retreat to Mom’s and the second part of Halloween begins. The kids trade sweets. The black market sweet exchange opens. Parents claim a sweet tax from them (I usually take 80% of their sweets and a group photo as tax) and for the next couple of months, they get to have one Halloween sweet a day. As we leave Mom’s, the chorus is always the same, “I can’t wait for next Halloween!”
Perhaps when they’re teenagers, we will head to Woodgrove fully dressed in awesome Halloween costumes. But for now, we’re enjoying our little own Halloween tradition, one I hope they’ll remember for the rest of their lives.
GIVEAWAY: Christina Sng gave away an e-copy of A Collection of Nightmares in accompaniment of this article. (Contest now over.)
BIO: Christina Sng is the Bram Stoker Award®-winning author of A COLLECTION OF NIGHTMARES. Her poetry, fiction, and art have appeared in numerous venues worldwide and garnered many accolades, including nominations in the Rhysling Award and Dwarf Stars, and Honorable Mentions in the Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror and the Best Horror of the Year. Christina is also an avid gardener and an accomplished musician, and can be found most days in a dark corner deadheading her flowers while humming Vivaldi to the swaying branches. Visit her at http://www.christinasng.com and connect on social media @christinasng.