Halloween Haunts: The Last Trick or Treat by Alison Armstrong
Halloween Haunts: The Last Trick or Treat
by Alison Armstrong
The last time I went trick or treating was the moment I realized my childhood was fading.
Every year I looked forward to the magic of Halloween, a time when monsters (Dracula, the Wolfman, and their ilk) emerged from their protective lairs and roamed the neighborhood streets in childlike form. Often nearby cousins would join me in the celebration. Afterwards, as we gathered at my house and compared our sugary loot from the evening, we would start planning our next year’s costume. Much more than the candy I collected, however, I treasured the exhilarating freedom of temporarily becoming someone or something else.
As a child, I loved to read and create stories about characters who weren’t human. At first I mainly read and wrote about animals, but when I was in the 6th or 7th grade, I became entranced by animal-like supernatural creatures. During this time period, when the vampire Barnabas Collins, portrayed by Jonathan Frid, made his Dark Shadows debut, I grew fascinated by vampires, werewolves, and other fanged nocturnal beings released from their mortal human limitations and possessing the feral freedom I yearned to have. Halloween was the one night I could temporarily indulge my desire to experience that wildness, but, as I soon discovered, even that night was soon ruined for me.
My last trick-or-treat adventure took place during my nightmarish 7th-grade year. Going from elementary school to junior high had been terrifying, not the fun kind of Halloween-scary but the kind that caused long-lasting emotional scars. Estranged from the close-knit camaraderie of classmates sharing one teacher each school year, I was suddenly overwhelmed by throngs of strangers, many of them treacherous and menacing. Most of the kids I knew from school mocked my interest in vampires and taunted me because of it. Even some who seemed to share my interests would betray me, pretending to be my friend and then teaming up against me. Somehow unseen by the teachers, kids would poke me in the back with pencils, put gum in my hair, try to steal my belongings, and find ingenious ways to make each day a new variety of Hell. Every lunch hour I would hurriedly gobble my sandwich and try to sneak down the corridors afterwards so that none of my lurking enemies could ambush me. The dread of encountering them made me sick to my stomach. Although, unlike many children today who face the threat of gun violence and pervasive online bullying, I wasn’t seriously harmed by my peers, I felt persecuted, hunted as if I were one of those inhuman monsters inevitably destroyed by a mob of hostile villagers. People, I soon realized, were much more of a threat than the creatures they sought to eradicate.
Halloween that year, in particular, seemed to offer a much-needed respite from my adolescent human terrors. Eagerly anticipating the evening, I decided to go as a vampire. Unfortunately, due to braces on my teeth, I was unable to wear fake fangs, so I tried to fashion fang replacements out of some orthodontic wax I had been given to protect my mouth from abrasion. I chose as my outfit a long, old-fashioned-looking burgundy dress obtained from a thrift store, and, together with my cousin Barry, began our long-anticipated evening of adventure.
The dress, I found out, was much too long to wear on our night-time prowl. Stumbling and nearly falling, I awkwardly plodded along the rain-soaked sidewalks and climbed over piles of damp, mildewed foliage. Most of the trees were bare, with only a few, straggling, brown leaves clinging like pieces of tattered, dried flesh upon the skeletal limbs, and some of the jack-o-lanterns, illuminated on porches, had begun to rot. Their leering faces seemed to grimace in derision as my cousin and I went from door to door in search of treats.
Instructed from an early age only to stop at houses with lit porchlights, we followed the path familiar to us as children. Many of the neighbors at these houses had fondly greeted us through the years, as they were still greeting the ghost-garbed toddlers accompanied by their parents, and the child witches, pirates, and princesses arriving proudly parent-free.
When we arrived at these familiar houses this time, however, we were no longer greeted with warm smiles accompanied by treats. Instead, many of our formerly friendly neighbors glared at us when we approached.
“Aren’t you too old to be trick or treating?” some of them accused as they begrudgingly tossed candy into our buckets and hastily slammed the door. Some only gave us sneers of scorn and distaste.
As my cousin and I trudged sullenly back to my house, I sensed this dismal, disappointing evening signaled the end of my childhood and the beginning of real-life horrors unshielded by parental vows of protection and much scarier than any movie monster could ever be.
My love of monsters, horror books and films, however continued. As an adult, I began writing my own horror fiction and joined with other horror writers through the HWA as well as several online groups associated with the genre. I have also regained my enjoyment of Halloween, especially after moving to New Orleans, where people, year-round, openly celebrate the magic of transforming one’s self through costume, parades, revelry, and music. Here the macabre and the joyful unite in a creative expression of life’s chaotic possibilities.
Today’s Giveaway: Alison Armstrong is giving away a free digital download of her new novel Dark Visitations. Comment below or email akaains (at) yahoo.com with “HH contest entry” in the subject line for a chance to win.
Alison Armstrong is the author of three literary horror novels (Revenance, Toxicosis, and Dark Visitations), a novella (Vigil and Other Writings), in addition to a collection of writings addressing women and horror archetypes (Consorting with the Shadow: Phantasms and the Dark Side of Female Consciousness). Her work focuses on inner terror, stealthily lurking, solipsistic dread and nightmare flash epiphanies. Having obtained a Master of Arts in English, she has taught composition and literature at Washtenaw Community College in Ann Arbor, MI and Kingsborough Community College in Brooklyn. In addition to her novels and novella (available on Amazon and other online retailers), she has had writings published in The Sirens Call as well as two horror anthologies (Book of Bones and From the Cradle to the Grave). Further information is on her Web site, https://horrorvacui.us , and her Facebook page for her novels: https://www.facebook.com/RevenancebyAlisonArmstrong/
Promotional info. for my book Dark Visitations:
Synopsis: Visited by otherworldly beings from childhood on, Alley , a young punk musician, has experienced a life-altering transformation granting her immortality while forcing her to prey on humans. In this prequel to Revenance and Toxicosis, Alley relives the terrifying encounters and dark, brooding obsessions that led to her Awakening as a vampire.
On the eve of a successful performance, Alley is hit by a car and lapses into a coma. After she is resurrected from her deadly coma by a vampire, becoming one of the undead, Alley remembers the moments shaping her former mortal life and her desires to escape what she considers her imprisoning flesh.
She recalls her childhood visitations with the beautiful, seductive being she calls the Tooth Fairy and the sinister, skeletal entity known as Morbidy Graham, experiences, that from a young age, heighten her feelings of alienation from her peers while inspiring her creativity. When she enters puberty and witnesses a relative’s battles against cancer, Alley’s fascination with vampires and other supernatural body-transcending creatures intensifies. Repulsed by her changing female body as well as the horrors of human mortality, Alley develops obsessive self-destructive behaviors while also channeling her rage by writing angry poetry and forming a punk rock band with her best friend, Nadia.
Once she reaches adulthood, Alley casts aside her former life, moving away from her Michigan hometown to pursue a new identity in New York City as a punk performer. In NYC, she experiences for the first time a world of transgressive creativity and forms a mutually toxic friendship with the addicted musician Spitz Nevus. Driven to a reckless mania, she takes the fatal plunge that leads to her vampiric transformation and the beginning of her new life, as described in the sequels Revenance and Toxicosis.
Available in digital format on Amazon:
Paperback to be released Oct. 6, 2023.