Halloween Haunts: Quarantine Halloween: Trick ‘r Treating During an Outbreak
by Clay McLeod Chapman
In our home, it’s always Halloween. The ceramic pumpkins and paper spiders tend to stay hung up throughout the house all year round.
I have two sons. These boys were born in the Halloween season. They identify as Halloween children, born amidst jack o’ lanterns and candy corn pacifiers. When their classmates ask when’s their birthday, rather than give an exact date, they simply say—
This is mostly my fault, I’ll admit. I’ve nurtured a culture of creepiness in our home. I’ve tried not to exert my own affinity for all-things horrific into our household. Tried. Just because I love spooky stuff doesn’t mean our boys will—but I must say, they’ve come by it quite naturally.
But Covid-19 is trying to take Halloween away from us.
Coronavirus knocked the normalcy right out of our family’s routine. Nothing is normal anymore. Nothing has been normal for quite some time now.
Like most families tangling with the outbreak, we’ve been stranded in our house since March. To keep our domestic sanity intact and not go full-on Jack Torrance, I had the half-baked idea to create new holidays. Why not make our own special seasonal celebrations? Any day can be a holiday now that our calendar has completely lost all shape and dimension.
Some holiday highlights from our lockdown thus far include:
THANKSEATING: A magical turkey slides down our chimney and bestows all the good boys and girls food from around the world.
PRANK WARS: An extreme April Fool’s Day. For a full 24 hours, it’s an outright assault of water balloons, Saran Wrapped toilet bowls, even peanut-butter and hot sauce sandwiches.
CORONACON: A housebound-lockdown comic-con, complete with panels and signing booths, just for our family. We create our own comics to autograph them for each other.
But hands down, our family’s personal fave thus far has been…
May 1 was a very special day in our house this year. When it occurred to us that we were nearing the halfway mark to Halloween, an epiphany quickly hit: Why wait?
Why not have Halloween now?
There was something so liberating, so downright jubilant to drag Halloween into the bright, blinding light of summer. During these uncertain times, we can do anything. Anything.
Who says we can’t have Halloween in May? Who’d stop us?
Turning our house into a full-on autumnal Shangri La quickly became my personal mission, if not my purpose in life. I would move heaven and earth and all things Halloween for my sons. If they wanted to go trick ‘r treating in the sweltering humidity of the summer, then by god, we were going to go trick ‘r treating.
This brought up a few conceptual considerations I quickly had to tackle:
What to carve? Pumpkins were out of season and therefore out of the question. So… what could we hack into? Watermelons provided the perfect rind for us the carve into. Plus the guts were far more flavorful and offered up their own sweet delectable treat. No roasting the seeds, though, sadly.
What to wear? Our costume options were relegated to whatever we had around the house. That mainly meant rehashing last year’s costume, but nobody seemed to mind. We had a pirate and Batman all ready to go. My wife put together her best witch ensemble by bric-a-bracking a blanket and broom, mop head and eye shadow. I was a RoboDad, compliments of a couple cardboard boxes and a few flexible air-duct hoses.
How to trick-r-treat? This was one of the bigger challenges. Clearly we were stuck inside. Going house-to-house was out of the question. Even if we could enlist our neighbors to go along with our early-summer sweet-distribution, the whole notion of “trick or treat”—where children of the night request a treat from homeowners, or else run the risk of being tricked—took on a viral overtone that was too much to bear this year. Say, hypothetically, we were carriers (we’re not, I promise) and we tricked our neighbors by transmitting virus-laden respiratory droplets door-to-door, we would never live that one down. I can hear it now: “No inviting the Chapman family over ever again. Not after they gave us the ‘rona.” So… no trick ‘r treating outdoors.
We live in a house. This house has rooms. These rooms have doors. That’s all I needed. Doors. Multiple portals that opened up into their own saccharine dimensions. A multisugarverse, as it were. Each door now served as its own gateway to candy-contributors.
The kids would shuffle their way to the bathroom. Knock on the door. I’d be waiting on the other side, candy in hand. When I opened the door, I’d be greeted with the call to chocolate:
“Trick or treat!”
Onto the next door. I’d have to book it, just to make sure I made it to the subsequent room before the boys did. I’d shut the door, sealing myself in, and wait for that familiar knock.
Candy bars in the bedroom. Lollipops in the office. Energy Bars from the basement.
Even toothbrushes from the bathroom.
Our youngest son, god bless him, started crying when it dawned on him that dad had somehow multiplied himself. How was it that there was always this strange version of him hiding behind each door in our house? How did he magically appear within every room? Had he replicated himself? I had to reassure him that daddy wasn’t some ghost dematerializing and rematerializing whenever he turned his back or a Gremlin who’d found a body of water.
The holiday was a smashing success. Perhaps too much so. Now our kids want to have Halloween every day. If we’re no longer relegated to October 31st, our sons surmised, can’t they go trick ‘r treating every day now? Why wait? Someone told me, Halloween is a lifestyle, not a holiday. Our family has literalized this. Internalized it.
The questions I keep asking myself are… Will we do this again next year? What happens when—if—life returns to normal and we finally open the front door to our house and step outside and feel the sun on our pale skin for the first time? When will we go trick ‘r treating?
Will we be able to trick ‘r treat this Halloween? Only time will tell… Or a vaccine.
In our house, every day is Halloween now. There’s no escaping it. The kids wear their costumes whenever they want. They trick ‘r treat inside whenever the whim hits. Even as I write this, safely barricaded in my office, I can’t help but wonder when there will come that gentle knock just over my shoulder. I find myself waiting for those five year old fists to rap at my door. They come all the time now. I can’t hide. When I open the door, lo and behold, I’ll find two trick ‘r treaters waiting for me, their plastic pails held out, ready to receive their candy… or else.
I always have some candy ready and waiting in my office now.
Happy Halloween… no matter what day it is.
TODAY’S GIVEAWAY: Clay McLeod Chapman is giving away the paperback edition of his novel The Remaking. Comment below or Email HalloweenHaunts2020@gmail.com with the subject title HH Contest Entry for a chance to win.
Clay McLeod Chapman writes books, children’s books, comic books and film/TV. Recent publications include The Remaking (Quirk Books) and the ongoing Marvel Comics series Scream: Curse of Carnage. His upcoming novel, Whisper Down the Lane, arrives in 2020.
THE REMAKING (Quirk Books): https://www.quirkbooks.com/book/remaking
Inspired by a true story, this supernatural thriller for fans of horror and true crime follows a tale as it evolves every twenty years—with terrifying results.
Ella Louise has lived in the woods surrounding Pilot’s Creek, Virginia, for nearly a decade. Publicly, she and her daughter, Jessica, are shunned by her upper-crust family and the local residents. Privately, desperate characters visit her apothecary for a cure to what ails them—until Ella Louise is blamed for the death of a prominent customer. Accused of witchcraft, Ella Louise and Jessica are burned at the stake in the middle of the night. Ella Louise’s burial site is never found, but the little girl has the most famous grave in the South: a steel-reinforced coffin surrounded by a fence of interconnected white crosses.
Their story will take the shape of an urban legend as it’s told around a campfire by a man forever marked by his childhood encounters with Jessica. Decades later, a boy at that campfire will cast Amber Pendleton as Jessica in a ’70s horror movie inspired by the Witch Girl of Pilot’s Creek. Amber’s experiences on that set and its meta-remake in the ’90s will ripple through pop culture, ruining her life and career after she becomes the target of a witch hunt.
Amber’s best chance to break the cycle of horror comes when a true-crime investigator tracks her down to interview her for his popular podcast. But will this final act of storytelling redeem her—or will it bring the story full circle, ready to be told once again? And again. And again . . .
A 2019 Goodreads Choice Awards Semifinalist
“An ambitious mosaic novel exploring the power of urban myth and superstition.”—The Guardian
“Something like Stephen King’s imperfect masterpiece The Shining…”—Kirkus Reviews
“Chapman has expertly crafted an ouroboros of a horror story. The Remaking is a fast-paced and haunting examination of how misogyny poisons our culture, generation after generation. It’s absolutely chilling. You won’t be able to put it down or stop thinking about it after the lights go out.”—Mallory O’Meara, author of The Lady from the Black Lagoon
“Jumps out the gate and takes the reader on [a] wild and unnerving ride.”—Horror DNA, 4 out of 5 star review
“A streamlined page turner of clearly cut supernatural encounters that moonlights as a frighteningly lucid story of injustice. Be it a specter or a painful recollection, Chapman teaches an absolutely chilling lesson on just how long the past will wait to bite you.”—Fangoria
“A ripping good yarn. The Remaking first takes you into its confidence and then makes you wonder if you are also cursed with and by this story. Because, incidentally, you are.”—Richmond Magazine
“Chapman tells a well-paced, spare story with original twists and some definite shocks.”—Star News
“If there’s any justice, The Remaking will introduce Chapman to a wider audience of readers anxious for the kind of horror tale that claims a little piece of your brain as its own.”—BookTrib
“Chapman has crafted a fascinating horror novel that is both excellent within itself and a sharp commentary on an element of the genre.”—SFFWorld
“As both a novel of psychological terror and a traditional ghost story, this short, chilling read is recommended for all collections.”—Booklist
“An obvious valentine to the horror genre.”—The Big Thrill