Halloween Haunts: Our Love Story as Told by Halloween by Jessica Hobbs
Halloween Haunts: Our Love Story as Told by Halloween
by Jessica Hobbs
As my husband and I approach our anniversary of seventeen years together – an unusually long time for a pair of artists still in their 30s – I can’t help but look back on all we’ve been through, from touring gigs to Hollywood dreams to a broken marriage healed through tenacity and witchcraft, and notice how Halloween tells the story of the people we’ve become.
There are no seasons in Los Angeles. For some, the mild climate is the point of living here, but for me, a Scorpio with a love of horror movies who buys Halloween decorations to use as year-round home décor, it’s always a little bit of a letdown.
I’m a writer with a focus on horror, thrillers, and science fiction, sometimes with a dash of comedy thrown in as a wink to myself not to take it all so seriously. My husband, Robin, is the one who brought us here to Los Angeles, a punk guitarist turned composer who has made an impressive niche for himself in the world of film music and score production. Both of us are Autumn babies with a flare for theatrics, and for us, Halloween is the ultimate holiday: the time of year when the veil between the realms of the living and the dead is at its thinnest and a chance to cosplay as anyone or anything, without limitation, that we want to be.
I met Robin in our small Colorado hometown. I was still in high school, and he was a freshman at the local college when the bass player for his band moved away and a mutual friend suggested me as a replacement (yep, my punk rocker teenage self played the bass guitar). I moved to Boulder for college shortly thereafter, and music continued to be the beating heart of our budding relationship: a road trip to a Flogging Molly concert in October 2006 was a reconnaissance mission for him as he was making the decision to move to Boulder as well, and it was when he told me how he really felt. We fell in love through music, but Autumn was our anchor. Our anniversary landed squarely between his late-September birthday and my late-October one. Every Fall is six weeks straight of celebrating us as individuals and as a pair.
He told me he and his roommates were having a Halloween party in a couple weeks, and newly minted as Robin’s Girlfriend, I drove home to surprise him.
Looking back now, it feels ironic that for two people who loved Halloween as much as we did, neither of us wore a costume at that very first Halloween gathering. We attended the party as two college kids in love.
Over the next few years, our Halloween costumes evolved to reflect the people we were becoming. We had our easy college kid outfits: the Dude for Robin (a white t-shirt, bathrobe, and sunglasses) and for me, Magenta from The Rocky Horror Picture show with an apron my college roommate made for me out of an old pillowcase; then the Cheshire Cat and the field mouse from Alice in Wonderland, two curious little characters who were testing what we could get away with in the world.
Robin proposed to me in New York on our anniversary in October 2012. As spectacular as Autumn is in Colorado, there was nothing more glorious that floating through Central Park, the Brooklyn Bridge, and Washington Square in the cool Autumn breeze with a diamond ring catching the light as it wafted through the red and gold leaves.
Halloween went a little differently that year: instead of spending it with my fiancé, I spent it in Vegas with my best girlfriends, all dressed as Batman villains. Though the trip had been planned prior to the proposal, it became a sort-of impromptu bachelorette party with the three women who would be my biggest support network through the upcoming wedding – and, truly, for the rest of my life. Appropriately, we dressed as a cohort prone to mischief with a strong sense of loyalty.
Robin and I were married on 7/13/13. Not an October date, but still my favorite combination of numbers. The party was held in the upstairs ballroom of a café in downtown Denver, run by an old hippie woman who told me, as I battled a brief moment of stress trying to make it into the venue during an unexpected thunderstorm, nearly slipping and falling on the concrete of the parking lot in my full dress and make up, that she had checked her astrological chart and confirmed it was an auspicious day for a wedding.
In 2014, we did something impulsive: we quit our jobs and moved to Los Angeles with no work, no industry connections, and no idea where to begin looking for a place to live. We found a dirty one-bedroom in Hollywood with cracks in the walls and bars on the windows, and we couldn’t have been more excited.
When Halloween arrived, we dressed as silent movie characters, even going so far as to paint our skin grey with cheap, disgusting grease paint and carrying around chalkboards to use as title cards. Our apartment may have been a dump, but we were here, damn it – blocks away from the iconic (and very haunted) Roosevelt Hotel, the Hollywood sign just visible between buildings on La Brea Avenue. We were a part of the neighborhood’s history now.
As it turns out, living and working in Hollywood is hard. It’s very hard. How come everyone tells the newcomers it’s hard, and the newcomers never listen? “Well, that was your experience,” I shrugged. “We have each other. We’ll be just fine.”
But we weren’t. We were being crushed under the weight of it all: the rapidly rising costs of living, the constant rejection, the friends who would flake or stand us up at the last minute as soon as something more important came along, the completely haphazard job market.
We separated, unable to shake the feeling that we just couldn’t figure out what we wanted if we were each living the shadow of the other’s expectations. When Halloween rolled around, I made some unconscious, though very on-brand choices for my costumes: characters like Sally Bowels, Daria, or Nancy from The Craft, tough girls who saw right through everyone else’s bull. I needed to be those girls at that time. I needed to lean into the fact that I wasn’t fitting in with the culture of Los Angeles. I hated social media, the superficiality of networking, the economic injustice I saw around me every day, and the fact that I was suddenly navigating a notoriously difficult industry alone. I was a Daria in a world full of Fashion Club members. So, I may as well adopt a sarcastic smile and dress like it.
Robin, by contrast, never dressed up at all. Lost in the malaise of the stressful Groundhog Day that L.A. can be, it seems, looking back now, that he was having a hard enough time figuring out who he was on the other 364 days of the year, and wasn’t interested in trying to carve out another character to pretend to be.
We fought a lot during that time, mostly about wanting to get back together but having no idea how to repair the damage we had done to each other. We also remained the best of friends during that time and joked that we were still co-parenting our special needs cat. No matter what, Autumn remained our sacred time together. We showed up to each other’s birthday parties, confusing new friends who had met each of us thinking we were single. Robin once asked his best friend/business partner why she never set him up on dates as she had for others recently, to which she replied, “because you keep bringing your wife to parties!”
Then, overnight, the world changed. It was March 2020, and I had since moved into a beautiful apartment in my ideal neighborhood of Laurel Canyon with a roommate. As everything shut down and life as we knew it migrated onto our laptop screens, I spent what used to be my commute time every morning hiking through the hills, passing the home where Graham Nash wrote “Our House” for Joni Mitchell, the steep, stone staircase where Jim Morrison fell and broke his leg, resulting in the cancelation of a tour with The Doors, and the colorful murals at the Canyon Country Store. I wrote, I read books, and most importantly, I started practicing witchcraft.
How a person like me, with all my love of horror and all things Halloween, hadn’t actively practiced witchcraft until my thirties is still somewhat of a mystery. It began with a simple appreciation of the moon; a full moon gave me an excuse to sit quietly outside once a month and listen to nothing but my own intuition. Then, I began learning about how colors, scents, and symbolic objects activate our senses and help us tune into our own desires. For an extrovert who couldn’t stop doom scrolling through the news and felt beyond burned out by twelve hours a day of screentime, this was a welcome practice.
I also called my best friend every day, and eventually, the topic shifted from how we were navigating this strange new world to how much we missed the life we’d been building before the stress had broken us. He had since started a score production company with other composers, and I had been promoted to a role I really wanted at the non-profit arts organization where I worked. We had grown into the people we had always hoped to be, and now that the world had taken such a stressful turn, the only thing we wanted in such a wild time was to be a family again.
The roommate proved to be a bit of an obstacle to this. The pandemic was hard on both of us, but a there was a key difference between us: I found solace in the apartment and hiking in the canyon every day, and my roommate found nothing but frustration. She agreed to move out, concurring with me that I was the one who loved the apartment – the one I had found, furnished, cleaned, and regularly taken care of – while she had never been happy there. So, imagine my surprise when she suddenly changed her mind, told me to leave, said she’d stay for a year and then leave herself, and threw in some colorful insults, tantrums, and rumors about me along the way.
Some clever banishing spells, cord-cutting spells, runes painted under the doormat, and burning a comical amount of sage set everything right back on course. She found an apartment in the neighborhood she’d always wanted to live in anyway, and I basked in the joy of having Robin with me again.
At first, I was crushed not to be able to celebrate Halloween in a big way that year, especially since a blue moon landed on October 31st, but it turned out to be the best Halloween we’d ever had. We took a trip out to Joshua Tree and held a séance in the desert to talk to my deceased grandfather, who had thankfully passed just before the pandemic would have made it impossible for us to be together for his memorial service.
We dressed up in costumes despite not being able to go anywhere in public. I chose Penny Lane from Almost Famous. Pandemic aside, I was living my best Laurel Canyon life, and the bell bottoms and fluffy coat barely even felt like a costume. Robin, newly devoted to the score production company, broke out the tails from our wedding and a bright red scarf to dress as a hero of his, Ludwig van Beethoven.
Though not quite a couple’s costume, I like to think Ludwig and Penny would be friends. We were recommitting to ourselves and the vision for who we wanted to be in such a wild and unpredictable time, and for the first time in years, those visions finally complimented each other.
The following year, we were able to go out on the town. It feels significant that we picked a couple’s costume for the first time since our move to L.A. in 2014. This time, we dressed as Bojack Horseman and Princess Carolyn – a reflection of the cynicism toward Hollywood we had developed by this point. Through all the shenanigans of the show, the pair had stuck together only by finding the humor in all of Hollywood’s ridiculousness.
Time has continued to march forward, as it always does. I recently published a book of short stories and we produced a narrative podcast of those stories complete with voice actors and original scores written by Robin. That creative bond has held us together when the reality of life in L.A. has come very close to pulling us apart again. No matter what we would fight about or how stressed we would be, we never took it out on the project. Now that the book and podcast have found an audience and a positive reception, the joy is ours to share. My success is his success, and his is mine.
We’re still brainstorming birthday and Halloween plans for this year, but I’d like to think whatever we land on will reflect our gratitude for all we have made it through and honor how far we’ve come.
Jessica Hobbs is a writer with a BA in Film Studies from the University of Colorado, Boulder, a background in theater, opera, Vaudeville, television production, and film festivals, and a passion for all things strange and unusual. Her recent book, The Witch and Other Tales of the American Gothic, is available in paperback or as a narrative podcast. She lives in the magical Laurel Canyon neighborhood in Los Angeles with her composer husband, Robinton, and their cat, Freyja.
An accused witch is banished from her home in Portland, Maine. A young socialite in New Orleans dabbles in magic to get rid of a rival. An acrobat in a traveling circus learns her greatest enemy lives in the mirror. An Irish immigrant may have brought malevolent faeries with her to the New World. A lumberjack in the Pacific Northwest suspects a monster lurks behind the enormous trees. A Colorado gold miner finds himself trapped in the bowels of the earth, no matter how many times he tries to dig his way out. A psychiatrist in Chicago suffers from insomnia and loses track of where reality ends and his nightmares begin.
Written in the literary tradition of gothic horror, The Witch: And Other Tales of the American Gothic is a collection of strange occurrences in 19th century America. These seven stories provide a reflection of the country’s growing pains during a time of transition and an exploration of the secrets that lurk in the shadows of the world we think we know.
Available now on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or JessicaHobbsWrites.com