Along with the cooler weather, changing leaves and just about anything made with pumpkins, the best thing about the month of October is Halloween. As a child, this was my favorite day of the year and still is. Of course, there was the dressing up in your costume and the Halloween parties to go to, but the best part of this day was a night of trick-or-treating. There was such energy and excitement associated with the day, because you knew of all the fun and adventures you would experience that night.
If Halloween fell on a weekend, we could go trick-or-treating a little earlier in the afternoon. If Halloween fell on a weekday, you would have the torture of waiting to go out while getting through a school day. Although this wasn’t all that bad, because you got to wear your Halloween costume to school. After kindergarten, I had to wear a Catholic school uniform that consisted of a navy and gray plaid jumper and white blouse. I also had to wear these horrible navy blue shoes. I would exchange these shoes every day though for my best friend’s brown boat shoes. We liked each other’s shoes better and we did this every day. We would then switch shoes again at the end of the day. I think we may have even worn each other’s shoes home a few times by accident, which wasn’t a big deal. We could always switch back the next day. Anyway, other than a few school picture days, Halloween would be a day free from that uniform and the shoes. Getting to see everyone in the whole school wearing their costumes really added to the festive spirit of the day.
When the school day ended, we would do some early trick-or-treating at home. In the area of White Plains, New York, where I grew up, there were more apartment complexes than neighborhoods. We would go around to the different apartments with my mother. The real fun would happen when my father got home from work and we would all hop into the car and drive up to where my grandparents lived in Mahopac, New York. For this main event, we would be armed with an old pillowcase used as a bag for candy, flashlights and sneakers. We would show our grandparents our costumes and they would add to our candy collection as well. My grandparents lived on a dead-end road with a bunch of houses. We would trick-or-treat on their road and then hit the surrounding neighborhoods.
By this time, it would be really dark and depending on the weather, I may have had to wear a coat. I always hated wearing a coat over my costume, because you wanted to show it off. I suppose you can’t control things like the weather. Some years we would have store-bought costumes and other years we made our own. On this night, I always took a moment to stop and smell the air. I swear Halloween night smells different than any other night. I still do it to this day. Mixed in with the crisp cold air of the night, are the decomposing leaves and notes of shaving cream. I never engaged in the whole shaving cream, toilet papering houses and throwing rotten eggs thing. During one Halloween when I was a little older, an older kid sprayed a small amount of shaving cream on my coat. He then saw how small I was and looked shocked and almost embarrassed. I think he showed mercy on me by quickly walking away. That was the closest I ever came to a Halloween battle. The word on the street was some crazy Halloween battles would go down in some neighborhoods. I remember hearing stories about these things, but I saved the night for trick-or-treating. I enjoyed the sport of it all and plus, I wasn’t one of those bad kids. There was nothing like being allowed to run around in the cool air of the dark night.
I remember two particular events while we were trick-or-treating. One man asked us after we said the customary “trick or treat,” if we wanted a trick or treat. We found this strange, because we usually said our thing and had candy put into our pillowcases. Of course, we said, “treat” and you know what we got? A small box of raisins. Maybe, we should have asked for the trick! These would later be put into the not so great pile of stuff along with apples, plastic-wrapped pennies and loose candy corn candy. I suppose beggars can’t be choosers. The second house was where this woman was dressed up in a witch costume. She invited my parents, brother and sister and me into her house. Her place was creatively decorated and she had put out a bunch of candy and homemade baked goods out on her kitchen table. While she talked with my parents, we were allowed to take and eat whatever we wanted. Can you imagine that happening today? Taking homemade baked goods or candy from a stranger. The horror!
Anyway, at the end of the night is when you got down to the serious business of seeing how all your hard work had paid off. We would dump our bags out on the floor and let our eyes and nose take in all of the sweet and wonderful goodness of our piles of candy. Like I mentioned before, the not so great things would be sorted our right away and we were only allowed a couple of pieces of candy that night. All the good stuff would go back into our bags for year-long enjoyment. Surprisingly enough, we never had any cavities as kids. We would then share some of our goodies with our parents. It was the least we could do, after they drove us around and watched us run up and down driveways all night. This is also when they would give everything a quick inspection for anything suspicious. These were the times of urban legends about crazy people hiding poison and objects such as razor blades, needles or broken glass in Halloween candy. Due to this fear, many parents and areas of the country have since introduced “controlled” and “safe” alternatives for trick-or-treating. I really don’t want to get into that bit, but I will say this, I am sure glad I grew up with the freedom as a kid growing up in the eighties and not today. Ah, the good old days!
When I got older and we had moved into more of a suburban area, we would hit our neighborhood and then wait for my mother to get home. I would continue to trick-or-treat for a few more years. I won’t tell you how old I was when I stopped, but I could still pass for a kid in my costumes. When I got older, I went to parties and I also started going to the Village in the city for Halloween. While walking around on the streets, I loved the energy and seeing everyone dressed up while celebrating the Halloween spirit. We would usually go to concerts and grab some dinner. I have also been lucky enough to visit Salem, Massachusetts on Halloween a couple of times. I would recommend doing this at least once during your lifetime if you can stand large crowds. I have also been there on occasion other than Halloween to avoid the crowds. Salem is filled with great photographic opportunities and I would highly recommend visiting this city to photographers. The streets are full of nooks and crannies and you never know what you are going to see. This reminds me, I also have to watch the extended version of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” This record was a big deal when I was growing up and I still have it to this day. This is also my favorite video of all time and I have to watch it every year.
Another great thing about October is the opportunity for watching all sorts of horror movies this month. I used to watch USA Saturday Nightmares. This is where I was introduced to a lot of great B-Rated horror movies. One of my friends, Chris, who I follow on Twitter have been posting the titles of all sorts of great horror movies he has been watching every day this month. We used to watch and discuss our favorite B-Rated horror and sci-fi movies and shared a love for Mystery Science Theater 3000. I sure miss those days. This got me thinking, I too enjoy movies throughout the month and I came up with my own list of “31 Days of Halloween.” I make a point of watching a bunch of horror and horror/comedy movies this month and have narrowed this list down to my favorites. There are so many other great movies, but these made the cut. A few of these movies were made before I was born and I consider them to be timeless. They are not in any particular order, but I did put Halloween and Friday the 13th at the top. When I was a kid, these movies scared me to death. So much, in fact, I had to watch some parts on mute. I grouped a few of the movies together such as Friday the 13th, The Omen and Ghostbusters, because I feel they need to be watched together, if you have the time. Here is my list and I welcome any other suggestions you may have.
1. Halloween (1978)
2. Friday the 13th (1980), Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981)
3. Phantasm (1979)
4. Dracula (1958)
5. The Amityville Horror (1979)
6. Prom Night (1980)
7. Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
8. Crucible of Horror (1971)
9. Vampire Circus (1972)
10. The Comeback (1978)
11. Waxwork (1988)
12. Burnt Offerings (1976)
13. The Omen (1976), Damien: Omen II (1978) and Omen III: The Final Conflict (1981)
14. Night of the Comet (1984)
15. The House on Sorority Row (1983)
16. From Hell (2001)
17. Mary Reilly (1996)
18. Bram Stocker’s Dracula (1992)
19. The Spell (1977)
20. The Village (2004)
21. Don’t Look Now (1973)
22. Shadow of the Vampire (2000)
23. Subspecies (1991)
24. Carrie (1976)
25. The House of the Devil (2009)
26. Suspiria (1977)
27. Alice, Sweet Alice (1976)
28. Ghostbusters (1984), Ghostbusters II (1989)
29. The Initiation of Sarah (1978)
30. The Stepford Wives (1975)
31. Poltergeist (1982)
I’m not sure how old I am here, but this is me in a clown costume. This is sort of funny now, because clowns really sort of freak me out.
Now that my trick-or-treating days are well behind me and Halloween has become quite uneventful as of late, I still enjoy a good horror/mystery novel and scary movie. I am dedicating this post to Chris and all my fellow horror movie lovers out there. Enjoy and Happy Halloween!