As a kid, Halloween was all about trick-or-treating. It basically involved the short-lived joy of my brother Jeff and I returning home with our bags full of candy, dumping our catch on the kitchen table, and sorting out the A list candies from all the rest. A couple of weeks and a few gazillion grams of sugar later, it was over.
Truth is, I always felt kinda dopey dressing up in a Halloween costume. But you gotta do what you gotta do to get the annual haul of candy.
There also was the annual viewing of “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.” It took a far second place to “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” but still managed to give us our fix of the Peanuts gang.
I can’t recall the last time I went to a Halloween party, and more often than not I’ve found myself teaching on Halloween night. This year, scary movies are my way of ringing in the Halloween season. Here are the three I’ve viewed so far:
The Haunting (1963) (**** stars) — An old house in a remote part of New England has a bad history, and four paranormal researchers descend upon it to learn more. A very scary psychological thriller, enhanced by the black & white cinematography, starring Julie Harris and Claire Bloom.
Paranormal Activity (2007) (*** stars) — A young woman has been dealing with a paranormal entity for much of her life, and it’s not about to let her and her boyfriend (played by Katie Featherston and Micah Sloat) settle comfortably into this otherwise perfectly normal San Diego house. A low-budget movie that delivers some real goosebump moments.
The Ring (2002) (**1/2 stars) — I enjoyed this more than I expected after reading mixed reviews. Naomi Watts stars as a Seattle newspaper reporter investigating the unexplained death of a friend’s daughter. It’s already a “period piece,” as the story is driven by a VHS tape and use of extensive videotape technology.
I hope to squeeze in two more by Halloween, a couple of high-touted oldies that I’ve never seen before: The Uninvited (1944) (starring Ray Milland) and The Innocents (1961) (starring Deborah Kerr).
Ghosts and “chicken skin”
I can’t say for sure that I’ve ever seen a ghost or an apparition, but I believe they exist. I’ve never gone on an actual ghost hunt, but I enjoy going on ghost tours in cities I visit and reading about local ghost stories and supposed hauntings.
Over the years I’ve been on ghost walking tours in London, Cambridge (UK), Oxford, New Orleans, New York, Chicago, and Boston. I’ve also walked around parts of Hawaii, Gettysburg, PA, and Salem, MA, figuring ghosts must be hanging around. These occasional wanderings are supplemented by a small collection of books about ghosts and the supernatural that I enjoy dipping into now and then.
Technically, of course, none of this has much to do with Halloween, other than the general idea of scary stories. There’s a part of me that says you don’t wanna mess with this stuff too much, but I guess the “what if” is part of the fun of it all. It’s about what the Hawaiian folks call “chicken skin” stories, the tales that give you goosebumps.