Tag Archive | Halloween

I hope you’re having a spooktacular Halloween!

Happy Halloween!

An otter climbs has climbed inside a jack o lantern, head and one forepaw sticking out of the opening on top.

Someone’s getting ready for Halloween!

Black kitten with white paws plays on a hay bale near a jack o lantern for holloween

Friday Five (time for an exorcism edition)

You can't have it both ways...We have reached the fifth and final Friday of October.

Usually I would be loading this post with lots of Halloween links, but there’s just too much serious, frightening, and potentially deadly stuff going on in the world (don’t worry, Halloween does appear a few times!). I’m not just talking about the ongoing problem of people testing positive for COCID at my husband’s workplace (his first test came back negative; keep your fingers crossed for us, if you will).

So, let’s jump to this week’s Friday Five. This week I bring you: one story that deserved its own topic, the top five stories of the week, five stories about haters and deplorables, five stories about the moronic thug occupying the Oval Office, five stories about those trying to suppress the vote and those fighting the suppression, five topical videos, and five music videos (plus some things I wrote).

Science Visualization You Must See of the Week:

A room, a bar and a classroom: how the coronavirus is spread through the air – The risk of contagion is highest in indoor spaces but can be reduced by applying all available measures to combat infection via aerosols. Here is an overview of the likelihood of infection in three everyday scenarios, based on the safety measures used and the length of exposure.

Stories of the Week:

Historical photos of men in love: They were born 120 years too early.

Billy Porter: America Is Not ‘Better Than This.’ But It Can Be.

Death Rates Have Dropped for Seriously Ill Covid Patients – Survival rates have improved with medical advances and less crowded hospitals, studies say. But the latest record-breaking surge in infections could reverse the gains.

Two ‘murder hornet’ queens captured from tree in Blaine.

Bruce Springsteen calls on fans to vote against President Trump – “It’s Time For An Exorcism” In DC.

This Week in Haters and Other Deplorable People:

Dueling protests in Pittsboro feature fisticuffs, taunts.

FBI Collars Two More Alleged Neo-Nazis In Michigan.

Burkman, Wohl ordered to send corrective message to victims of US voter-intimidation robocall – Jack Burkman, Jacob Wohl face felony charges in Michigan for alleged voter-intimidation scheme. I’ve seen other people think that this is all the punishment they are getting. This is still pre-trial stuff. I mean, it indicates that the judge thinks the evidence is so overwhelming that they will not prevail. If they don’t do this, they will be guilty of contempt of court while still facing charges in at least two states and federal court.

‘We Merely Need to Dampen Turnout’: Leaked Docs Show Top Trump Allies’ 2016 Plan to Suppress Black Voters.

Jerry Falwell Jr. Sues Liberty University: You Damaged My Reputation And The Lincoln Project Is Behind It All.

This Week in the Fight Over Democracy:

Duval County judge resigns from vote-counting board after Trump donations uncovered.

Report Warns that 5 States At High Risk For Election Violence By Militias.

Democrats in Pennsylvania, North Carolina claim key wins at Supreme Court ahead of election.

Brett Kavanaugh’s defense of voter suppression is riddled with errors.

The White Extremist Group Patriot Front Is Preparing For A World After Donald Trump.

This Week in the Moronavirus Occupying the White House:

Trump supporters hospitalized after being stranded in freezing cold at late-night rally.

White House science office falsely claims Trump ended COVID-19 pandemic as US hits record cases.

‘Helping the president’: HHS official sought to rebrand coronavirus campaign – Documents reveal how political considerations shaped planning for a taxpayer-funded ad blitz to ‘defeat despair’ over Covid-19.

Trump is averaging more than 50 false or misleading claims a day.

Trump makes unhinged threats against Miles Taylor at Florida rally: ‘Bad things are going to happen to him’.

Things I wrote:

Weekend Update 10/24/2019: Invasive problems.

Being kind is too much to ask—or, yet more confessions of a queer ex-evangelical.

I put a spell on you! Or, more of why I love spooky sf/f.

Topical Videos!

Would You Still Hookup With Someone After They Said This?:

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

Kamala Harris – Coronavirus, Police Reform, And Unifying America | The Daily Social Distancing Show:

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Weekend Update: The Village People on Donald Trump Using Their Music – SNL:

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Cher – Happiness Is Just a Thing Called Joe (Live at the 2020 I Will Vote Concert):

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Tenacious D – Rocky Horror the Vote – “Time Warp” (with special guest appearances by Elizabeth Warren, Mayor Pete, and more):

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Music Videos!

Dolly Parton’s Mom Used To Sing Songs That Told Great Stories:

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Vinnie Vincent Invasion – “Love Kills” From A Nightmare On Elm Street 4 movie:

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I Put A Spell On You – Bette Midler – Hocus Pocus 1993 – HD edited:

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I can make you a man (from The Rocky Horror Picture Show):

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Panic! At The Disco: Emperor’s New Clothes [OFFICIAL VIDEO]:

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I put a spell on you! Or, more of why I love spooky sf/f

Hocus Pocus!

I don’t remember when I first saw Hocus Pocus. While preparing this post, I was surprised to learn the movie came out in the summer of 1993. I was quite certain I had seen it long before that. Given when it came out, it is a toss-up whether it was a movie that my late husband (Ray) and I saw it in a theatre, or whether we didn’t see it until later when it was on cable or out of video. I know that since sometime in the mid-nineties that it has been broadcast during every October on ABC- and Disney-owned channels. It always gets high ratings, and the DVD/Blue ray sales have been a reliable strong seller every year. Which might make one wonder why I need to write about it at all, because it seems to be one of the most popular spooky movies, ever.

I love the movie. Spoiler warning: I can’t talk about why I think this movie is worthwhile without giving away a key part of the ending, so if you don’t want to be spoiled, go stream the movie now!

In case you aren’t familiar: the movie begins on October 31, 1693 in Salem, Massachusetts, where the notorious (and elderly) Sanderson sisters, widely believed to be witches, have lured a young girl into their cottage. They brew a magic potion which they force the child to drink, and proceed to leech her life away, making themselves young again.

The girl’s older brother, Thackery Binx, tries to interrupt the ritual and save his sister, but he fails. He is transformed into a black cat by the sisters and cursed to live forever with his guilt.

The townspeople of Salem storm the cottage and find the dead body of the girl. The witches refuse to say what has happened to her brother. The witch sisters are sentenced to be hanged, but before they are executed, the eldest with, Winifred, casts a spell which she claims will allow them to rise from the grave again—one an All Hallow’s Eve with a full moon, if a virgin lights the Black Flame Candle.

Jump forward 300 years, and Max (who will be our protagonist) is a teen-ager unhappy that his parents have moved the family to Salem. Max has an encounter with a pair of local bullies, which doesn’t make him like the new home any better. He is also not fond of the town’s local folklore about the Sanderson sisters and witches in general. He is really unhappy when his parents saddle him with the job of taking his younger sister, Dani, trick-or-treating. But early in the evening they meet a classmate Max has a crush on, Allison.

Because Allison thinks that Max’s skepticism is a bit too cynical, and because Max is anxious to impress Allison, they wind up in the old Sanderson Cottage (which has been preserved as a museum). When Max announces he is going to light the so-called Black Flame Candle and prove that witches are myths, a black cat attempts to stop him. Max manages to light the candle, anyway and the witches rise from the dead.

What follows is horror-comedy romp with some elements of musical theatre thrown in. The black cat is the cursed Thackery (who answers to Binx for the rest of the movie), who has lurked around the cottage for 300 years trying to prevent anyone lighting that candle. He can speak to the three kids, though know one else apparently can understand him. The kids flee, unsuccessfully try to warn the adults that the witches are back. The witches, meanwhile, have perform their life-stealing ritual on some children before sunrise or they go back to being dead, so there is a bit of a race.

At several points the witches capture one or more of the kids. At at least two points the kids appear to defeat the witches. Along the one a long dead lover of two of the sisters is raised as a kind of zombie/revenant who assists the witches in chasing the kids.

Eventually there is a dramatic stand-off in a cemetery, and with a bit of cleverness, bravery, and self-sacrifice, evil is thwarted.

The three witches are played by Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy, and Sarah Jessica Parker. It wouldn’t be fair to say that Midler steals the show, because all of the show’s comedy and menace are built around her character. The director, Kenny Ortega, said in later interviews that he told the three of them to play it as over the top and campy as if they were drag queens, and it certainly worked.

I’ve seen reviews that Max doesn’t really have a character arc, and I don’t understand how people can be that blind. In the early part of the film, the bullies are absolutely correct that Max looks down his nose at what he sees as the provinciality of the Salem natives. And when Allison scoffs at his scoffing, it’s clear that she sees his skepticism as performative. He doesn’t believe because it isn’t cool to be credulous. Just as he pretends not to care about his younger sister because, again, it would be uncool to feel warmth or affection for his kid sister. By the end of the film, that pretense is gone, and he doesn’t just take a risk to save his little sister, but he gulps down the potion and forces the witches to kill him in her stead.

It’s not bravado or a clever trick. He doesn’t reveal afterward that he only pretended to swallow it. He swallows it, the witches perform the next part of the ritual. We see his life force literally being taken from him.

Once the witches are defeated, we also get a nice pair of parallel scenes, one in which Max and Dani share a moment, and then because Binx fulfilled his mission, we see a similar scene between his ghost and the spirt of his little sister, who has been waiting for him to join her in the afterlife for 300 years.

Unlike the last campy & spooky two movies I’ve written about, this one came out after I was well and truly out of the closet. So I felt freer to revel in the camp vibe and all it implied. A few times when I’ve found myself in conversation with other queer fans of the show discussing it, I’ve found out that a lot of them like to ask the question: so which Sanderson sister are you? For the record, Ray was definitely and enthusiastically a Sarah. I had to admit that I want to be Winifred, but I’m really a Mary.

The film is funny. It has many nice spooky moments. If you haven’t seen it, give it a try. Maybe it will cast a spell on you, too.

You’re So Cool, Brewster! — more of why I love spooky sf/f

Movie poster for 1985's Fright NightåWhen the original Fright Night came out in August of 1985, I was in my mid-twenties and preparing to move to Seattle to finish my college degree. It was a time when I had virtually no disposable income, so I very seldom saw movies in the theatre. Combine that with the fact that horror movies often give me nightmares (and I’m a sleepwalker, so I would get up in a panic during the dream and find whoever I can in the house, shake them awake and frantically try to convince them there is a killer in the house), I did not see Fright Night that summer. One of my friends did go see it, and his description just convinced me even more that I shouldn’t see it.

Over a year later, I and some friends in Seattle were going to have a movie night. Which at that time involved us pooling some money to go to a video store and rent a both a video player and one or more movies, which we would take back (usually to Club Chaos, which was an apartment share by two of those friends that had an enormous living room) and watch while eating a bunch of junk food. It was often the case that only a subset of the gang would go get the movie, so you were never quite certain what we might be watching.

One of those nights Fright Night was in the mix. At least one of my friends who had seen it before assured me that it was more of a comedy like Ghostbusters than a scary slasher film like Nightmare on Elm Street, so I figured it would be fun.

In the opening minutes, it does indeed seem to be more of a cheesy romp than a serious horror picture… but that’s because the movie begins with a movie within the movie. A cheesy vampire film which are main character is watching on television. The protagonist of the film is Charley Brewster, a teen-ager who loves horror movies, and faithfully watching a weekly show hosted by an actor named Peter Vincent who used to star in a series of vampire hunter movies himself.

Charley lives with his mom in what seems to be a typical 80s movie suburb. And someone has recently moved into the empty house next door. Charley hears strange noises and even a scream coming from the old house, and becomes convinced that the new neighbor, Jerry Dandridge, is a vampire who is luring women to his home before feasting on their blood.

Charley’s best friend is “Evil Ed” who loves those horror movies even more than Charley does. But he doesn’t believe the neighbor is a vampire. Charley’s girlfriend, Amy, breaks up with him because of his obsession with the neighbor. And, of course, Charley’s mom and the police also all fail to believe him.

So Charley tracks down the actor, Peter Vincent (who hosts the aforementioned weekly horror show at one of the local stations, so lives in the same city), and tries to get him to help prove that the neighbor is a vampire. The actor doesn’t believe him either, and points out that he’s just an actor—the vampire hunter he played was fictitious.

Amy, meanwhile, has become concerned about Charley’s mental health, and she hires Vincent to pretend to test the neighbor and then prove to Charley that the neighbor isn’t a vampire. And so the actor (who thinks this is some easy money) puts on his costume and grabs his character’s equipment bag and visits the neighbor. In the course of the discussion, just as he’s leaving, Vincent pulls out his pocket mirror while getting something else out of the pocket, and realizes that Dandridge, standing behind him, has no reflection.

Movie still: (l to r) "Evil Ed", Charley, and Amy, as portrayed by Stephen Geoffreys, William Ragsdale, and Amanda Bearse.

(l to r) “Evil Ed”, Charley, and Amy, as portrayed by Stephen Geoffreys, William Ragsdale, and Amanda Bearse.

While there had been a lot of humor in the movie at this point, and not much in the way of gore, the tone was paranoid rather than a laughfest. And that tension ramps up from this point, as the vampire starts stalking Charley, Charley’s mom, and Amy threatening to do terrible things if Charley keeps telling people about him.

This is also where we start getting more of the transformations and start seeing more of the death scenes explicitly.

Dandridge kills and turns Evil Ed and sends Ed to kill Peter Vincent and then Charley. The scene where Dandridge stalks and corners Evil Ed in what has to be the most labyrinthine alleys to ever appear in a movie, is remarkably chilling, even though we never see a hint of blood.

Ed doesn’t succeed in killing Vincent, who burns him with a cross and forces him to flee by leaping out of the apartment’s window. Ed beats Vincent to Charley’s house (Vincent is on his way to warn Charley), and they have a fight during which Evil Ed transforms into a wolf, but he still winds up impaled through the chest with a broken table leg.

Dandridge has, meanwhile, lured Amy to his house and has started the process of turning her into a vampire, trapping Charley in a room with her slumbering body so that she can feed on Charley when she rises. Vincent manages to help Charley escape, and then the two of them have a protracted fight with Dandridge, before eventually killing him and, since Dandridge died before Amy ever drank the blood of another, she reverts to human and all is well (or as well as it can be, given that a number of people have died on screen by this point).

The special effects are all practical effects, this is before the era of CGI, and some of them haven’t aged quite as well as others. Some of the creature effects looked cheesy even in 1986. I don’t think the effects are the reason this movie never gave me serious nightmares.

No, I think that’s because I spent a lot of the movie trying to decide if all the gay subtext was going to come out in the open. And also not feeling free to comment on any of said subtext because, while it is true that two of the people in that friend group were part of a very tiny number of friends who I had come out to only a few months before (though come out is a strong word, since it began with, “I think I’m gay” and quickly morphed into, “Or I’m bi—yeah, that’s it. Not completely gay after all!” which was so not true).

It was clear to me that Charley wasn’t into Amy or even the idea of making out with her as Amy was interested in him. There’s even a moment before Amy breaks up with him where she is angrily trying to get him to stop looking through the binoculars at the neighbor and come have sex with her, for goodness sake.

It was also clear that Evil Ed had the hots for Charley. I’m sorry, totally straight teen-age boys don’t joke about giving their male best friend hickeys and so forth as often as Evil Ed did.

The scene where Dandridge corners Ed in the alley and talks him into giving in without a fight is very much written and acted as a seduction. They never make it completely clear what the difference is, but just being killed by a vampire isn’t enough to make the corpse rise later as undead. The vampire has to choose to do it, and given how he talks Ed into surrendering, it seemed to imply that the other person’s consent was part of the situation. Though the later seduction of Amy seems to involve some sort of vampiric mesmerism, so maybe consent isn’t exactly the right word.

The movie ended with Charley and Amy back together, in Charley’s bedroom, where he looks out the window at the once again deserted house next door. He turns to Amy just as we see a pair of glowing red eyes appear in one of the windows of the house. And as the movie fades to black, the last line of dialogue is spoken in Evil Ed’s voice: “You’re so cool, Brewster!”

Vampires often are metaphors for sex, so it isn’t surprising that scenes where a male vampire is stalking a male victim will be homoerotic. But some of the earlier stuff between Evil Ed and Charley are a bit different.

Most of Fright Night isn’t played for laughs. My friend’s assurance that it wouldn’t be nightmare inducing wasn’t completely wrong… though I personally think that on a scale of Ghostbusters to Nightmare on Elm Street that Fright Night lands smack dab in the middle. It is one of the spooky movies that fairly regularly figures in my Halloween movie marathons, and I have to admit in no small part because I keep thinking how much better things would have gone if Ed had simply declared his love for Charley early on.

Just as I’m sure that the sequel wouldn’t have been the awful mess it was if Evil Ed had been the villain, as been planned. Alas, Stephen Geoffreys, who played Evil Ed, turned down the chance to be in the second movie in order to play the lead in another horror movie that flopped even worse than Fright Night part 2 did. Geoffreys appeared in a couple more movies that didn’t do well, then he spent the next dozen years or so appearing in gay porn films under a couple stage names. Since 2007 he’s been getting work in various horror and action films.

Anyway, with its 80s hair styles, sometimes cheesy effects, and the unresolved gay sub-text, Fright Night makes for a good popcorn movie, and not just at Halloween.

If I want your opinion, I’ll beat it out of you — more of why I love spooky sf/f

Cover of the DVD release of Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, showing Elvira tied to a stake, while city councilwoman Chastiity Pariah strikes a match.

“The charge, my fellow council members, is witchcraft.” (Click to embiggen>

I’ve written more than once about the fact that actual scary movies give me nightmares. And I’m the kind of sleepwalker who, when having a nightmare, I will go around the house waking up everyone I can find and tell them very emphatically that we are in danger and need to come up with a plan to defeat the killer/monster/demon/alien that is trying to break into the house. So generally speaking (with some big exceptions) I avoid a lot of horror movies. On the other hand, I love Halloween, and I love spooky movies, particularly funny spooky movies. So this next confession will not surprise some of you: when the cheesy parody horror movie, Elvira: Mistress of the Dark came out in theatres very breifly in 1988… I actually went to a theatre and paid full price and saw it. My (now ex-)wife, and a couple of our friends accompanied me, and we all paid for the experience. One of those friends is a mostly-straight friend who said upfront that 75% of the reason he was willing to go was because he had lusted after the horror host Elvira (played by amazing Cassandra Peterson) since high school.

A few years later, one of the few disputes that I had with (at the time my soon-to-be-ex-wife) Julie while we were splitting assets was who would get to keep the VHS of Elvira: Mistress of the Dark. Of all the things to argue over it was one of the dumbest, I admit… I’m just happy that we got through all that and now, 29 years later, we’re good friends and can laugh together about such things.

As it happened, my first husband, Ray, loved the movie, and we owned it on VHS and upgraded to DVD before he died. And my husband Michael thinks the movie is funny and is more than willing to watch it with me about every other Halloween, so, yay!

But, let’s get to the actual movie. Outside of the movie, Elvira is a horror host (played by Peterson) who had a syndicated sci fi/fantasy/horror movie show on various cables for years. The movie proceeds on the conceit that Elvira is a real person, not just a character which Peterson plays, and when the local California station she appears on gets a new owner who sexually harasses her, she gets fired. But she isn’t upset because she’s about to open a show in Las Vegas… except her agent informs her that the show in Vegas will only go forward if she can put up $50,000 of the production cost.

Right after she says she doesn’t have that kind of money, a studio intern knocks on her dressing room door to tell her she has a telegram. According to the telegram, her Great-Aunt Morgana Talbot, has died and that Elvira is a named as a beneficiary in the will (“I didn’t know I had a good aunt, let alone a great one.”). So Elvira drives across country to the quaint town of Falwell, Massachusetts for the reading of the will.

“Listen sister, if I want your opinion, I'll beat it out of you.” Elvira's fist confrontation with Chastity Pariah

“Listen sister, if I want your opinion, I’ll beat it out of you.” Elvira’s fist confrontation with Chastity Pariah (Click to embiggen)

What follows is a parody of several old horror movies (and a few Lovecraft stories), but even more a parody of all those movies about small minded small town people being against outsiders, et cetera. While there is one scene that is a direct take-off on Flashdance, the majority of the movie is a retelling of Footloose with Elvira in the Kevin Bacon role.

And the movie is funny. I mean, Edie McClurg should have gotten an award for her hilarious turn as Chastity Pariah, hypocritical council member.

Elvira’s great-aunt doesn’t leave her any money, just her house, her book of “recipes”, and her pet poodle named Algonquin.

The kicker is that Morgana was a powerful witch, the book is actually a very old and potent grimoire, and the poodle is actually a familiar. Elvira spends much of the rest of the movie figuring this out, and slowly learning the Morgana’s brother, Vincent, is the evil warlock who killed Elvira’s mother, Divana, and that possession of the book is going to decide the balance of supernatural powers for the next century.

In between, Elvira tries to iniiate a romance with the very hunky but virginal owner of the local movie theatre, becomes a hero for the town’s teen-agers who wish the town was less backwards, and has various misadventures trying to use the mystical book. I know the movie is set in Massachusetts, but some of the more jokes in the sequence where she mistakes a potion to conjure a demon for a casserole recipe resonated extremely deeply with my southern Missouri/Oklahoma soul, okay?

Part of the meta of the movie is that Elvira, despite being played by a cisgendered woman, is essentially a drag queen. And while what little other queer subtext is very, very sub, that 80s drag queen/queer camp vibe is extremely strong in the movie. All of the villains are either defenders of the old Traditional Family Values notions or the even more ancient Toxic Masculinity tropes, while Elvira and her supporters are champions of Everyone Is Valid, and Being True To Your Self is More Important Than Pleasing Societal Expectations.

Which is very queer. So even though the vast majority of the sex and innuendo in the film is quite hetero, there is simultaneously an extremely strong non-hetero message being promulgated throughout.

At the time when the movie came out, I was still trying to pretend I was bisexual, which I very dysfunctionally saw as being half-heterosexual. I was trying to walk an extremely difficult tightrope. And this movie seemed to walk a similar tightrope… but when I re-watched it, I began seeing that the tightrope was as false as Chastity Pariah’s moral superiority.

Eventually, the camp sensibilities and the sex-positive subtext of this movie was one of the many examples that helped convince me to stop trying to compromise my true self.

And years later, it’s just an extremely funny movie to watch during Halloween season. And what more could you ask for?

It’s the most spookiest time of the year!

An otter climbs has climbed inside a jack o lantern, head and one forepaw sticking out of the opening on top.

Someone’s getting ready for Halloween!

I like to decorate. I like to put up blinking lights and cheesy window decorations and other tacky wonderful things for virtually any holiday. My late husband, Ray, was just as bad as I was about that, and we amplified the tendency in each other. Since our birthdays were in late September, we would usually start decorating for Halloween right after our birthdays. And then shortly after Halloween we would take down most of the Halloween decorations and put up the Thanksgiving decorations. Then the weekend after Thanksgiving we would take all of those down and start in on Christmas. Then on New Year’s Day we’d take down the Christmas decorations and put those away, but it would be only a few weeks later that we’d get out the Valentine’s Day decorations. And then we’d pull out the St. Patrick’s Day decorations and finally the Easter decorations…

And once we put the Easter decorations away things would look mundane on the outside of our place until it was time for the Halloween decorations to come out.

The process fell apart the year Ray died. He passed just a couple weeks before Thanksgiving. I wasn’t going to decorate for Christmas at all, until I woke up one night with this overwhelming certainty that Ray would be very unhappy with me for not decorating, and I figured out how to put up a few things without pulling out the many, many, many large storage containers full of Christmas decorations (I was quite certain if I started looking at them I’d break down crying and might not be able to stop). I didn’t decorate for Valentines Day or the others afterwards.

Michael and I were dating by the following Halloween, and I put some of the Halloween decorations up. He helped me decorate for Christmas that year, and I think I only cried about two dozen times while getting decorations out and putting them up.

It took a couple more years before I pulled out any boxes of decorations other than Halloween, Thanksgiving/Harvest, and Christmas. And I usually didn’t go all out for the others, only pulling a few decorations out of the boxes for the others. Since Michael was less invested in everything but Halloween and Solstice, I had less motivation to dig boxes out of the basement and hang things up.

When we got the notice that we would have to move out of the place I’d lived in for nearly 22 years (we got the notice barely a week before Christmas, but it was a five-month notice, so it wasn’t undoable), one of the first things we did was go through a bunch of the decorations and get rid of anything that was questionable. The silly string of light up Easter Eggs was about 24 years old and had spent at least a month each time the were put up hanging in sunlight, so it wasn’t really a surprise when we examined the wires that the were obvious stress signs on the insulation.

We started moving into the new place Easter weekend and got mostly unpacked by July of that year. When October came around, I had no Halloween decorations at all. We also have significantly less storage for such things at the new place, and after reducing 34 boxes/tubs of Christmas decorations to 8 smaller boxes, I didn’t relish going overboard on the other holidays.

I picked up some cute window clings to put in the front windows (though since we’re not on the ground floor I’m not sure anyone but me can tell what they are), a jack-o-lantern thing to hang on the front door, but I couldn’t find any LED pumpkin lights or the like for the windows. If I had lights in the windows, they would be visible to folks on the ground. But I couldn’t find any.

I happened to mention it on Twitter. And for unrelated reasons a few days later I was dropping some things off at the home of my dear friend Kehf (I don’t remember what the things were–since her housemates include two other equally long term friends and my goddaughter, it could have been almost anything). The important part is that Kehf surprised me by handing me a string of pumpkin lights that were exactly what I had been looking for. “I noticed these in the store after seeing your tweet and picked them up for you.”

So I had lights in the windows for the next three Halloweens and it was great.

About mid-September I had the foresight to look check the decorations to see if any ought to be retired (the window gels lose color as they are exposed to sunlight)… and I couldn’t find the pumpkin lights. As mentioned above, we don’t have a big storage unit, so it shouldn’t be that hard to find them, but there you go.

Some of the window gels definitely need to be retired, so when I found some new ones I liked while I was out shopping, I bought them. And I bought some silly Bat lights for the veranda (they are on stakes that can go in the planters and use a battery pack and timer chip)… and I noticed some LED pumpkin lights that were quite inexpensive and grabbed them.

That weekend (still back in mid-September) I put up some of the Harvest-themed gels, intending to not put out the Halloween decorations until after my birthday at the end of September. Which turned into last weekend…

…and I couldn’t find the new pumpkin lights. Nor the old ones. So the bat lights went up, and the new gels and the older gels that were still okay… but no pumpkin lights.

Tonight, while I was putting away some of my birthday presents that I’ve left out where I can look at them fondly, I found the new pumpkin lights. So I’ll be putting them up this week.

Who wants to take a bet that I’ll find the old ones when I take down the Halloween stuff and put up the rest of the harvest decorations?

Looking forward to/hoping for some trick or treaters…

Squad ghoulsThis is our second Halloween in the new place. Last year we didn’t get any trick or treaters at all, but then last year there were only two other places in addition to ours with any Halloween decorations up, so I suspect our apartment building didn’t look like it was worth stopping at. Several more of our neighbors have lights and jack o’lanterns and such visible, so maybe we will get some this year. The magical-thinker in me also points out that we bought less candy this year than last, so maybe that will cause us to get swamped. We can hope. Keep your fingers crossed for us.

I had planned several more blog posts last week and this week leading up to this, my second favorite holiday, but things have been really weirdly busy. It also feels as if fewer people are doing Halloween stuff. I thought maybe I was just being busy and distracting, but I saw a few posts floating around tumblr where a lot of people were feeling as if there is a lot less Halloween enthusiasm in their social circles, and so forth. A few posts specifically noted that the silly Pumpkin Dance video had not showed up in their social media stream. Which made me realize I hadn’t seen it being posted and shared, either.

I’m planning to stay up a bit after midnight to make at least a symbolic start on NaNoWriMo (since I have to get up and go to work in the morning). Usually long before this we discuss what spooky movies we’re going to watch while hoping for trick-or-treaters. Last year was watched Hocus Pocus and Witches of Eastwick.

It’s been a number of years since we watched Ghost and Mr. Chicken and I can’t remember when we last watched Elvira, Mistress of the Dark; for that matter, I can’t remember how many years it’s been since we watched any of the classic Universal monsters, such as the 1931 Frankenstein, and we have all of those in the collection. On the other hand, I should look through our movie database and see if there is anything spooky that we’ve bought in the last couple of years. I don’t know. Our usual Halloween fair isn’t slasher movies and the like, and tends toward comedies… and this year I’m feeling much more like a good laugh than typical. I suspect we all know why that is…

Anyway, I hope you have wonder Eve of All Hallows!

What’s spooky for me may not be spooky for you

“If you've got it, Haunt it!”

(click to embiggen)

Many years ago the gaming group I was in rotated who was running the game and which system/world we were playing in, and most of us gave our scenarios titles, which sometimes we told the players in advance. One time I had titled a sci-fi adventure where the players eventually found themselves in a dark, twisty location being pursued by something which they weren’t sure what the something was, just that it had killed some other people, “Welcome to Your Standard Nightmare.” I didn’t mention the title up front, it was after we were finished that I identified the scenario, and suddenly we were having a debate on what, really, a standard (or universal) nightmare ought to be.

I was reminded of this incident by two different events recently. First, after a few weeks of working on my Halloween playlist, I took a dip into a couple of music streaming services to see what they were serving up on various Halloween channels. The other was a series of disturbing dreams I had in the wee small hours of a recent morning.

Quick digression: the psychological definition of a nightmare is an unpleasant dream evoking an emotional response which disturbs the sleep cycle. It doesn’t necessarily have to be scary to be a nightmare as far as psychologists are concerned, but it does have to actually make you wake up to qualify as a nightmare. So while colloquially we usually think of nightmares as bad dreams, usually invoking fear or despair, other kinds of emotions can be involved.

So, I’ve more than once had a nightmare where I woke up extremely angry. And that was very disturbing, especially during those initial moments of waking up where you don’t quite realize it was only a dream. I had a new one, this time, I woke up extremely annoyed. Three times in one night. The first two didn’t really have any element most people would think of a spooky: I was trying to set up some sound equipment for some kind of party or concert, and someone kept moving my toolbox full of patch cables. There were a number of people in the dream, most of whom I haven’t seen in person in many years. And they were all being uncharacteristically unhelpful. The second one involved someone I didn’t recognize who kept trying to make me go to this place I also didn’t recognize and pack up things that had been left behind by someone. Oddly, once I gave in, I recognized all of the blankets and towels (which were only a subset of the items) as ones that had belonged to my family when I was a child and a teen-ager. The third one was like a combination: I was walking somewhere intending to retrieve something I needed, and I noticed an open door of an apartment, I think, and inside I saw scattered around clothes that belong to me. When I was checking out the place and gathering things, people kept wandering in to try to take stuff from me—and they people each had these weird glowing eyes and I was absolutely convinced that they were undead or something similar.

Even then, when I woke up, I wasn’t feeling fear, but extreme annoyance that I had to deal with weird creatures and someone stealing my clothes when I really just wanted to go get the thing—whatever it was—that I had started out looking for. (And no, I don’t need any dream analysis. My subconscious is never subtle. I know what I’m feeling anxiety about right now.)

The thing was, even though my feeling at each awakening was annoyance—neither anger nor fear—there were still moments while I was waking up where I felt that disturbing confusion about what was real and what wasn’t. Which is its own kind of spooky.

Many Halloween playlists I see on various streaming services or that people post often contain songs that I don’t think are spooky at all. Many seem to be chosen because the title of the song has a tenuous connection to some spooky concepts, while the lyrics of the song are often just standard pop fare.

I happen to believe that a Halloween playlist should consist of tracks where the content of the track has some connection to ideas, moods, et cetera, that people associate with Halloween, trick or treating, monsters, and so forth. I make exceptions for instrumental tracks from movies and such that I personally find spooky. I realize that most of those don’t seem spooky if you don’t recognize where they are from (but some are very eery and really set a spooky mood even when you don’t recognize their source). Anyway, here is my 2018 Halloween playlist:

1. “It’s alive!” From the Young Frankenstein soundtrack. This isn’t a song, it’s the dialog for one of the funniest scenes in the movie, when Dr Frahnk-in-steen finds out that he put an abnormal brain in the body of his creation.
2. “Monster Mash” A blue grass cover of the classic Halloween song by a band called Hayseed Dixie. It’s quite fun.
3. “Science Fiction Double Feature” From the Rocky Horror Picture Show, the campy lyrics describe several classic sci fi thriller movies.
4. “The Homecoming Queen’s Got a Gun” by Julie Brown. “Everybody run! The Homecoming Queen’s got a gun!” and “…it’s like the whole school was totally coked or something!”
5. “Anything Can Happen On Halloween” by Tim Curry from the movie The Worse Witch. A fun song.
6. “Thriller” by Michael Jackson (with narration in the middle by Vincent Price). A classic for Halloween. And you can dance to it!
7. “GhostBusters (I’m Not Afraid” by Fallout Boy. An interesting cover/re-imagining of the original Ghostbusters them recorded for the new GhostBusters movie.
8. “Rest in Peace” from Once More, With Feeling, the Buffy the Vampire Slayer musical episode. “Whisper in a dead man’s ear doesn’t make it real.”
9. “Bad Moon Rising” by Mourning Ritual. A very creepy re-imagining of the old Creedence Clearwater Revival hit that I first heard in one of the spookiest, creepiest episodes of the Teen Wolf TV series. I can’t hear this song without reliving the scenes where Void Stiles was doing various horrific things.
10. “Monster Mash (featuring Black Magic” by Halloween FX Productions. A cute cover of the Halloween classic.
11. “Mean Green Mother from Outer Space” from Little Shop of Horrors just fun!
12. “Haunted Honeymoon Main Title” by John Morris. A spooky instrumental from one of my favorite comedies ever. Gene Wilder, Gilda Radner, and Dom DeLuis in a hilarious send-up of 30s mystery radio shows and spooky forties movies.
13. “Teen Wolf Main Theme” by Dino Meneghin & Bloody Beetroots. The theme for the Teen Wolf series is just some really dramatic music.
14. “Theme from the Ghost and Mr. Chicken” – if you aren’t familiar with this comedy send up of various Hitchcock-esque movie tropes starring Don Knotts, you really need to Netflix it or something. And the organ music is suitably spooky and silly, at the same time.
15. “”Scooby Doo, Where Are You?” Yes, the theme song from the original cartoon series.
16. “Dark Shadows” the original eerie, spooky, haunting theme song from the ’60s gothic horror soap opera.
17. “Funeral March of a Marionette” an orchestral piece which was used as the theme for the old Alfred Hitchcock show.
18. “The Munster’s Theme” by Jack Marshall. A tiki-fied cover of the them song for the 1960s horror comedy series.
19. “Mamushka” by Raul Julia and Marc Shaiman. The silly show-stopper song from the theatrical Addams Family movie.
20. “Monster Mash” by Bobby “Boris” Pickett & the Crypt-Kickers. The original, classic Halloween Novelty song.

It’s the second most wonderful time of the year!

“Live is sweet, be not too shy!”

“Live is sweet, be not too shy!”

I love Halloween a lot, as I’ve mentioned before. I love handing out candy. I love seeing people in costumes. I love all the spooky stuff. My favorite Halloween movies are either the classic black & white universal films or the more comedic ones (Ghost and Mr. Chicken. Hocus Pocus, Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, Haunted Honeymoon, Young Frankenstein to name a few…).

We have our usual boxes of full size candy bars (my husband’s motto for the season is: “Fun sized isn’t!”). We have picked a couple of movies to watch tonight (Hocus Pocus and Witches of Eastwick). I have some pumpkin spice drinks ready. It will be a night of spooky fun!

I hope yours is a great, spooky All Hallow’s Eve as well!

Donald Duck: Trick Or Treat Folks ☻1952 Halloween Cartoon:

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

What’s not to love about Halloween?

“I love Halloween. I can't wait for that time when the leaves fall, weather is colder, the sun is bright, the decorations are up, scary movies are on, and the hot chocolate is out!”

“I love Halloween. I can’t wait for that time when the leaves fall, weather is colder, the sun is bright, the decorations are up, scary movies are on, and the hot chocolate is out!”

I’ve written a few times before about my love of Halloween and my fondness for a certain type of spooky movie. Some years I have done elaborate decorating for the holiday. I often spend time planning a costume to wear to any Halloween party we might be attending. I always spend at least part of the month of October listening to what I consider Halloween music while planning what kind of movies I might watch on the actual night. And then, of course, there is trying to decide how much candy we will need to hand out that night1.

My love for Halloween began long before I knew that it used to be considered the high holy days of queers everywhere. Which was true at least since the 1920s until the straights co-opted it for Heteroween2. But I recognize that at least some of the reasons I loved Halloween back then are the same reason the holiday appealed to queer people for so long:

  • it was a day I could dress up as silly or weird as I wished without getting strange looks from people;
  • it was a day where other people would show off bits of their personality that weren’t obvious the rest of the year;
  • being closeted cultivated an ability to find humor in the absurdities and misfortunes of life;
  • trying to get along as a queer child in a straight world means that embracing make-believe and pretending to be what we aren’t a survival trait;

…which fits right in with Halloween!

Of course, when I say I could dress as silly as I wished, that wasn’t entirely true. I remember, for instance, the year that I really wanted to dress up as the character of Witchie-Poo from the Saturday morning live action show, H.R. Pufnstuf. Mom didn’t act appalled, but she argued with me until I gave in and let her buy me the really tacky H.R. Pufnstuf costume. Pufnstuf was supposed to be a dragon who was the Mayor of the enchanted island where the show’s action took place, but the store-bought costume was just a weird shaped green mask and a generic green onesie that had a picture of the character printed on the chest. My sister mentioned that I had wanted to dress up as Witchie-Poo within earshot of my dad and I got yelled at quite seriously about how boys don’t dress up as witches!

It wasn’t even that the character of Witchie-Poo appealed to me that much3. My recollection is that the store-bought costume for her had a magic wand prop, and I really wanted the magic wand. Of course, she was the villain of the show and I quite frequently find myself sympathizing with the villains.

Our friends that have been hosting a Halloween party almost every year for about 30 years are skipping this year. So I don’t think either of us will be making a costume. And although they gave us plenty of warning that we could have opted to host our own party, all of the years of going to their themed and wonderfully decorated parties casts a more-than-slightly intimidating shadow over the notion.

Maybe we’ll just try to get together with some people on the Saturday before.

But I have been working on my new Halloween playlist. I spent a lot of the last week listening to every single Halloween playlist I have made in the past4 as I decide what kind of list to put together this year. I have one assembled, I just haven’t decided if it is finished or still needs some tweaking.

Whether there is a party of not, or any dressing up, I still intend to enjoy myself, getting my spook on in various ways for the rest of the month.

Let’s have fun!


Footnotes:

1. My husband and I don’t believe in handing out so-called “fun size” candy. We usually get a few cases of full sized bars in hopes that we will get lots of kids.

2. But that’s okay. Straights need a socially sanctioned night to dress up as sexy nurses or sexy firemen. They’re so reppressed the rest of the year!

3. I mean, I thought she was hilarious, but…

4. Fifteen such lists in my iTunes library, by the way.

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