Halloween has come and gone, as I mentioned earlier I was part of a Bill and Ted costume ensemble. I had a pretty good time over the weekend and then last night and yet...as someone in the group commented it all felt anti-climactic. I think I know why. It was because people were treating Halloween as a time to get drunk and laid, like any other time. Has the entire world grown so dull and old? Or is it just us who are over 18? Or these days, 12?
Neil Gaiman wrote an article for the New York Times about what Halloween is supposed to be about. The article is brilliant and beautiful, which I suspect might be directly attributed to the fact that it was written by Neil Gaiman. What I'm amused by is that on his blog, in his usual self deprecating, offhand way he said the New York Times said to him something like "Anytime, you want to write anything else, just let us know and we'll publish it.", and he said he thought that was nice of them. Standing offer from the New York Times, that's always nice.
Neil's mentor Alan Moore wrote the great graphic novel From Hell, about Jack the Ripper (made into a forgettable movie) There's a great scene in which Jack, portrayed as an insane, upper crust Victorian with all the twisted prejudices that go with that, has a vision of the future, ie our time, in which he wanders unseen in a contemporary, sterile office. He says something about how the white collar drones working there no doubt regard him as a scary figure out of the past, but their boring, plodding lives terrify him.
The ghosts and goblins don't want to scare us anymore because they don't think we're capable of feeling anything.
It all made me think about what real Halloweens are like, scary but whimsical. As a kid I pretended not to like scary things, but many years later I realized that I did. I remember Halloween, circa 1987 or so. I think that was the year I was Superboy and I put a cape on my cousin's (later mine) dog Ruby and declared her to be Krypto the Superdog. We had a good time. But late that night, from a nine year old persepctive anyway, after all the trick or treaters were back indoors, I wandered outside my house. One of the reasons Evanston is among the most perfect places on earth is that it's streets are lit by old fashioned gaslight lamps, making it the sort of atmosphere where Jack himself might have done his bloody work. My father felt the need to mention this to me when I was about five.
Anyway, this one particular night there was a mist gathering on the west side of my block, that still managed to look twilighty although it was probably past 9pm. I felt a strong compulsion to head in the direction of that mist and just keep on walking, to see what I would find. I didn't of course, but the compulsion has never gone away...
What a lovely story--thank you for linking to it, and for being one of the instigators in getting me to read Gaiman.