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That time of year has descended upon us yet again—it is time to celebrate the macabre, to relish the goblins and embrace the demons (no, I am not referring to fast approaching interactions with family members during Thanksgiving that many experience, although one of my family members is suspiciously too financially enriched in October. The apparent financial windfall enjoyed by the relevant family member every October has given rise to some rather nasty rumors that he is receiving royalties on the literal plethora of devil costumes donned by various entities on Halloween. For the sake of peace, I have learned to ignore these rumors as well as the pertinent relative's unfailing tendency to become misty-eyed whenever The Exorcist is mentioned, accompanied by his describing the film's priest as a "pesky do-gooder").
Although it is invariably veracious that a storm of controversy has arisen over the often varying significance of the celebration of Halloween by a diversity of entities (i.e, is October 31 a heyday for Hecate or just a wonderful opportunity to dress in costume and indulge one's sweet tooth shamelessly), said controversy is beyond the scope of my instant blog. I was invited to a Halloween party, and was experiencing some difficulty deciding upon a costume. At first, I thought I would dress as a judge, but rejected that idea based on an egregious experience I sustained with one several years ago (still muse on the distinct possibility the relevant jurist’s robe was zipped a tad too tightly on the relevant day, thereby impeding the blood flow from his carotid arteries). Then, I briefly considered donning a Sherlock Holmes outfit, figuring my dog could accompany me as a “bloodhound,” but since my over-forty eyes frequently employ the utilization of a magnifying glass anyway and my dog is the world’s friendliest miniature poodle who’s detective ability extends solely to locating his next treat, I decided the Sherlock Holmes outfit would not be the ideal choice for me. Then, considering my rather corpulent middle, I figured I could wear the attire of a rather plump (not much padding needed around my middle to achieve the desired effect) bumble bee, but then I recalled that one of the other guests is a hypochondriac who does actually suffer from anaphylactic shock upon being stung by a bee, and desired to obviate the risk of being deluged with bug spray if I inadvertently bumped into her at the upcoming Halloween party.
Exasperated, I sought advice about my costume from the best source I know—my thirteen year old niece, Amanda. Amanda has been designing her own Halloween costumes since the age of eight, and she displays the sort of restrained patience and basic civility towards me that teens sometimes reserve for doting aunts. I telephoned my niece and asked for her advice. After expressing her initial shock that her old aunt was planning to attend a party on Halloween, Amanda launched into a series of questions.
“Well, what sort of look are you attempting to achieve?” I responded that I was a little long in the tooth for any sort of princess costume. Amanda responded, “Yeah, Daddy always says that he inherited the better teeth, and it remains a shame ‘til this very day that you didn’t wear braces as a kid.” Fortunately, I wasn’t coerced to concentrate on suppressing my visceral response to this revealing comment for long, as Amanda suddenly stated, “I know! You love to write! Why don’t you go dressed as a giant quill pen?” I considered my niece’s suggestion, but informed her that I was afraid that my head might be used to mop up any spills that occurred at the party by inebriated guests. After stating, “You sure have some weird friends,” Amanda proceeded undaunted. “You love the water—why not dress as a mermaid?” I mused over the possibility until I recalled one of the other invited guests is plagued with virulent sea-sickness. When I mentioned this factor to my niece, I could hear the exasperation-laden sigh loud and clear over the phone lines. “This is more difficult than I anticipated. Some of the other guests appear to have, er, um, well—issues. Why not dress in an emo style?” I said, “Amanda, I think Sesame Street is great, but your aunt is middle-aged. Do you really think I can wear an Elmo costume with class?” There was a protracted pause, during which I later realized my niece was composing herself by recalling the fact that I am the same aunt who kept her and her brother in an endless supply of Silly Putty through the years and who essentially functioned as a giant genie, granting their every wish since birth (I carried the toll free number to the Fisher-Price Corporation with me for years).
My niece then said, “Do you really want to attend this party? After all, at your age, you need your rest.” Sensing Amanda was teetering near the brink of her patience, I decided the most sagacious course of action would be to express my appreciation for her valuable suggestions and end the call. After hanging up, I realized a Halloween party replete with the hypochondriacally-inclined, the sea-sick and the inebriated isn’t likely to be terribly much fun at all, and I should remain home. This year I shall skip the outer festivities and instead partake of the pleasures derived from snuggling up with a good, scary book (or viewing a frightening DVD), while ensconced in a thick quilt, on my couch, as the wind howls outside and the leaves scatter on the darkened pavement beneath my window.
Hallowe’en Party by Agatha Christie
Blackwork by Monica Ferris
Hanging by a Thread by Monica Ferris
Murder on a Girls’ Night Out by Anne George
Murder by the Slice by Livia J. Washburn
The Raven and Other Poems by Edgar Allen Poe
Catering to Nobody by Diane Mott Davidson
Lethal Legacy by Linda Fairstein
It by Stephen King
Second Child by John Saul
The Right Hand of Evil by John Saul
Blackwood Farm by Anne Rice
Dead Girls are Easy by Terri Garey
A Match Made in Hell by Terri Garey
Loco Motive by Mary Daheim
Body of Evidence by Patricia Cornwell
Dracula by Bram Stoker
Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
Halloween: from Pagan Ritual to Party Night by Nicholas Rogers
Child’s Play (DVD)
Alfred Hitchcock, the Masterpiece Collection (DVD)
Alfred Hitchcock's Dial M for Murder (DVD)
Beetle Juice (DVD)
Creepy Classics (CD)/PC Treasures, Inc. and other spooky sounds
Halloween images in the NYPL Digital Gallery