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So It Goes

What Is Halloween?
by Jason Love


October 25, 2004

At the risk of sucking the fun out of things, what the hell is Halloween?

Everywhere I look, it's a screwball parade of blood and guts. If you have ever attended a funeral, you know that death isn't the most amusing stage of life, yet every year we get Halloween, a time to raise the dead and hang bodies from the ceiling and smear blood all over our faces. To me, it's like doing shots with O. J.

jpg Jason Love

Americans are a funny thing. We turned the resurrection of Christ into chocolate eggs and the Easter bunny, and every October we celebrate butchering one another.

Perhaps there is psychosocial value in Halloween. Perhaps we are, on some level, striving to sublimate that part of ourselves that we don't fully understand but must address lest it surface in other areas ... no, it's just fricken bizarre.

Walk down the street on Halloween, and you will see bloody lawns, serial killers, melting eyeballs, stray appendages, divorce attorneys. And we say, "Oh, that's cool."

I, a man who roots for the bad guy in the movies, do not understand it.

Last year, I visited the London Dungeon in, uh, London. Here is a place that showcases the Dark Ages and Reign of Terror as they actually existed. It's perpetual Halloween, and it's all true. Scattered through the halls of the London Dungeon, like artwork, is a sample of all the misery mankind has inflicted upon itself.

In the west wing, you'll find witches -- women with opinions -- burning at the stake, replete with smoke and screaming. In the east wing, a man is having his fingers removed one by one with a machine designed for said purpose. Along the way, you'll enjoy other attractions such as impaling, castration, lynching, and beheading.

Below each exhibit is a factual explanation of the event and the date when it occurred. To think that 200 years ago we were still drilling holes in people's heads to free the demons when all they needed was Prozac.

Lurking in the shadows of the Dungeon are NBA-sized monks wearing hooded robes. They represent the church, the most frightening mass murderer of them all. The monks' job is to stroll the halls looking for an opportunity to scare you.

At one point, I was engrossed with the story of a child being dragged to the gallows before a cheering crowd, when a monk came up and cackled in my ear. I shrieked like a little girl and nearly wet my pants. I wanted to punch the guy in the nose, but I couldn't reach it.

For me, fear and terror are feelings that I only want to experience if absolutely necessary. They are not something I want to do for the sake of entertainment. I was going to write a column about practical jokes, but it would turn out exactly like this column. The practical joke is just like Halloween --it masquerades as droll but is usually as fun as a punch in the nose.

I've got an idea: Why don't we throw Chuck's mother out the window and see what he says when she hits the ground...

I'm still going to dress up this weekend to attend a Halloween party, but only because that's how to get free beer. I'll be the guy wrapped in tin foil labeled "leftovers." But I know that I will look around at all the blood-letting and shake my leftover head because I'll never understand it.



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Copyright 2004 Jason Love
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