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Pounding the Trick or Treat Beat

Robert M. Price

Imagine my surprise last October 31: not one single trick-or-treater! Don’t get me wrong. My complaint is not that my family and I were left to consume massive quantities of chocolate candy ourselves for lack of cooperation. No, that I could deal with. Believe me, I can deal with that. But I do hope we will have some costumed visitors this year. And I also hope they won’t be dressed as innocuous things like fairies, clowns, dogs and stuff like that. I am offering extra candy for vampires, witches, werewolves, devils, and monsters. And why? Because I am an old-time Halloween fan, and I hate to see the grand old festival yield to the utterly useless scruples of two groups of fanatics on either end of the spectrum.

First there are the Politically Correct types who also, for example, like to abolish competitive sports in schools. These are the well-meaning do-gooders who do us no good when they substitute "autumn celebrations" for Halloween, after school parties for trick-or-treating, Tinkerbell for Frankenstein. Everything has to be Disney-esque and antiseptic, sugar-coated and nicey-nicey. Well, you can keep your Barney the Dinosaur; give me Godzilla any day! As veteran Dracula-actor Christopher Lee remarked in his anthology Christopher Lee’s Treasury of Terror, every one of us has, deep down, a fascination with the Prince of Darkness. And that is because that prince is part of us, what the ancient rabbis called the "evil imagination," what Carl Jung called the Shadow. Both the rabbis and Jung knew that we must indulge this side of us via fantasy, which is obviously why Texas Chainsaw Massacre is number one at the box office as I write. (And of course I took my fifteen year old daughter to see it the other day.) Horror entertainment is not the preserve of a small clique of decadents and degenerates. If it were, Stephen King would still be a high school teacher living in a van down by the river. It speaks to something in all of us that we are better off indulging light-heartedly (though not without a good shiver) lest it remain bottled up and come exploding outward as it did at Columbine.

Then there are the poor, misinformed fundamentalists, who seem to have been absent the day it was explained that Halloween is a Christian holiday (by no means a Satanic one, as we hear the ignorant say). The name is a contraction of "All Hallows’ Eve" (or All Saints’ Eve), just as "Santa Claus" is a contraction of "Saint Nicholas." The idea is that the next day is All Saints’ Day on the Catholic calendar, Reformation Day on the Protestant schedule, and that Halloween represents the last fling of the powers of darkness before they must retreat in terror before the sanctity of the next day. So it is a mockery of the forces of evil, as per Martin Luther: "The devil, proud spirit, cannot endure to be mocked." Pity the poor hyper-scrupulous fundamentalist parents who refuse to let their kids celebrate Halloween! They are teaching their children superstition, taking the deviltry of Halloween infinitely more seriously than any Halloween reveler ever thought of doing!

It reminds me of a restaurant they used to have on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley. It was run by some crank who thought he was a messiah from Jupiter. The local fundamentalists picketed the place, taking this guy seriously as a false prophet and an antichrist. Get real! The guy was just a nut! Dungeons and Dragons is just a stupid game! And Halloween is just a lot of spooky fun!

The current opposition to Halloween is a sign of social decadence. On the one hand, Christians who boycott it are descending to the level of the very superstition they decry as "occultism." On the other, the Politically Correct types are further emasculating our culture and clipping the wings of the young imagination. Neither is doing us any good. And if you have any guts, you’ll be out there trick or treating. I’ll be waiting for you.


Copyright©2004 by Robert M Price
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