Commentary: Halloween | KERA News

Commentary: Halloween

Dallas, TX –

Halloween's certainly not just for kids anymore. But conmmentator Rawlins Gilliland thinks we should consider them more as the day approaches.

Halloween has ebbed, in my lifetime, from being a quirky seasonal event into becoming the second biggest American holiday of the year. Of course, with success comes controversy. Some liken celebrating Halloween to satanic devil worship but I say the only thing we need fear going to hell is our Grimm's Fairy Tale imaginations.

My earliest Halloween terror was wondering what my charming but children-clueless Mother would choose to give the neighborhood trick or treat-ers. I mean, this is the woman who served my Cub Scout third graders unsalted Matzo crackers with clam dip. Mother became legendary in 1952 for giving each costumed kid a box of Clorets breath gum, turning their mouths chartreuse and their parents beet red. Another year, after I begged her to get something normal' like candy, she proudly passed out Baker's unsweetened chocolate bars. I thought Nancy, who was dressed as a witch, was acting in character when she began projectile vomiting. After her mom appeared screaming on our porch, Mother, who never missed a teachable moment', explained that Nancy was in costume but her mother was a real witch'.

Twenty Halloweens later in 1972 San Francisco, I checked in to a gold-rush-era brothel turned $12 a week boarding house called The Bachelor Quarters. By then, San Francisco had attracted legions of gay blades so October 31rst became the citywide go-to date for creative costume pageantry. Which explains why the person giving me the keys was dressed as Mae West. My next-door neighbor was Janis Joplin any day but the guy across the hall was, for that night only, Pat Nixon. By dawn I'd fallen head over high heels in love with grown-up Halloween magic in that haunting house.

Today's proliferation of Halloween Haunted Houses was spawned years later following horrific incidents of razor blades in apples and poisoned candy. As an alternative to traditional fare, these tasteless tasty thrill and chill sites have become a big business national phenomenon.

But for my taste, skip the gore. I've never liked seeing dismembered body parts anywhere and even less after I actually saw my severed fingers on the floor - yes, successfully reattached after a power saw saga. Even the inevitable hanged men dummy decor lost its appeal after I found a real corpse hanging while hiking in the woods near Irving in 2000. But I'm mad for the gothic mad scientist monster and crazed werewolf hair salon vignettes.

I've volunteered for charity at Hangman's House of Horrors in Ft. Worth. It's glorious fun for one who loves nighttime nightmare fright to be cast as Jack the Ripper, lurking in the dark dank foggy Victorian London street shadows. I've played Dr. Frankenstein, bellowing as the lightening bolts sputtered from the monster on an inclined gurney, "He's alive! He's alive!" I feel alive when I'm scared to death if I'm in no danger. So when I spotted someone's baby boy beginning to whimper, I knelt down and, remaining in character, gently whispered in his ear until he clapped and smiled: "You'll survive. You'll survive!."

Happy Halloween. Boo!

Rawlins Gilliland is a writer from Dallas.

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