The signs are all around. The orange and black Spirit Halloween signs are appearing where vacant storefronts stand. Advertisements for autumnal activities are cropping up. Brochures broadcasting local haunted festivities now adorn store counters, free for the taking. I picked up a leaflet for the local Field of Screams the other day although I really don’t like to be in scary situations. I do appreciate the spooky sense that they generate, however. This local event runs from early September through early November—the two months enterprising farmers can draw urbanites to their land, cash in hand. Halloween has been a major money-maker for many years now. The less doleful minded wonder why, but I think that lots of us are really afraid. Halloween says it’s okay to be so.
Perhaps it’s the realization that it’s all in good fun and nobody will really hurt you. I’ve attended a few of these haunted events over the years, but it was more fun to participate in them. Perhaps it goes back to Nashotah House. I’m guessing that most of you’ve never been. Nashotah is a gothic campus, at one time pretty isolated, out in the woods. Halloween was, once upon a time, a real celebration there. Our maintenance crew would offer a hayride through farm fields owned by the school, then through the cemetery on campus. I used to dress in a grim reaper costume and carry a kerosene lamp through the graveyard, awaiting the tractor. Nobody instructed me to do it, but we all knew it was in good fun. And I wasn’t the only volunteer who’d pop out from behind headstones. Students got into the spirit of it too.
These days remembering such shenanigans is more appealing than actually going out at night to have other people scare me. The last time I went to a haunted maze it was really too unnerving for me to enjoy. I volunteered instead for a local haunted house in New Jersey. The run up to Halloween was usually an intensely creative time of designing and fabricating homemade costumes, and thinking of ways to make pumpkins look scary. Now it’s become a season in its own right. An important segment of the economy. I won’t be going to our local Field of Screams, but I will understand those who do. Changes are in the air. It’s dark quite a bit earlier these days. The air is chilly in the morning. And the local fear fields open this weekend.