Elizabeth Toll

Stories: Real and Fictional


Scary stuff

Posted by harpwriter on October 18, 2009 at 7:00 PM


       October is one of my favorite months.  I have a vast collection of Halloween songs, decorations, and costumes.  I love to dress up anyway, but in October the whole world keeps me company.  When I was young and single, if I didn’t have a party to attend, I would go to the mall to see all the little kids trick or treating with their parents.  A few years later, living in a regular house rather than a dinky upstairs apartment, I was happy to bring in a supply of candy and welcome the trick or treaters that came to my door.  Then I had children of my own.  Like my mother before me, I helped my kids come up with elaborate costumes and took them around the neighborhood to beg for candy.  Often, at my children’s urging, I even dressed up myself.  


       These days my kids are teenagers and go out with their friends to parties while I stay home with my husband (who likes to answer the door in a grim reaper costume) and wait for the doorbell to ring so we can see the latest crop of little monsters.  


I like monsters.  I collect plush versions of them. At the coffeehouse, I often sing a little song called “Monsters Lullaby.”  In my DVD collection are plenty of old black and white movies of giant lizards, spiders, gorillas, and space aliens rampaging about, tearing up Tokyo or kidnapping pretty girls, cute kids, or maybe even Santa Clause.  I enjoy these, especially the ones with robots in the corners making snide remarks about the bad special effects, but if they aren’t available, most members of my household are happy to stand in for them.


        Occasionally, I even write a monster story.  Vampires, space aliens, mad scientists, warped wizards, these are a few of my favorite things.  I grew up reading Edgar Allen Poe, graduated to Neil Gamen, and thus have a fascination for things that go bump in the night.  I like to read and write dark fiction.  Not the sort of action slasher stuff produced by the movie industry this time of year, but the more thoughtful explorations of the dark side of the human psyche.  

    I do clowning when I’m not writing or harping, and it’s an interesting experience.  Quite a few people are scared of clowns.  That’s understandable.  We’re brought up to be wary of strangers and there’s nothing stranger than a living cartoon character coming down the street to talk to you.  I try to be as non-threatening as possible and give those who are frightened lots of space.  I‘m there to entertain, not to terrorize people, but clowns are a common phobia.  

       Some people blame the movie “It,” but I’ve never bought into that notion.  Stephan King recognized a common fear  and played with it in his story.  He did an excellent job, that’s why he makes the big bucks.  I could probably learn a thing or two from him, but Pennywise wasn’t the first scary clown that walked the earth.  The Joker in Batman came before him. There are plenty of even earlier examples. The tricksters in mythology could be hilarious, annoying, or downright scary.  I suppose they were an acknowledgement that comedy has it’s shadowy side.  What we find funny can often be viewed from another angle as cruel, mean spirited, or violent.  Amateur comedians can inspire dread in those around them. Most people don’t really want to be the butt of anyone’s jokes.  

       Yet humor is often courage in the face of fear.  We laugh at our human foibles,   making fun of what is wrong in the world to hold off fear and despair.  It is no coincidence that so many comedy greats emerged during the great depression.  People needed a laugh to bolster their spirits during such a difficult times.  



       Halloween is said to have gained it’s spooky reputation from a dread of winter’s approaching hardships.  The harvest was in--would it be enough food to get the household through winter?  Was there enough firewood?  Would the house be strong enough to hold out the weather?  These were life and death questions with no certain answers. The weight of such worry could crush a persons spirit.

        People are remarkably resilient. Sneak up on someone and yell “boo!“  They will usually jump, then giggle.  A scare and a laugh are both an adrenaline rush.  There’s a relief after the scare that it’s ok, we’re still alive and nothing really bad happened.  It happens a lot in life.  We are frightened, but we survive.  In Mexico this time of year, they remember their dead but they also celebrate life.  Laughter is one of the best celebrations.  What would life be without a little fun?

       Here’s hoping you have a wonderful Halloween.  Please add a comment to this blog to let me know what your plans are.  Will you be staying home?  Going to a party?   Ignoring the whole thing?   Will you be in costume and if so, what will you be dressing up as?  Do share before you go forth into the night...




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1 Comment

Reply margaret
10:36 AM on October 22, 2009 
This is a perfect Halloween day. Cloudy, dreary looking, leaves falling everywhere. Bringing back memories of the days when you knew all your neighbors, and went from house to house collecting homemade popcorn balls, cupcakes, cookies -- and my hand-colored trick-or-treat bag tearing from all the goodies.
We've got some chocolate socked in just in case we get any goulies, but if Halloween is like previous years, we'll probably be home watching "Army of Darkness", "Van Helsing", and eating all the candy ourselves. :d