In Socorro, you know for sure Halloween is just around the corner when the huge inflatable yard decorations are displayed in front of Randy’s Ace Hardware.
It’s a California Street tradition.
I guess Halloween traditions have changed over the years. Although we still have trick-or-treating and parties, traditions like the kids starting a bonfire in the middle of the street in the movie “Meet Me in St. Louis” are generally frowned upon today.
Of course, this is not the 1890s, and I realize traditions evolve over time, but I hope I never see the day when kids will do their trick-or-treating by an app on their cell phones.
When I was little, the scariest Halloween tale was the “Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” where a headless horseman would gallop up behind the hapless Ichabod Crane, who made the mistake of walking home alone on All Hallows’ Eve. That was before blood and gore replaced suspense and foreboding in movies.
Back then Halloween was mainly for kids; when the elementary school let us change into our costumes after lunch and then we went trick-or-treating all over town.
Considering that Halloween is a throwback to Celtic pagan ceremonies when the Celts believed the ghosts of the dead would walk the earth, I find it interesting how it’s now somehow linked with anything scary. Like vampires or witches, and now there are zombies.
My first introduction to zombies was on our black and white television set watching a staticky 1932 movie called “White Zombie” starring an alarmingly evil Bela Lugosi. It was based on the one-time voodoo practice in Haiti where plantation owners would slip a poor unsuspecting soul a zombie mickey which made the recipient display all signs of being dead, but he wasn’t.
Then all those zombie-fied gentlemen were dug up in the dead of night and put to work in a sugar cane mill.
That movie scared the heebie-jeebies out of me when I was a kid, right from the first scene where the protagonists’ carriage had to stop for a funeral — in the middle of the road. It was so the deceased would not be dug up and turned into a zombie.
After that, there weren’t very many zombie movies for a while, unless you count “The Mummy,” where a long-dead Boris Karloff steps out of a sarcophagus in his mummy wrapping and somehow transforms himself into a living person.
This week I’ve been revisiting all those old 1940s movies that gave me my first chills, like “Frankenstein,” “The Wolf Man,” “Dracula,” “The Mummy,” and all their sequels. Those are the kind of horror movies I grew up with, way before cable and there were only three or four television channels, all of which signed off at midnight with the “Star Spangled Banner” (in Kentucky it was “My Old Kentucky Home”).
We’d stay up late on Friday nights to be scared watching movies with the aforementioned array of mad scientist monsters, mummies and werewolves on Shock Theater. Those were all what I call fun-scary.
Fun-scary is not real-life scary. Real-life scared is like just missing an oncoming car while trying to pass another, or like when your wife says, “we have to talk.”
Worse yet, when your bank’s website tells you there’s been a data breach and you should change your password. Talk about nervous tension.
Oh, they say, there’s nothing wrong with my old password but just for security and for my own good I have to come up with a new one. And it should be at least eight characters long, but 15 is better. And a combination of upper and lower case letters. And include numbers and a symbol. But not to use a password I have used before and not to use my birthdate or name of a pet or my first car.
Also, I shouldn’t use the same password I have on other sites and it would be a good idea not to write it down where someone could find it. Just keep it in your head, I guess. Or stash it in a safety deposit box at First State Bank. And this is back to analog paper.
I saw a post where somebody said they were changing their password to “incorrect,” so if they forgot it, it would say “your password is incorrect.”
But I digress.
Anyway, the oddest of all our holidays is coming up Monday, when all sorts of creatures, superheroes and even fairy princesses, come knocking on your door. The night it’s OK for kids to take candy from strangers.
You don’t have to be the undead to enjoy Halloween.
You just have to like candy.