A slightly sour sweet
“Halloween wraps fear in innocence,
As though it were a slightly sour sweet.
Let terror, then, be turned into a treat…” — Nicholas Gordon
I’ve always wondered what it is in us that finds a small dose of fright so appealing. Most of us don’t like truly horrifying or gory fare, but even little ones can enjoy the hint of mystery and darkness in the small doses meted out at Halloween. I don’t think it’s just about the candy.
There’s something vaguely homeopathic about it, as if we are inoculating ourselves against real terror. Facing a cartoonish parody of the nightmares that truly haunt us can be an empowering thing, enabling us to laugh at imagery that, under different circumstances, might leave us trembling and tearful.
I never watch horror movies, and I don’t recommend them to anyone. My imagination is far too vivid to withstand the continual assault of insidiously destructive illusions. But I treasured the childish fun of dressing up as a character of my own choice, and venturing with my friends into the darkness we were seldom allowed to explore, returning with a bag full of treats to examine, trade and enjoy.
In some ways, Halloween is different now than when I was young. As parents and neighbors we feel more watchful, and who can blame us? However, there is a bonus to this vigilance. Perhaps our increased hovering over the festivities is partly born of our impulse toward vicarious participation in a holiday we never really outgrew.
If you or your loved ones celebrate Halloween with forays into the fearful, I hope you will remember to keep them wrapped in innocence, ensuring treats instead of tricks!
One year ago this week: