The farther we’ve gotten from the magic and mystery of our past, the more we’ve come to need Halloween
Paula Curan: October Dreams, A Celebration of Halloween
Theme in Yellow
by Carl Sandburg (1878 – 1967)
I spot the hills With yellow balls in autumn. I light the prairie cornfields Orange and tawny gold clusters And I am called pumpkins. On the last of October When dusk is fallen Children join hands And circle round me Singing ghost songs And love to the harvest moon; I am a jack-o’-lantern With terrible teeth And the children know I am fooling.
Mr. Macklin’s Jack O’Lantern
by David McCord (1897 – 1997)
Mr. Macklin takes his knife And carves the yellow pumpkin face: Three holes bring eyes and nose to life, The mouth has thirteen teeth in place. Then Mr. Macklin just for fun Transfers the corn-cob pipe from his Wry mouth to Jack’s, and everyone Dies laughing! O what fun it is Till Mr. Macklin draws the shade And lights the candle in Jack’s skull. Then all the inside dark is made As spooky and as horrorful As Halloween, and creepy crawl The shadows on the tool-house floor, With Jack’s face dancing on the wall. O Mr. Macklin! where’s the door?
Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn and caldron bubble. Fillet of a fenny snake, In the caldron boil and bake; Eye of newt and toe of frog, Wool of bat and tongue of dog, Adder’s fork and blind-worm’s sting, Lizard’s leg and howlet’s wing, For a charm of powerful trouble, Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.
Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn and caldron bubble. Cool it with a baboon’s blood, Then the charm is firm and good
Something’s missing from the spirit of Halloween this year – oh that’s right – the fun. COVID 19 has kicked the proverbial stuffing out of the concept of having fun this year. I like Halloween. I enjoy having neighborhood kids come to my door and meet and greet parents throughout the night. I like the voluntary community spirit Halloween brings forth and the excitement of little children getting candy. What’s not to like about ghouls and goblin’s, witches and princesses, werewolves, clowns, monsters and super heroes visiting you with a big smile on their face. It pains me to be turning off my light this year, to not carve a pumpkin and generally ignore Halloween all under the guise of being responsible. When did responsibility have anything to do with a holiday that enables children to overdose on sugar?
On top of the just plain disappointment in general of turning my back on Halloween it’s the fact that this year is the perfect storm of total Halloweeness – it’s on a Saturday night with a full moon. Even in this current predicament, we should all feel compelled to go out and do a little howling. I’ll have to settle for making pumpkin bread and eating my mini Peanut M and M bags and mini Mounds bars in the dark.
Halloween is supposed to be a little bit campy, a little bit scary and a little bit naughty all rolled into one fun sized holiday, something Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, does well. So – if you are in need of a Halloween fun infusion, check out Elvira’s video below – singing her hit single (or is it a double?) – 2 Big Pumpkins. Happy Halloween!
By Kenn Nesbitt
We’re having a Halloween party at school. I’m dressed up like Dracula. Man, I look cool! I dyed my hair black, and I cut off my bangs. I’m wearing a cape and some fake plastic fangs.
I put on some makeup to paint my face white, like creatures that only come out in the night. My fingernails, too, are all pointed and red. I look like I’m recently back from the dead.
My mom drops me off, and I run into school and suddenly feel like the world’s biggest fool. The other kids stare like I’m some kind of freak— the Halloween party is not till next week.
I have walked a great while over the snow,
And I am not tall nor strong.
My clothes are wet, and my teeth are set,
And the way was hard and long.
I have wandered over the fruitful earth,
But I never came here before.
Oh, lift me over the threshold, and let me in at the door!
The cutting wind is a cruel foe.
I dare not stand in the blast.
My hands are stone, and my voice a groan,
And the worst of death is past.
I am but a little maiden still,
My little white feet are sore.
Oh, lift me over the threshold, and let me in at the door!
Her voice was the voice that women have,
Who plead for their heart’s desire.
She came—she came—and the quivering flame
Sunk and died in the fire.
It never was lit again on my hearth
Since I hurried across the floor,
To lift her over the threshold, and let her in at the door.
Poetry and play are synonymous in my life. I realize that is not true for many people, the process of reading or writing arduous to those that find little pleasure in it. I wrote Even A Man several years ago in October as a lark. I was remembering childhood horror movies in anticipation of Halloween and looking back on those movies that had made a particular impression on me.
In the 1960s television consisted of 5 broadcast channels on our black and white tube tv in St. Paul; ABC, NBC, CBS, Public Television and one independent channel WCTN that was local programming. A highlight of the local channel was Mel’s Matinee. Mel Jass a local TV personality hosted a movie in the early afternoon and regularly showed horror movies. Fortunately he mixed them up enough with other movies that once in a while I could sneak one over on my Mom and watch a movie that wouldn’t be otherwise allowed on the rare sick day when I stayed home from school or a rainy Saturday afternoon. These were horror movies unlike today’s genre of horror, which consists mostly of torture porn with prolific gore. These were classic B-movie titles from the 1940’s and 1950’s that were more campy than scary. Movies like The Blob, The Wolfman, Dracula and one of my all time favorites – Gargoyles. I was shocked to learn as an adult some of these films were made in color, it was just my TV that was in black and white.
I must have watched The Wolfman 10 times as a kid. It is burned into my brain that there is a witch like character who chants a short poem several times in the movie; “Even a man who is pure in heart and says his prayers by night may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms and Autumn moon is bright.” I remembered those lines and wondered if it was tied to a longer poem, that predated the movie. Not surprisingly it wasn’t, it was only part of Hollywood horror script writing. So I playfully set out to finish the poem, using only the first line as a prompt.
Even A Man
By T. A. Fry
“Even a Man who is pure at heart and says his prayers at night,”* May become a wolf among the lambs, when the moon is full and bright. Beware the growl, a yearning yowl, that sets some men apart. `Best you fear the danger near that comes from grizzled hearts.
It’s not purity that will restrain a man or subjugate his obsessions. Nor the piety of his refrains, a fairer measure of his mind’s possessions. Many holy men declared a war; righteous virtue as their banner. And sent to their deaths countless scores while pious in their manner.
For men will slaughter their sisters and brothers to usurp what they desire. And enslave their children for wealth and power to build their own empire. If only the moon could show our doom and reveal terror lurking near, We’d damn their slurs and kill the curs and never evil fear.
But here’s a truth that in this world there is good upon these lands. For your mirror shows a deeper woe in whose visage wicked stands. Before you decree that you can see those worthy of your wrath. Best hold tight and shine a light upon your heart’s true path.
*The opening line is from the 1941 film The Wolf Man.