I don’t remember a time in my life when I wasn’t completely into horror and Halloween art. I remember being a little kid and reading the Goosebumps books – one story about a camera taking pictures and showing people how they’d die shortly after, I remember being unnerving when I was maybe six or seven or so. But I wasn’t repelled. Instead I just couldn’t quit.
I remember being around that age and finding this old book of ghost stories and jokes. One of them was about a woman with a ribbon around her neck. This old fable type of thing. Author Carmen Maria Machado did an updated version years later and it reminded me of being a kid and just having nothing to do but read that story. It’s crazy how this stuff, even as morbid as it is, follows us through the years.
At 12, I recall going to the library near my house at night, the sun having set early, school out and all. I checked out several Stephen King books. Back then there wasn’t really any social media – I spent weeks reading over Christine, The Dead Zone, Pet Sematary, with no distractions or anything else. I remember the feeling of just reading those completely without any other influences. It was transformative. Pet Sematary in particular was an insane gruesome trip. I read King himself didn’t even want to publish it at one point. At 13 or so, this was like crack to me. I couldn’t get enough.
As kids, everybody in the neighborhood would just go on huge epic treks of trick or treating. Nothing crazy happened, but I remember that strange otherworldly feel of everybody just wandering around after dark throughout our big old neighborhood. Long walks in the cold, everyone in some costume or other. It seemed mythical. After my sister, friends and I all aged out of trick or treating by middle school, I got into these books and then into movies, costumes, parties. I was just into all of it. I was into the whole aesthetic and vibe of the season. I’d always just liked the costumes and the decor and atmosphere. It was like stepping into another world.
In college I’d dive headlong into doing haunted house attractions. I rounded up everyone to go do that, every year. Still doing it now, even. Some of the tropes and tricks they do are the same, hospitals, meat grinders, old Southern cabins. I still find it entertaining. Once a year or so, and it’s gold. I especially love these indie haunts where I can just drive out into the middle-of-nowhere country and get lost in it all. That’s fun for me. I’d like to go further. Stay in some legitimately haunted places. See what comes of it. If nothing else, art might.
And the movies have been an undercurrent of it all. I’ve always just been voracious about consuming. The older I get, the more I find that’s so good. I feel horror can be a transformative genre. Movies like The Babadook, It Follows and Us, along with the long-form TV shows recently from Mike Flanagan, are examples of taking this genre and really wringing genuine depth out of a genre sometimes thought to be nothing but silly nonsense. Human and political truths about loneliness and family and love and connection.
Ultimately, I find myself just thinking about why I’m so attracted to all this horror stuff anyway. I guess it’s just in the human element. It’s a way to articulate the most difficult, thorny parts of life, through freakish metaphor. I like the way the genre can really show what we’re all about as humans. Primal survivor-mode stuff. There are plenty of stories about evil, but also plenty of characters fighting back against it. Making it through. I watch the 1978 Halloween every year and that’s an enduring thing because it’s about that struggle, about evil coming to town and some people fighting back. I can get behind it.