Sunday, August 29, 2010

One Post; Three Answers

At the beginning of the month, two of the questions I was asked involved my favorite holiday, Halloween. A third question concerned ghost stories and urban legends. I'm going to answer all three of them in this one post for two reasons. First, they're all related enough that thematically it seems okay to do so. Second, the other thing that all three questions have in common is that when I first read them I thought with the appropriate amount of mulling time I'd be able to provide detailed, satisfactory answers. for all three questions, sufficient mulling time turned up the sad fact that satisfying answers proved elusive.


Michael Jones asked what my favorite ORIGINAL costumes were of trick-or-treaters who have visited my house in recent years.

That turns out to be a pretty tough question to answer. At our house, my wife and I usually switch duties each year. One year I stay home and hand out the candy while she takes our kids trick-or-treating. The next year we switch roles. Last year I was out on trick-or-treating escort duty, so I didn't see a lot of the costumes parading through the neighborhood, except from a distance. Our street is very dark, so I never really got a good look.

Looking back on recent years when I was home handing out the candy, there weren't a lot of original costumes in the sense of the kids coming dressed as their own creations. There were the usual suspects of football players, princesses, soldiers, licensed characters ranging from Star Wars to Pokemon and the Super Mario Brothers, but nothing I'd say was invented out of whole cloth.

Even my own kids are not immune to that. My son has been a Star Wars character almost every other year. In terms of original costumes that are home made vs the mass manufactured store bought variety, I've seen a bunch of varying quality, but nothing that really leaped out and grabbed be (even figuratively). I also don't generally photograph other people's kids, so I don't have much to show here.

I will say, with complete parental pride, that my own kids, whether dressed as Star Wars characters, Cat Woman, a robot, frog or rhinoceros, with only a couple of exceptions have either worn completely original costumes, or store bought costumes augmented with hand made elements, or mostly home made costumes augmented by store bought elements. While the photos of my daughter's awesome frog costume have eluded me, here are photos of her as Dr. Syn, alias the Scarecrow from last year and as one of the two witch doctors from "Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?" from 2008. My son appears in his mummy costume from last year (before neck wrap was adjusted), and as a Clone ARC Trooper from "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" from 2008.




Robert Pope asked me what the one piece of visual entertainment (tv or movie) best encapsulates and expresses my emotional attachment to Halloween. 

Again, I thought with a little ruminating I'd come up with an answer, but there isn't one. It turns out that I haven't truly found a movie, or tv episode or special that really conveys my emotional attachment to Halloween. I guess this means I'll have to make something of my own. 

Movies and television have certainly played a central part in my annual Halloween festivities from childhood on, and while some movies I connect with Halloween more than others, it's more as a trigger of Halloween memories I associate with the movie, and not because the film's content suggests what I love of Halloween. 

For me, the biggest triggers that encapsulate my attachment to Halloween are smells. Candy corn, fall leaves, autumnal air, candles, pumpkin, the smell of the inside of those cheap plastic masks made by Collegeville and Ben Cooper that we wore as kids, the plastic decorations, all evoke what I love about the holiday. Certain seasonal artwork does the same thing, as did Target's unrivaled 2003 Halloween campaign, Ray Bradbury's "The Halloween Tree," any incarnation of "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," and a few other things. The closest movie and tv connections are the "Night on Bald Mountain" segment of "Fantasia" followed by "It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown" if it ditched the Snoopy WWI flying ace subplot, "The Munsters," "The Ghost and Mr. Chicken," and "The House on Haunted Hill," but none of them has everything, or comes really close. 



Finally, Sean Cloran wanted to know what my favorite urban legend or ghost story is. 

Again, I'm sorry to say I just don't have one. All of my collections of ghost stories are currently boxed up and tucked away, and I meant to flip through them and see what jumped out, but since this was supposed to be my favorite story, I decided I should know what it is without having to look for one. As far as urban legends go, I've always been partial to the phantom hitchhiker tales where lonely young men give rides to attractive women who disappear when they reach their declared destination. When the man inquires at the house he learns the girl was the daughter of the residents and she died years ago. I always felt this story had a few nice elements to hook you in. Usually they occur in a very specific location making it allegedly possible for anyone to see and even give the ghost a lift. The ghost, for once, is non-threatening. The story is just as much about the man giving the ride as the girl taking it. It's sort of a tear jerker. I also simply like the impact this unobtainable girl has on the lonely man, and always wonder what he'll do next. Will he keep looking for her? 

As much as I like this particular story, I don't know that it's heads above any others, but I guess it will have to do. 

Sean, I have one more question from you to answer and hopefully that will make up for the lackluster answers here. For everyone else, my apologies. There's always next month. 



Robert Pope said...

Actually, your answer (or lack of a definitive "trigger") is a great answer in and of itself. Perhaps the better question would have been "what movie or tv show, without which, would greatly diminish or even negate the Halloween experience?" to which I would reply "It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" and of course my annual parade of Universal monster DVDs, mostly James Whale with the usual Tod Browning/Karl Freund tagalongs, and of course the Bing Crosby/Disney "Sleepy Hollow," which to this day is my fave.

Chris 'Frog Queen' Davis said...

Thanks for sharing. I love the costumes - what creativity.


Sean Cloran said...

Good job running the question gauntlet. This post looked exhausting.

John Rozum said...

Robert -- With that in mind, I actually have a related post coming up in this year's Halloween Countdown. My choices are very similar, though I generally don't get to them all each year. I'd also add something with Vincent Price and some other animated shorts.

Chris -- Thank you!

Sean -- Thank you. I've got one more question from you to take care of, but it may be in early September and not tomorrow.

Michael Jones said...

Your kids rock and/or roll!