Thursday, October 30, 2008

31 Days of Halloween - Day 30 Spooky Bonus

On Halloween 1984, I was a freshman at New York University and had only been living in New York City for about two months. The weather that day was overcast but not cold. My Wednesday morning classes were over and after lunch, my roommate Steve, myself and I think one other person, headed off to the east village to attend a double feature of “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” (1931) and “Freaks” (1932) at a revival house theater which I believe used a rear screen projection system for their movies. It was the first time I’d seen either film on the big screen, and the first time I’d seen “Freaks” period. I remember the great, almost transformative feeling that came over me once the lights dimmed and Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor played from the soundtrack as the titles for “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” appeared on the screen. The feeling stuck with me through both features, and this already felt like a pretty damn good Halloween.

When we left the theater, it was already late afternoon. The sky had begun to darken. The wind had picked up a bit, blowing Fall leaves down the streets, and we were seeing our first kids in costumes coming home from school, or heading out with their parents to parties or trick or treating. I often find myself disoriented coming out of a movie theater after attending a matinee.

There’s something jarring about coming out of the dark theater into broad daylight, or watching a movie that is filled with rain only to be greeted by a sunny day or watching warm sun and stepping out into wind-blown snow. This day was like that too, but it was more like a magical transformation had occurred while we were in the theater and all of New York City had been infused by the spirit of Halloween. There was definitely something magical in the air that day, which is why I still remember it so clearly nearly a quarter of a century later.

Steve and I headed back to the dorm for dinner. Even the dining hall had a special quality to it that night. Dry ice had been added to the serving area. There were orange and black balloons, crepe streamers, and students in costumes ready to go out to clubs, parties, or even the Greenwich Village Halloween Parade which would pass by the windows of the dining hall in just a couple of hours. A Crowd of parade spectators had already begun to form outside and you could see them occasionally silhouetted against the window shades, their costumed forms like strange creatures out of a Hieronymous Bosch painting in shadow form. Two people acted out a murder against one shade. One of the balloons inside the dining hall seemed alive as it floated quickly around the room, rising then dipping down to head level as it worked its way around the room, presumedly riding currents of air, but to the eyes seeming very much like a living creature, or ghost even.

By the time we headed back out, the Greenwich Village Halloween Parade had just started. At this point, it was barely a decade old and still small enough to maintain its short route between Sixth Avenue and the Washington Square Arch. In the next couple of years the parade would become so large that the route would need to be expanded to accommodate the crowds of participants and spectators, though it was never easy to tell where the division ended.

Steve and I worked our way to the subway station, taking in some of the parade as we went. Our destination was the Thalia uptown for another double feature, this time “Tales From the Crypt” (1972) and “Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors” (1965). The Thalia was a revival cinema that was featured prominently in Woody Allen’s “Annie Hall” (1977) and has an unusual feature in that the floor of the theater slants upwards towards the screen so that you feel like your sitting in an airplane at take-off. I don’t know how the people in front of you didn’t end up blocking your view, but they didn’t. We were joined by Steve’s brother Greg and talked movies for a bit, comparing the merits of the Universal horror films and whether Lugosi or Lee made a better Dracula, before the features started. I’d never seen either of these anthology films before, but loved three of the five stories in “Tales From the Crypt” and enjoyed the very much inferior “Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors” but more for the unintentionally humorous dialogue throughout, which made this a great horror movie to see with a crowd.

It was pretty late by the time these movies let out, but we were all young and this was New York City where we were already used to beginning our social lives at 11:00 PM. The three of us went out for a second dinner, then Greg left us to go home and Steve and I returned downtown where we made the circuit of the dorms searching out parties where the alcohol flowed freely. Naturally, this is the part of that great Halloween that I remember not at all.

To wind down this year’s month long Halloween celebration I have decided to watch both of these double features again. Alas, I’ve split them over two days, and Steve is not at my side to watch them. Even so, they feel like Halloween to me.


Robert Pope said...

Great story, pal.

Max the drunken severed head said...

This nostalgic post, like many on your blog, was a fun and lovely read.


Dane said...

I agree, what a great read. That sounds like a terrific day.

Trix said...


Thank you for sharing this wistful tale. You've done a beautiful job of traveling back in time and taking the reader with you.

I really must thank you again for including me in all of your Halloween festivities. I've had *so* much fun! The amount of creativity (and humor) I've been introduced to over the past month is absolutely amazing.

Have a perfect Halloween...and Happy Haunting!