Halloween Extravaganza: How to Re-Halloween When You’ve Un-Halloweened Halloween (aka Donna’s list of Halloween feels)
I was born and raised in Connecticut. The only way I could get more New England is if I pahk the cah in Hahvahd Yahd. Which I don’t. I don’t paRk my caR anywhere near HaRvaRd YaRd because I always avoided driving in Massachusetts as much as possible. At least in the eastern portion of the state.
I’m used to four seasons even though I absolutely despised one of them and was allergic to another. Humidity always sucked but it was always a thing and I reveled in those days when the humidity dropped to like 50% and it didn’t feel like I was choking on my own lungs in the summer.
And then came September. One: The Big E. It’s the state fair to end all state fairs. Technically it’s a multi-state fair and you can eat your way through that states. And your pants. It’s glorious. Two: Autumn.
OMFG I love autumn. For about five weeks, from September through Halloween the weather is divine. Mid-70s to 60s during the day, 50s at night. Perfect for jeans and sweatshirts, drinking apple cider and eating apple everything and maybe a little bit of pumpkin (I’m not part of that cult). I put out Halloween decorations and carved the shit out of some pumpkins. I burned all the pumpkin spice Yankee Candles (I AM part of that cult) and I absolutely loved cuddling in on those crisp autumn nights and watching scary movies. It was all so perfect.
I also loved just driving around. I lived right on the edge of the northwestern corner of the state and every once in a while I’d just drive on very windy, narrow New England roads closed in on either side by miles of yellow, red, and orange-tinted trees. The air smelled of decay but it was so fresh and crisp and clean that I will never forget it.
Also near where I lived were a pile of very old cemeteries dating back to the last 18th, early 19th centuries. I loved just walking through these places, so quiet and peaceful and not at all creepy (during the day) and I would take pictures just to further cement their images in my mind and in my life.
And, of course, whether you’re a kid or an adult, you need to decide on your Halloween costume in one of two ways living in the northeastern states: having it be something you can wear a heavy ass coat over or have it be something that’s actually warm. Because it’s cold on Halloween. Not usually snow cold. I can count on one hand with fingers to spare the number of times I’ve seen snowflakes on Halloween. And it’s usually just a couple of flakes in the air if anything. But it’s see-your-breath cold on Halloween and your thighs go numb walking around.
Except the last Halloween I spent in Connecticut where we got a lovely snowpocalypse just days before the big day, dropping a record-breaking foot and a half of snow on the state. [Wing: Jesus, and I freaked out when it flurried in Michigan my first October there. I would have dropped dead on the spot in Connecticut.] All those beautifully colored trees had been dumped to the ground by a foot and a half of heavy, wet snow. The record before that was an inch and a half. Nature was like fuck you. You’ll need this memory where you’re going.
Where I went, where I am, is the desert. I now live in Arizona, in the Valley of the Sun, because fuck snow. Of course the first winter I was here it actually did snow in the valley (first time in like 100 years) and I nearly lost my shit. Haven’t seen snow since. I’m okay with that.
I love everything about where I live now, even the monstrous heat. Because I don’t have to deal with snow and ice and sleet and freezing rain and mother fucker my locks iced up and my windshield wipers iced up and I got that damn four inch streak of ice clean across my line of sight and I’m running out of wiper fluid. I bought a new car days after moving here. I still have the original wipers on there and I think I’ve used them ten times total. Heaters? Try less cold air conditioning. I have a very small window now where I can wear long sleeves without getting awkwardly sweaty. We’re talking a window of days in, like, January. I have my sweater Uggs that I bought while still living in Connecticut. Those things are in pristine condition because same thing with those. They’re thick corded wool lined with more wool. How often do you think I can wear those and not dehydrate in a matter of minutes?
Christmas was weird, what with palm trees and saguaro cacti wrapped in Christmas lights and no cold. But Halloween was weirder. So much weirder. It just didn’t feel the same and it still doesn’t and it makes my soul die a little. I was so discombobulated my first Halloween I barely knew it’d arrived let alone passed. And I even dressed up. It felt like celebrating Christmas in July. Something wasn’t quite right.
Now that I’ve been here for five years my expectations are starting to shift. The heat finally broke around mid-September so it’s no longer 100+ degrees and the mornings are only in the 60s, with highs reading maybe in the upper 90s. Squeeeeeee! Fall’s coming! Still not at Code Cider level of fall, but the shift has happened within me. I’m adapting. But I still need to shove Halloween down my throat in order to really feel the mood. And I mean force it because shit’s still not right here. Yeah, I’ve adapted but I still can’t buy pumpkins yet because they will FUCKING MELT. Melting pumpkins is a sad sight to behold. [Wing: I think we would all like pictures of this please and thank you.]
So what do I do?
And yes, sometimes it’s really shit. It’s not just a good horror movie that gets me in the Halloween mood. It has to FEEL Halloween. I have to see it on the screen. I want to see the leaves and remember what all that dead shit smells like because I don’t have that now. I have second spring. Literally. Shit blooms twice in Arizona: before going dormant in the early summer, and once again when it comes out of dormancy. Lucky for me I don’t have allergies anymore.
I don’t care how old you are or what your proclivities are for horror movies. Hocus Pocus is hands down the best Halloween movie in existence. Ever. For infinity. It’s set in Salem, at Halloween. LOOK AT ALL THE TREES. Sigh. And graveyards and Billy and Binx and salt to cast the bitches away and witches, witches, witches. This movie’s, like, 20 years old at this point so if you haven’t seen it yet, get on it.
This movie is such a fucking turd but I kind of love it. Set in Missouri in October, things are a little more yellow but still filled with dead leaves and Halloween-like things. Loosely based on Stephen King’s short story of the same name, it was a made-for-TV movie that went nowhere and rightly so. If you can believe it, the even worse Sometimes They Come Back Again is actually more accurate to King’s story itself. Ick. [Wing: I can’t believe I’ve never seen this.]
But this movie is about a boy who witnesses his brother’s death at the hands of a group of hoods, who then end up getting hit by a train and dying themselves. The boy’s family moves away only for the boy, now a man, to come back with his own family many years later to teach only to find the skeletons in his closet start tumbling out. His students end up dying only to be replaced by the hoods from the man’s past. Dun dun dun!
If you haven’t watched this Netflix original series yet, I can’t even talk to you right now. Two words: 80s. Horror. The creators NAILED IT. From the theme song (totally worth a download all on its own) to the clothes to the teeny tiny little details to the epic creep without all the heaps of cheese. I’m so excited for season two I can barely contain myself. So much effort and love was put into this show and it shows. I think the setting is early fall because there’s a swimming pool scene and they’re still in school but dressing warm and I’m guessing the pool just hadn’t been closed yet. It epically blends horror and elements of sci-fi into a TV show of perfection.
Young Will disappears only to have a quiet girl named Eleven appear in his place. Weird things start happening, especially at Will’s house, where his mother witnesses it. Except no one else has seen anything, leading her to start to spiral and people to start side-eying her. Meanwhile government experiments and more people keep disappearing and a Demogorgon. You’re welcome.
I’m actually not the biggest werewolf fan (*ducks Wing*) but Ginger Snaps is glorious. It’s a smaller budget Canadian film that’s gained incredible cult standing among pretty much everyone who watches it. [Wing: Hey, more werewolves for me. I’m not worried.]
Ginger and Brigitte are sisters who are a little . . . Eccentric. Trending toward the darker things in life (but distinctly not goth) they’re basically considered outcasts. Until Ginger gets attacked by a dog and things start to change . . . Set at Halloween, of course.
A lot of the time I feel like I can get into my head better when reading a book than when watching a movie or TV show. So here are some books that speak to the Halloween in us all. I’ve reviewed all of these so in the interest of backing down on overload I’ll just point to my reviews (while avoiding the cheese because *looks around*).
Asylum series by Madeline Roux
For sixteen-year-old Dan Crawford, New Hampshire College Prep is more than a summer program—it’s a lifeline. An outcast at his high school, Dan is excited to finally make some friends in his last summer before college. But when he arrives at the program, Dan learns that his dorm for the summer used to be a sanatorium, more commonly known as an asylum. And not just any asylum—a last resort for the criminally insane.
As Dan and his new friends, Abby and Jordan, explore the hidden recesses of their creepy summer home, they soon discover it’s no coincidence that the three of them ended up here. Because the asylum holds the key to a terrifying past. And there are some secrets that refuse to stay buried. [Wing: I don’t normally like stories set in asylums, but this one sounds like it might be interesting.]
The Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich
Three students: dead.
Carly Johnson: vanished without a trace.
Two decades have passed since an inferno swept through Elmbridge High, claiming the lives of three teenagers and causing one student, Carly Johnson, to disappear. The main suspect: Kaitlyn, “the girl of nowhere.”
Kaitlyn’s diary, discovered in the ruins of Elmbridge High, reveals the thoughts of a disturbed mind. Its charred pages tell a sinister version of events that took place that tragic night, and the girl of nowhere is caught in the center of it all. But many claim Kaitlyn doesn’t exist, and in a way, she doesn’t – because she is the alter ego of Carly Johnson.
Carly gets the day. Kaitlyn has the night. It’s during the night that a mystery surrounding the Dead House unravels and a dark, twisted magic ruins the lives of each student that dares touch it.
The Cemetery Boys by Heather Brewer (formerly, now Zach Brewer, comes with epic Lost Boys feels)
When Stephen is forced to move back to the nowhere town where his father grew up, he’s already sure he’s not going to like it. Spencer, Michigan, is like a town straight out of a Hitchcock movie, with old-fashioned people who see things only in black-and-white. But things start looking up when Stephen meets the mysterious twins Cara and Devon. They’re total punks–hardly the kind of people Stephen’s dad wants him hanging out with–but they’re a breath of fresh air in this backward town. The only problem is, Cara and Devon don’t always get along, and as Stephen forms a friendship with the charismatic Devon and something more with the troubled Cara, he starts to feel like he’s getting caught in the middle of a conflict he doesn’t fully understand. And as Devon’s group of friends, who hang out in a cemetery they call The Playground, get up to increasingly reckless activities to pass the summer days, Stephen worries he may be in over his head.
Stephen’s fears prove well-founded when he learns of Spencer’s dark past. It seems the poor factory town has a history of “bad times,” and many of the town’s oldest residents attribute the bad times to creatures right out of an urban legend. The legend goes that the only way the town will prosper again is if someone makes a sacrifice to these nightmarish creatures. And while Stephen isn’t one to believe in old stories, it seems Devon and his gang might put a lot of faith in them. Maybe even enough to kill for them.
Now, Stephen has to decide what he believes, where his allegiances lie, and who will really be his friend in the end.
The Girl from the Well by Rin Chupeco
Okiku is a lonely soul. She has wandered the world for centuries, freeing the spirits of the murdered-dead. Once a victim herself, she now takes the lives of killers with the vengeance they’re due. But releasing innocent ghosts from their ethereal tethers does not bring Okiku peace. Still she drifts on.
Such is her existence, until she meets Tark. Evil writhes beneath the moody teen’s skin, trapped by a series of intricate tattoos. While his neighbors fear him, Okiku knows the boy is not a monster. Tark needs to be freed from the malevolence that clings to him. There’s just one problem: if the demon dies, so does its host.
Bloody Mary series by Hillary Monahan
There is a right way and a wrong way to summon her.
Jess had done the research. Success requires precision: a dark room, a mirror, a candle, salt, and four teenage girls. Each of them–Jess, Shauna, Kitty, and Anna–must link hands, follow the rules . . . and never let go.
A thrilling fear spins around the room the first time Jess calls her name: “Bloody Mary. Bloody Mary. BLOODY MARY.” A ripple of terror follows when a shadowy silhouette emerges through the fog, a specter trapped behind the mirror.
Once is not enough, though–at least not for Jess. Mary is called again. And again. But when their summoning circle is broken, Bloody Mary slips through the glass with a taste for revenge on her lips. As the girls struggle to escape Mary’s wrath, loyalties are questioned, friendships are torn apart, and lives are forever altered. [Wing: This one has been on my to read list for a long time now. I should bump it to the top this month.]
Cas Lowood has inherited an usual vocation: he kills the dead.
So did his father before him, until his gruesome murder by a ghost he sought to kill. Now, armed with his father’s mysterious and deadly athame, Cas travels the country with his kitchen-witch mother and their spirit-sniffing cat. Together they follow legends and local lore, trying to keep up with the murderous dead – keeping pesky things like the future and friends at bay.
When they arrive in a new town in search of a ghost the locals call Anna Dressed in Blood, Cas doesn’t expect anything outside of the ordinary: move, hunt, kill. What he finds instead is a girl entangled in curses and rage, a ghost like he’s never faced before. She still wears the dress she wore on the day of her brutal murder in 1958: once white, but now stained red and dripping blood. Since her death, Anna has killed any and every person who has dared to step into the deserted Victorian house she used to call home.
But she, for whatever reason, spares his life. [Wing: I really enjoyed these two books, though it’s been awhile since I read them.]
The Devouring series by Simon Holt
When Reggie reads about the Vours in a mysterious old journal, she assumes they are just the musings of an anonymous lunatic. But when her little brother, Henry, begins to act strangely, it’s clear that these creatures exist beyond a madwoman’s imagination, and Reggie finds out what happens when fears come to life.
To save people she loves, Reggie must learn to survive in a world of nightmares. Can she devour her own fears before they devour her? [Wing: Another series I enjoyed the hell out of. Reggie was great throughout.]
As if this series needs any further explanation. [Wing: If you don’t have copies yet, do try to get your hands on the ones with the original illustrations, because the redone ones are not nearly as creepy.]
I don’t bake often, but Halloween is one of the times I do bake, mainly because I love the flavors. Ginger, molasses, pumpkin spice, apple cider, I bake with it all. Aside from lighting some pumpkin spice or fireside candles, baking is the next best thing to filling your house with all those lovely smells. And then you get to eat them. Bonus.
I’ve made all of these recipes and I highly recommend them.
White Chocolate-Topped Gingerbread Cookies
Carrot Cake Mix Pumpkin Cookies
Old Fashioned Soft Pumpkin Cookies
These things help me get through the year without getting taken in by the desert. They help. But they’ll never replace Connecticut in October. They can’t. Or Sleepy Hollow in October. I went there the last time I was in the state, maybe three years ago now, and it was wonderful. A good little fix.
I have my tchotchkes I put out (World Market is WONDERFUL for that kind of shit) and, of course, the candles. But at the end of the day it’s still 90 degrees and sunny all the damn time and I haven’t seen the leaves change in years and it’s just not the same. But I make it my own, one movie and book and cookie at a time. [Wing: I love this look at how you make your own holiday spirit even in a setting that will never be quite right.]