8/30/2010

Halloween

From the younger days of my childhood, to the older days of my current middle age, I always have looked forward to the arrival of Halloween. I have never been given to any form of superstition, but the supposedly haunted night of October 31, when orange jack-o'-lanterns glow in the sinister dark and mischievous spirits are believed to be on the loose, holds a special appeal for me.

I grew up watching the horror films that had been produced at Universal Studios in Hollywood during the 1930s and 1940s. When I viewed them as a child, on television in the early 1960s, I was enjoyably frightened by the gruesome stories of Frankenstein's monster, Count Dracula, the Mummy, the Invisible Man, and the Wolf Man. Those black-and-white films, which caused me to have more than a few nightmares at the time, will always be linked with the annual experience of Halloween in my mind.

I have happy memories of dressing up as a scary character on Halloween evening, going from door to door through the streets of my neighborhood to solicit handouts of candy, shouting "Trick or treat!" and holding out a bag as each door was opened. My friends and I generally preferred to put together our own outfits for Halloween, using odd bits of clothing and dabs of makeup to create a fanciful disguise. I think it probably was more fun to be a child in those days, when children were allowed and encouraged to use their own imaginations, before every holiday on the calendar became a heavy-handed exercise in corporate marketing.

Nowadays, when news reports are continually filled with superficial descriptions of daily horrors, and open wrongdoing by leaders in the spheres of business and governance appears to be rampant, the make-believe terror of Halloween actually offers a brief escape into a more benign world. No ghost or goblin could ever be as frightful, or as dangerous, as the greedy vampires who control Wall Street or the corrupt monsters who roam the halls of Congress.