Spine-tinglers: A Truly Creepy Childhood Hallowe’en

It’s October 31st and beautifully sunny.  That means I can actually write this brief post without looking over my shoulder half a dozen times or panicking as soon as I hear an unfamiliar creek in the apartment.

Hallowe’en as an adult is funny.  Facebook is full of friends and frenemies posting odd photos of their toddlers in humiliating costumes.  People go off to dress-up parties — the best I ever heard of was a “before and after” event that had one of my friends arrive as Dirty Harry Potter.  There will be bags of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups on sale tomorrow morning and thousands of us will either be listening to Thriller or Rocky Horror or both before the night is done.  I, myself, have an afternoon planned around Young Frankenstein… or maybe Red Dragon.  Camp comedy or psychological thrillers are how I like to usher in the fall months these days.

But Hallowe’en as a tiny tot was different.  Not only because of the pressure any costume in Canada had to be both what you wanted and also functional under a snowsuit or garbage bag (October 31st is notorious as having either the first snowfall or a well-timed thunder-storm as soon as the kids get outside), but because there was a lot of creepy shit available to youngsters.  And I’m all for it.  I think children should read the original Grimm’s Fairy Tales and feel frightened in order to figure out what is good and what is bad.  Lots of people think that way.  So the following list is not a condemnation by any means, but more of a personal recitation of the things that really, really scared me before I had the words (or dry, sarcastic wit) to know what to do next.

If you weren’t ready for it, Hallowe’en could truly terrify you as a little person — and it had nothing to do with watching The Exorcist.

Experts tell us that children before the age of 6 are the most impressionable.  No bloody kidding…

#1 – The Headless Horseman

Remember this?  (Skip to the 27:00 mark for the truly terrifying part)

Disney’s 1949 The Legend of Sleepy Hollow seems like an innocent thirty-minute cartoon that you can sit the children down in front of and rest-assured that the House of Mouse will take care of them.  However, this is real Disney, not the saccharine-fueled stuff of the twenty-first century.

The appearance of the Headless Horseman is blood-curdling.  They’ve timed it just right, making you think you and Ichabod Crane (and the nice-but-stupid horse) are all safe and almost home… and then he’s just there beside you.

I still can’t watch it all the way through…

#2 – Night on Bald Mountain

Now I see this as just awesome animation, but as a wee person, the end of Fantasia is seriously disturbed.  The way that Satan unfurls himself from the mountain-top… the way the ghosts slip across the graveyard, pulling others to them… the rising flames… the Hieronymus Bosch-esque wraiths dancing and changing in the flickering demonic light…  that final furious gesture of raised arms in defeat as dawn approaches… woah.

#3 – Skeksis

I adored Jim Henson and his engagement with the fantasy world led to what I think is some of his best work.  The Storyteller series was one of my favourite things on tv, while Labyrinth gave me an education in so many, many things

But Skeksies are a different matter.  Not only are they some sort of nightmarish vulture-meets-velociraptor hybrid in overly ornate robes, but they suck out  souls.  They drain the life-f0rce of innocent, happy little creatures like Gelflings and Podlings through their power over the Dark Crystal… and then they drink it.  *shudder*

Apparently, Jim Henson was inspired by the original Seven Deadly Sins when he started working on these antagonists for The Dark Crystal, so it’s no wonder that they have a certain ur-mythical feel about them.  Creep-y.

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Midatlantic Musings by Jane G. V. McGaughey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

About midatlanticmusings

Historian of the Irish Diaspora and masculinities, wife, mother, lover of good books, red wine, fine whiskies, pop culture aficionado, and Star Wars wonk.
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