[An opening aside from Marie: it’s bloody well snowing right now in Chicago, even if it is just little pellets that evaporate before hitting the ground, there’s a fierce, numbingly cold wind, and the waves are crashing over the barriers on Lake Michigan, pounding the sand like it was in a battle for the WWF championship. Sheesh! How are kids supposed to go door to door in this?!? There’s atmosphere, and then there’s going overboard. Nature is apparently pulling out all the stops around here. So I’ll just pose this whimsical question to lighten up a bit: if we sing ‘It’s a bootifulday in the neighborhood, a bootifulday in the neighborhood …’ will we summon the spirit of Mr. Rogers? Because we could use a little sunshine right about now. And as you may have guessed, the weather has inspired Marie to dress as The Grinch today (like that’s a surprise). Oh, never mind.]
Happy All Hallows’ Eve, spooky fans! Or as you may know it in its slang contraction, Hallowe’en (nowadays, most people skip the apostrophe and just run it all together as Halloween). This is the first day of a three-day festival, triduum or spooky trifecta, known in the past to pagans and Christians alike, as Allhallowtide. It’s devoted to the dead – first, the spirits, then the saints, then everyone else. It consists of today, All Hallows’ Eve – the day and night before the Feast of All Saints (all the hallowed dead, in other words) – followed by the saints’ feast day itself, and then by All Souls’ Day, when we remember all our dead loved ones.
Therefore, there are stories to tell and things to celebrate for the next three days. Spooky Things doesn’t usually discuss Halloween attractions; we tend to focus on reputed actual haunted places and on mythology. However, it is Halloween, so we do feel a responsibility to point you in the right direction for getting the bejeepers scared out of you at your local Haunted Attractions. It’s the least we can do for our would-be ghosts, goblins and ghouls out there.
We’ve got some links that should be helpful for you. Also, if you click through to the websites of the actual attractions, many times you’ll find additional links to other attractions in your area. Marie would also like you to know that if you’re in the Chicago area, the ChooseChicago blog has been very good all week at listing the various places and activities in the city that are meant for adults, with a few family events thrown in as well. For kiddie events, checking with your local public library or community center is usually a good idea, too. And if you happen to be anywhere near beautiful downtown Berwyn, IL tonight, home of that arch, campy dude Svengoolie, Marie’s other blog has a calendar of Halloween events lasting through dinner time tomorrow at one of her favorite places (which sports its own mummy and its own ghost, BTW, right there on Route 66): Cigars & Stripes BBQ Lounge.
Most of the websites featured in the links below have videos and galleries of their attractions that are open through tonight, aka Mischief Night, and some may pull a few pranks, as s usual. You could even make a night out of it, just watching them at home tonight on your computer with the lights out, the jack-o-lantern and candles lit, and whatever else you can do to encourage some spectral ‘friends’ to join in the fun. For Saturday, assuming the weather permits where you are, we suggest a lovely walk in the autumn weather before all the leaves drop, followed by an evening full of spooky movies, popcorn and caramel apples (don’t accept any strange apples from unknown witches, however!). And if you live in an area with a significant Hispanic population, there will quite likely be Day of the Dead celebrations on Sunday that you can attend (for which those sugared candy skulls, marigolds and dressed-up skeleton dolls are de rigueur, of course).
Keep in mind that Halloween is supposedly when the veil is thinnest between the spirit world and our world, so you never know who just might join you in your home, or wander into a Halloween attraction mistaking it for their home. And so, as Rod Serling would say, here’s a few submitted for your approval:
- Find A Haunt will help you find what you’re looking for today by zip code. It’s also got a very spooky-looking home page.
- For the more than casual Haunted House enthusiast, we give you McKamey Manor in San Diego. Based on what they claim, best of luck to you should you decide to put yourself in their ghoulish hands.
- Here’s another Yahoo list of Top 10 Haunted Attractions from around the U.S. This tends to vary somewhat from year to year as new attractions spring up, old ones die, and some existing ones get better or worse, so don’t be surprised if there are differences from earlier versions.
- Yahoo’s 10 Scariest Haunted Houses In America is always a debatable list (other people do have their favorites), but it’s usually a good place to start the discussion.
- Best Attraction Name undoubtedly goes to the Yahoo list’s #3: “Cutting Edge” Haunted House. Shades of slashers! Oh dear. Then again, although we’ve always emphasized the ghoulish over the gore, there are exceptions. No doubt that if the evil ‘hotel’ of H.H. Holmes were still standing in Chicago (the serial killer whose ugly story of murder and greed is told in Erik Larson’s excellent nonfiction book, The Devil In The White City), we might be directing you to the south side of town. But alas, we move on.
- Finally, should you lack for creepy stories to share tonight, we highly recommend the blog of our overseas friend, photographer Ed Mooney, who focuses on Celtic folklore when he isn’t focusing his lens on an old ruin in the Irish countryside. He has a particularly good post this week about werewolves, a subject we’ll be getting to soon ourselves in a future post.
Now for a little history. As befits the occasion, Allhallowtide occurs after the harvest, when all things in nature must ‘die’ or go dormant for the winter before they can be ‘reborn’ again and return in the spring. But it was also chosen by the early Christian church to co-opt, obscure and ultimately replace the old pagan holiday – known to Celts in the British isles as Samhain but called by other names in other cultures – which was likewise celebrated because of the time of year. Now we know that all of you are just itching to go candy-begging or partying in your best cringeworthy costume and don’t want to be delayed by a long story, so we’ll be brief (anyway, we covered it all last year, so you can read about it here). But at least you should be aware that this is the long-weekend holiday for All Things That Go Bump In The Night and celebrate accordingly – that is, Give the Dead Their Due.
So: when you go out tonight past the garden gate, scatter a few crumbs of your treasure onto the ground to respect the earth goddess and honor the dead, or if passing a cemetery, leave a favorite candy on the grave of a loved one or someone you admired. If you’re drinking, spill a little of your alcohol of choice onto the ground in memory of your dead to honor the spirits with spirits and soothe them, if only to avoid being haunted in your sleep tonight (no, we don’t mean bumping into the waitress in an alcohol-laced stupor and making her spill beer all over the floor: we mean literally going outside and pouring a wee dram onto the ground, directly. And barfing doesn’t count – that’s just an insult to the dead). Then make sure you at least leave flowers at the cemetery on Sunday, for the sake of all the souls departed and remember your loved ones in particular. One weekend’s duty for a little peace of mind the rest of the year is a small price to pay, yes?
And of course, we’ll still be discussing our favorite subject after the weekend’s celebrations are over, because Spooky Things are really in season all year long – and, at least until after the solstice or New Year’s Day or the first day of the spring thaw, depending on your favorite mode of reckoning, it’s now officially Winter – or as we call it, The Grim(m) Season. In fact, Marie intends to celebrate tonight with a glass of blood-red wine and a very rare steak while watching the latest episode of Grimm on TV. You, on the other hand, must do what you think best.
Be careful out there tonight, spooky pals. We’ll get back to you about All Saints and the Day of the Dead shortly.
Hoping you have a boo-tiful Allhallowmas,
Michael and Marie