This Creepy Halloween


It’s Halloween, one of my favorite days of the year. I know it’s campy to all you haters out there, but I have always loved it. It’s the creepy time of year, the time when the line between the dead and living blurs and beings from the other side visit ours. For me, there’s no better month than October to curl up on your couch with a book of MR James stories. And no better day than Halloween.

It is this plan that I intend to fulfill upon my arrival home this evening. MR James is such a standard-bearer of ghost and creepy stories that his protocol are referred to as Jamesian. You know the ones, too. Stories set in a small town, an abbey, a university, an provincial cottage. The main character is a vicar, a headmaster, a naïve country gentleman who’s bought a house. The menace is an uncovered secret in a churchyard crypt, a long held secret coming back from the grave to exact vengeance, or the discovery of an artifact, a manuscript, or some other antiquarian piece.

I love stories like these. The settings are quaint enough to induce a faux comfort, yet somehow upsetting and desolate enough to keep me on edge. Brilliant. I have the book downloaded on my tablet and I’ll read it as soon as I’m home. Not that I’d be short on Halloween reading material, as several people on Facebook are sharing story links associated with the spooky and the ghoulish. Tis the day to indulge in the quilt-covered kid inside.

And yet, there’s something not quite right this year. I can’t put my finger on it, but the spirit of creepy is not the same. I finish writing in the mid morning and walk down to the swimming pool. I find no better place than a pool for meditative thought. As I go back and forth in my metered breaststroke, I contemplate this.

Creepy comes in many forms, one of which is a sinister change in something you thought you could take comfort in. That’s why the song Happy Birthday droning quietly from a dark room is more spine-tingling that a Megadeath tune. Thrash metal is meant to shake you up, Happy Birthday is meant to comfort and celebrate.

This year I only have to do look at the news to find creepy. Things I thought I knew and could take comfort in are twisted and sinister. Actors and comedians I greatly admired are being called out as sexual predators. Many of the world’s people are actively voting for exclusion, fear, and hate. There are Americans giving Nazi salutes, and a whole section of America is completely behind it. This includes the president of the United States, who runs the White House like a third-grader who won the class Spelling Bee on the word job and has since then been rubbing it in his classmates’ faces. He does this with his antagonistic policies and his clear belief that he is above normal rule of law. The only thing creepier than this man is the fact that a great deal of America, the country I thought I knew, is either behind him or standing by with a Marge Simpson frown doing zilch. The whole thing is like living in a Philip K. Dick dystopian novel.

Tonight, when I get home, I pick up my tablet and drop on the couch. My plan is to scan Facebook before surrendering the rest of the night to MR James. This is what I tell myself, anyway. One of the links posted is Ten Stories that Will Scare the F*** out of You. Sure, why not.

They’re not long stories and they’re not fiction. They are short, very freaky stories that people have experienced in real life. They all involve other people, in some cases these people are very strange and in some cases they are very bad. But they are all creepy. I finish this collection with a shiver and get in bed. I suppose with the real world so filled with creepy, I don’t need to find it in fiction. I suppose MR James will have to wait until next Halloween. I hope.

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