Saturday, October 31, 2015

Trick or Treat — Happy Hallowe'en

Trick or Treat — Happy Hallowe'en

In an article published in the Gruelling Gazette, circa October 31, 1831, Professor Ambrosia Mortebanger wrote that the defining principle behind Hallowe'en was our strange obsession with hunting.

No sooner had the publication hit the streets of Restless Hollows, Massachusetts, when Professor Mortebanger was running about the dark streets of the town to tell anyone who was listening that she had inadvertently left an "a" out of the word, "hunting," and that, in fact, she meant to explain how Hallowe'en was connected to our strange obsession with haunting, and not hunting.

Sadly, the original article has long been lost. All thirteen copies of that renowned newspaper vanished when Stoker's Grocery & Bait Emporium went up in flames, the apparent result of a youngster's Hallowe'en prank gone wild.

Far be it from me to try to resurrect Miss Mortebanger's contorted thesis, but I have long wondered about the nature of that ancient art known best as "Trick or Treat," a phrase which I think defines the difference between "haunting" and "hunting."

In modern times, the entire Hallowe'en experience seems to have become more about hunting than it does about haunting. Children dressed in strange bedclothes wander the street with the sole purpose of hunting down as many treats as possible, and the "Trick" in "Trick or Treat" seems to have all but disappeared, save for the ongoing events at the Bunny Rancheros in Nevada, where a trick is really a treat anyway.

No, the age of great Hallowe'en "tricks," the essence of a true haunting experience, has disappeared. Oh sure, I suppose you might see an unroll of toilet paper idiotically arched over the branches of the Finlayson's prize red maple tree, or you might possibly find some arguably obscene soap graffiti across the front windshield of Reverend Axelworthy's new BMW, but really, these are standard nuisances of little consequence. And, yes, the buxom Mrs Milfhunter, from down the block, still dresses up as a fairly decent witch in her tall black hat with her fulsome black cape draped over her surreptitiously sequined, see-through negligee, but I'm not sure anyone finds her at all too frightening. It's as if the modern age has driven the "spook" out of "spooky."

Consider, however, what it must have been like on October 30, 1938, when Orson Welles broadcast to America that the world was being invaded by aliens from Mars. Now, that was a trick of epic and historical proportions. Millions of people went into a panic, and I'm sure that Mr Welles made millions of dollars off his little misadventure. If you tried a similar undertaking today, you'd become the property of Homeland Security, and you'd spend the rest of your life holidaying in Guantanamo Bay.

Caution is now the name of the game, and we have become a cautious people. These days, the best form of trick that we can offer is what I call the "shock treatment" — you know, putting on a ghastly mask, jumping out from behind the door, and screaming "Boo!" as your kids head out to do some hunting.

Kids today are no longer daunted by imaginary ghosts or goblins drifting about on Hallowe'en night. So let them hunt for treats, and let's forget the tricks. Soon enough, they'll face a world that is far more haunting than anyone of my generation could ever imagine.



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