Halloween holiday has the power to bring the darkness to light
October 27, 2006
Halloween. My favorite holiday. Or, should I say, my favorite unholy day?
When I was a kid, Halloween meant windy, thunderstruck nights of house-to-house candy seeking. Watching black & white monster movies too. The sweetness of the candy now just seems the antithesis to the hardened and sour tricks of life that we are treated to as we shroud ourselves in adulthood.
As an adult, Halloween means something else – something more than even seeing all the little kiddies in their costumes, and reminding us of when we raced from porch light to porch light in intrepid yet innocent abandon. Halloween, be it by mask or the spirit of the night, really does awaken the dark side of suppressed personality from its dormant dwelling to a contra-character embodiment, erupting animal-wild energies from the silence of docility that comes from days of sitting at a desk and looking at numbers, a medical scan, or micro text on law.
Days and days of saying the right things to the right people at the right time that is building volume in an airtight vacuum, and giving birth to innermost roars that circulate throughout the year, just waiting for the airtight seal to be opened for the raging beasts to be released for one night.
Like the lycanthropic full-moon nights of literary and cinematic folklore, turning man into beast, you see the many faces of a person’s hidden psyche in how they act behind the concealment of a mask, and the way they decorate their homes on Halloween.
But the real bewitching magic of Halloween isn’t the celebrated masquerade of the day itself. The narcotic potion of what Halloween symbolizes looms on the perch of belief that supernatural powers do not wait until Halloween to reveal their presence. For those like me who believe, those other-worldly powers envelop us at all times.
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In a couple of my columns, I’ve mentioned that my grandmother – an immigrant from Italy – lived with my family for 15 years until she died. From the day I was born, she had a mystical and magical influence on me. She was unconditionally religious, but she also believed in the two faces of the human spirit – for everything good there is something evil. She also believed that the dead walked among us. Souls that lost their way while alive and are forever searching for resolve, for solace, for forgiveness in death.
Once, when I was 9, one of my aunts was dusting my grandmother’s bedroom. My grandfather had died when my mother was only 13. A large heavy crucifix that belonged to him and my grandmother was secured to her bedroom wall with metal wire. As my aunt dusted the crucifix lightly, it fell suddenly to the floor. I remember my grandmother crying out something in Italian. The mournful urgency of her voice, and the incoherent drone of her words sounded dreadful, and seemed marked by fear of the foretold. My aunt stood frozen, as motionless as a corpse, with eyes formed by fear, the dust rag hanging still from her hand at her side. Later that week, my uncle, only 47 years old, died of a brain aneurysm. He dropped dead while talking to co-workers on the job. He was my grandmother’s son. My mother’s older brother. I’ll never forget that night when my Dad answered the phone. My grandmother called out from her bedroom when the phone rang. She knew something was wrong before my father even knew who was on the line.
A few years later, a similar incident happened with yet another crucifix in the house. Another sudden fall, another sudden death in the family.
A few years before, when I was 7, a small sparrow flew in through an open window of my father’s parents’ nursing home room. The bird circled my grandmother’s head three times as my grandfather tried to wave it away. The week after, he died in his sleep.
I also remember hearing a story that even today makes the hairs on my arms stiffen in cold alarm, and march in crawling formation. The same aunt who had experienced the fallen crucifix in my grandmother’s bedroom had a childhood experience when, years before my mother was born, threateningly evil and harmful ghosts roamed a house they lived in at the time.
She would, upon seeing the foreboding visions and hearing the punishing pounding of frustrated escape in the walls, get throbbing lumps on her forehead and swollen welts on her arms. She’d break into a fever. My grandfather was forced to move from the house to another location in the neighborhood.
They had learned that the home had once belonged to a homicide-suicide couple. The husband had shot and killed his wife, and then hung himself.
One afternoon while living in Maryland, I came home for lunch to find a huge black crow flying frantically in our living room. How he got there, I have no idea. My wife was at my daughter’s school, assisting a lunch function. I opened up the double doors of our dining room that led to the field in the back of our house, and probed the bird until it flew out into the open air. That week, my uncle who had lived on the second floor of my parents’ home, suffered a heart attack.
You may believe, or you may not, but there is a haunting spell that is cast within us and exists around us since birth that for some is heightened in the twisted tree roots of our consciousness only on Halloween.
For the rest of us, the chilling air that is swept by unseen forces as we walk and while we sleep wraps its life of death around us every day.
• John DiMambro is publisher of the Nevada Appeal. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.