I’ve written often of Halloweens of my youth, of how important they were in the development of the boy who would one day be “the Unimonster.” I’ve even written of that last Halloween of my childhood, the point at which I realized I was too old to go trick-or-treating any longer. I thought at the time that my Halloween celebrations were in the past, buried in the same heap as outgrown clothes, broken toys, and forgotten books. Life has a way of carrying us forward, and the normal passage of time soon had my thoughts turning in other directions. Everyday concerns and worries—college, work, dating, trying to figure out how Bruce Willis’ career survived HUDSON HAWK—all pushed thoughts of Halloween into the deep recesses of my mind. By the early 1990s, I was married, to a lovely redhead without the slightest interest in monsters or Horror movies, and I settled down to a life of grown-up domesticity. Or so I thought.
Unfortunately, a fondness for the ghosts, ghouls, and creatures of the Horror genre wasn’t the only difference that my wife and I had, and those differences eventually led to our separation and divorce. That separation occurred in October of 1998, with the divorce being finalized twelve months later. Frankly, Halloween was the furthest thing from my mind at those times, but if anyone had asked me if I’d ever look forward to the October season again, I would have replied, quite honestly, that I never again wanted to think of October. And that was my frame of mind for some time after my divorce.
However, as trite and clichéd as the aphorism may be, time really does heal all wounds. A year after my divorce, I was casting about for something to take my mind off my pain and troubles. I had become far too friendly with a pair of Southern gentlemen named Jim Beam and Jack Daniels, and I knew I needed something other than alcohol to occupy my mind. Psychologists might have much to say regarding my reaching back into my childhood to find a refuge from my pain; if so, then … so be it. All I know is that I turned to the monster movies that I had loved as a child, and rediscovered that love as a thirty-six year-old man. I’ve written of how I began collecting Horror movies, taping every one that came on television, buying others as I could afford it. I’ve also shared with you how that simple hobby led me to the yahoo groups full of like-minded people, and how that, in turn, led me back to my writing. That’s what led to my ‘rebirth’ as the Unimonster, nearly a decade ago.
Something else that was reborn in me was my love of Halloween, though it had certainly never died. It had merely been sublimated by the pressures of life. But that first Halloween after my divorce, long before ‘Unimonster’ was even a thought in my mind, as I started building my collection of movies with five straight days of twenty-four hours worth of Horror movies—courtesy of American Movie Classics’ Monsterfest—that love came crashing back to the forefront. That October of 2000, I ended the month with fifty-three movies in my collection, a pair of VCRs that were hot to the touch, and—for the first time in two years—a measure of happiness in my heart.
As the summer of 2001 began to wane, my thoughts, as they always had in childhood, turned to thoughts of the approaching Halloween season. It had been more than twenty years since I had been that excited about October, and I was looking forward to another month of scary and ghoulish fun such as I had known in that long-ago past. I wanted to decorate, I wanted to celebrate, I wanted to recapture every bit of the joy that Halloween had represented to me as a boy.
Then one bright, splendid Tuesday morning in September, everything changed as I sat at my desk at work and watched as war was declared on my country. As they had been three years before, thoughts of such trivialities as Halloween and monster movies were chased from my mind, by the actions of real-life monsters far worse than anything Hollywood ever conceived. This time the hurt, less personal but far more profound, was moderated by an intense rage at those who would, in such a cowardly manner, strike at something I love far more than myself. The stress of weeks of waiting for us to strike back left little room in my thoughts for Halloween, and when, in early October, a series of anthrax attacks targeted, among other organizations, television networks, my job as chief of security at a television station guaranteed that that stress would only increase. Halloween passed almost unnoticed amid the hectic events of the first months of war.
Another year passed, and life returned to a manner of normalcy. As August faded into September, I once again began to think of Halloween. That July, I had joined my first Yahoo Group, the now-defunct (and sorely-missed) Horrorweb group. By September, I was a fully active member; in fact, in response to the Horrorwench’s September 10th question regarding plans for adding a store to the Horrorweb web-site to sell Halloween (and general horror) merchandise, I posted the following reply, “Love that Idea, Wench... I'm into ALL things Halloween! (Already started decorating my crypt!)” I was not yet the Unimonster, but the Crypt has always been the ‘Crypt’!
That autumn was the best I had experienced in decades, as I luxuriated in the joys of Halloween as I remembered it. Every store I entered seemed to have Halloween as its main stock in trade; every network on cable TV seemed to have non-stop horror-thons playing nightly. To put it bluntly, I gorged on Halloween the way Augustus Gloop overindulged in Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. I bought decorations, and movies, and candy. I recorded every Horror Film that I could; and watched those that I already had over and over. If anything, this new form of Halloween experience was even better than my youth, for now I was completely free to give in to the holiday ‘spirit’, if you will. My dreams of Halloween perfection, the things I had wanted to do in childhood, but had never been able to make happen, were now possible—provided I spend the money to realize them. And while my budget wasn’t as large as I wished it to be, I still came close to matching those childhood fantasies.
As that November 1st dawned, I realized that that October had been the happiest month of the past several years for me. Never again would I ignore the Halloween season, or pretend that I had long ago outgrown it. Never again would I forget the joy to be found in black cats and Jack o’ Lanterns. Eleven months of the year I would be a grown-up (well, relatively speaking …) with grown-up problems and responsibilities. But October once more would be mine. October would serve to remind me that there was still a part of me untouched by heartbreak, divorce, financial worries, ulcers, hypertension, stress. October would keep me sane.
For thirty-one days every year, October would let me be a kid again.