In recent years I have been increasingly aware of the number of Halloween events that involve scenes, dioramas and depictions of mutilations, misery, and mayhem. Fear and terror have evidently come to be “entertainment”.
Halloween has changed. In my youth Halloween was for kids… a little neighborhood tricks or treating getting candy, perhaps a costume party at school, scouts or church. Halloween in close to rivaling Christmas in its commercialism and universality. Several decades ago the annual parade of Halloween screamer movies appeared and a new genre of entertainment was born. Each a bit scarier and more graphic than the last. Each year more macabre that the previous season.
Hideous forms of hurting another person and ways of death are depicted in close-up detail. Lots of blood is spilled and lots of fear gets the human flight or fight centers on high alert. Places like Asylum Haunted Scream Park, Zombie Stampede, Baxter Morgue, Devils Attic and Industrial Nightmare are local commercial operations. Even high school athletic teams are getting on-board with fright nights offering blood, gore and dismemberment as regular features and all as a means of fundraising.
My fear is that all of this artificial fear and gore desensitizes us to that which we should fear, and from reacting in proper horror to the actual horrific ways human beings treat one another. A few years ago this was brought home to me when we were doing a murder mystery play at my mother’s birthday party. I mentioned it at work and said something about it being some “good fun”. A fellow employee looked at me and said simply “Not if you have had someone in your family murdered…”
Halloween is really a corruption of All Hallows Eve. It was the night before all Saints Day (known as All Hallows). The emphasis was on the saints but there was a recognition of all that is not hallowed (holy) being abroad as well.
It brings me back to that old Scottish Litany petition, “From Ghoulies and Ghosties and Long-leggity beasties, and things that go bump in the night – Good Lord Deliver us!” May we be delivered from fascination with the hurt and harm humans can inflict on one another. May the knowledge that these things happen inspire us to work to ending these sorts of events rather than create them artificially to create fear as entertainment and make us less and less sensitive to the pain and horror others suffer.