Ah, Halloween, my favorite holiday. It comes in autumn, a season meant for melancholy, for pensiveness, a time of year when you can believe the veil between the worlds is thin. The nights are cold in most of this country in October, with clear skies sprinkled with so many stars, you’ve never noticed before how many.
Costumes—you can be anything you want on Halloween. Your costume can be clever, sexy, scary, pretty, funny or all of those things. You can let your imagination out to play, forget all the horrific things in the real world and imagine something different, stranger, spookier, more magical, better.
Of course it’s scary movie season. No scary movie is too obscure or too cheesy—they all seem to be streaming somewhere in Halloween season.
And it’s this time of year the traditional Hollywood monsters get their proper respect, even from people not normally interested in vampires and werewolves and reanimated corpses.
I love ‘em all. Vampires, the sexy and the scary, the anti-hero and the villain. Werewolves, misunderstood, fierce, conflicted. The ancient curses that animate mummified Imhotep, the ancient wisdom that motivates the witch. I never have been able to get enough of it.
But I’m about to make a bold statement: Ghosts are the scariest. That’s not to say a badly done ghost movie is scarier than a mediocre Dracula remix. I’m not talking about movies. I’m talking about ghosts.
And why do I say they are so scary? Haven’t I seen 30 Days of Night?
Reason one: You don’t know if they are really there. Was that someone walking upstairs when no one else is home? I’m sure I shut that window. I know I did. Hush, Spot, stop barking at nothing! Where is that draft coming from? And why do the lights flicker every night between 6 and 6:30? Is it your imagination? The ordinary sounds of a settling house, or creaking pipes or a branch against the window? Are you losing your mind? (God knows there’s reason enough these days!) Or is it… a ghost?
Reasons two and three: You don’t know their intentions. You don’t know if they are honest. Read a few purported-to-be-true ghost stories, and you’ll find that while some ghosts are lost, confused, maybe just need a friend, there are some that want revenge and they aren’t real picky about the object of their vengeance. Some are just angry. And some weren’t very nice in life and death hasn’t improved them any. There’s a treasure at the bottom of the well, they might say. Do you believe them?
Reason four: Ghosts may be immaterial, but some of them can stick like Velcro. They might have settled into a house or other dwelling—yours, perhaps—and will not be evicted. They might haunt a person. If your great-grandfather, for instance, was a tyrant and a killer-by-intentional-negligence, a ghost for whom he is responsible may attach to you, even if you are a pretty nice person. They have a different frame of reference than the living. They don’t care much for our rules.
Reason five: Which brings me to—supernatural rules are not consistent. You can’t count on knowing anything when you encounter a ghost. You might have called down everlasting wrath because you moved a teacup. No one warned you, not your fault, you aren’t by nature a random teacup disturber and ghost annoyer—but there it is. You’ve done it, and now you must pay.
Reason six: They, more than any of the other traditional “monsters,” might be real.