On the 31st of October we celebrate Halloween. Also known as Hallowe’en; All Hallow’s Eve; Allhalloween and All Saint’s Eve. Although not everybody recognises this contentious holiday, I will celebrate by scaring myself to death with a selection of horror films.
Ferrymead’s Hall of Doom and Raise the Dead Rave – Further afield, for the Young Adults (over 16) there is the intriguing sounding Hall of Doom and Raise the Dead Rave at Ferrymead Heritage Park, featuring ‘DJ Spinal,’ if that is your thing.
Ferrymead’s Family Trick or Treat – and there is the slightly more family friendly sounding Family Trick or Treat event, also held at Ferrymead Heritage Park in conjunction with Plunket.
I have not always been a Halloween advocate. Growing up in a religious household, I did not have the option of observing Halloween as an event, nor was I allowed to watch anything resembling a horror film. Now that I’ve flown the nest and am free to make my own traditions, I am pleased to say that Halloween is cemented on my calendar as an important day of the year.
So maybe there is a correlation: for some time now, whenever we dare to discuss our future, my husband has envisioned us buying a lifestyle block somewhere out in the countryside, perhaps halfway to the alps, miles from the neighbours in isolated bliss. I resist this dream fervently. My very legitimate reasons include:
My penchant for horror films and true crime
Still being scared of the dark and don’t like being home alone as it is
Nobody would be around to hear me scream should I be being murdered.
His argument is that should I scream for help in the centre of suburbia, it is likely nobody would come to help anyway. Probably true. But it is psychological terror which prevents me from contemplating a life more than a stone’s throw away from civilization.
Yet despite being afraid of the dark, of potential murderers and of being home alone, I continue to love and watch horror films of all varieties. I have seen Texas Chainsaw Massacre about five times, and have suffered through all sequences of Paranormal Activity.
The latest horror I have seen was the recent film A Quiet Place directed by John Krasinski (remember Jim Halpert from The Office?). This film is set post-apocalypse and follows a family through their struggle to survive in a landscape featuring monsters who hunt by sound (the slightest of sounds). To avoid being eaten the family are forced to live in silence and communicate through sign language. Unfortunately, I watched A Quiet Place in a cinema full of people munching popcorn and chatting away as though they were in their own living room- did ruin the effect somewhat, but the good news is that the library have acquired a copy.
Sometimes reading about it can be every bit as horrid as watching it. Horror books tend to be atmospheric, tension building page-turners. Just like other genres of fiction, they come in all sorts; gory, gothic, psychological, apocalyptic, supernatural, fantasy/sci-fi based, filled with monsters…the common thread being that they are designed to scare the daylights out of you. In honour of Halloween here are some starter ideas. Just in case you feel you’ve been getting a bit too much sleep.
Brutal, gory serial killer novel. If you’ve seen the film by the same name, you’ll know that pop culture loving, suit-and-tie wearing Patrick Bateman is anything but a respectable businessman. Disturbing, violent, and written in the first-person narrative – you really get to go inside the head of this particular sadist.
House of Leaves has inspired a cult-like following, and for good reason. It is based upon an intriguing and original premise; “a young family that moves into a small home on Ash Tree Lane where they discover something is terribly wrong: their house is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside.” The story is intricate and complex, and will appeal if you enjoy a shot of literary fiction with your horror. Reads much like a documentary, and if you like found footage films, may find this to hit the spot.
If you’re more into the supernatural, ‘Amityville Horror’ type (which has thankfully been proven, beyond a doubt, to be a scam), then ‘The Haunting of Hill House’ is a must read classic. Atmospheric, creepy and menacing, ‘The Haunting of House Hill’ will have leave you paranoid, wary of lurking ghosts at every turn.
Sometimes the horrors that really get under your skin are those which hark to a potential reality. Personally, I’ve never been excessively freaked by things that I know (hope) don’t exist – the undead, ghosts, demons, monsters and the like. Home invasion? That will keep me up at night. ‘Endless Night’ will turn your nights into exactly that, as you follow the experiences of a sixteen year old girl at a sleepover turned murder-fest. Fast-paced and action packed. On a gore scale from Brother’s Grimm to Rob Zombie, this rates closer to the latter.
Ah yes, a Scandinavian horror. The Scandinavians do the darkness and the bleakness extraordinary well, after all. This book, in summation: dark, creepy, vampires. But don’t run at the mention of vampires: ‘Let the Right One in’ would make Stephanie Meyer shake in her pretty boots.
As Halloween approaches, the fake spider phenomena is really setting me on edge. But is my fear really a phobia in disguise, and can it be controlled or even conquered? According to the website of the NHS (UK):
[Phobias] develop when a person has an exaggerated or unrealistic sense of danger about a situation or object.
Although the humble wee jumping spider might not take me down Shelob style, it may certainly send me screaming from the room. And arachnophobic librarians like me will understand that moment of primal terror directly following the unwitting retrieval of a book from the returns bin, whose front cover illustration happens to be the unspeakable, hairy, eight-legged object of mortification. And since we’re going there, I can’t help but recall the awful, PTSD inducing squashed-whitetail-between-the-cookbooks incident of 2017. Why people.
But life would be a little easier if I didn’t have to run from the room every time a spider scurried into my line of sight. Whilst it can be very difficult (and perhaps, folly) to get over your quite rational fears, it is definitely possible to conquer your phobias. Sadly one of the most effective methods is not particularly pleasant, and involves getting ever closer and more personal with the very thing you fear, in a form of therapy known as exposure. Here is a video showing the use of augmented reality as a technique to perform exposure therapy, to treat a spider phobia. This was part of research conducted at the University of Canterbury’s Human Interface Technology Laboratory New Zealand (HIT Lab NZ), in 2012.
Take that, phobia.
If you would like help getting over your phobia, there are lots of great resources to get you started. Check out:
HealthInfo Canterbury – a great website written specifically for Canterbury residents, by nurses and doctors. A good place to go for reliable, regional specific advice, resources and general health info.
Health Navigator New Zealand – Health Navigator NZ is a New Zealand focused charitable trust endorsed by the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners- so you know you’re getting reliable information.
Love it or hate it, Halloween is upon us once again. Today it is a vastly different experience than the one that the Celts traditionally celebrated. For them it marked the reaping of the harvest, the end of summer and an opportunity for the dead to cross over to the living world and scare the daylights out of everyone. Sounds like great fun so far!
For us however, Halloween has become an attempt at recreating what is largely a Northern Hemisphere celebration – with Southern Hemisphere seasons, beliefs and inclination. And more often than not, if we try to emulate what we see on TV we are destined for disaster. So here is a cautionary tale of ‘How not to Halloween’. Sadly parts of this aren’t as fictional as I would like them to be.
Let us think for a moment… the pumpkins will have only just been planted and won’t be ready until around Easter next year. So now we will have to attempt to carve something sourced from the local supermarket. We pick out a nice Crown pumpkin and overlook the insipid grey colour and lack of grandeur. Beggars can’t be choosers. All it needs is a scary face carved in it and a candle to highlight your excellent pumpkin cutting skills. You take your sharpest knife and start to cut the top off what is arguably the toughest skin on any vegetable available*.
After you get back from the doctor, you decide that it is probably wise to do away with the carved pumpkin as you can’t afford to lose the use of your other hand. You may still be able to salvage it as a Halloween decoration however, as it is now rather realistically covered in blood.
Meanwhile, your kids are dressed up in the scariest costumes you could find at the local Opportunity Shop and are already dreaming about the sheer weight of the lollies that they hope to get. They wonder momentarily if that pillowcase is going to be big enough.
Leaving Hubby home in charge of the lollies; you venture forth into the bright sunlight with a handful of ghosts and witches in tow for the trek around what you thought was a friendly neighbourhood. How wrong you were. You find yourself greeted by grouchy people who can’t even fake being nice for the kids. They love to point out the error of your ways for daring to try and experience what is largely an American custom. Others will wander openly around their living room while your kids knock on a door that will never open. Some will go to the trouble of putting out ‘No trick or treaters’ signs to save you the energy of knocking. I like these people. We each know where the other stands.
Of course it isn’t all doom and gloom. There is the occasional legend that will gush over the kids costumes and hand over a lolly or two. But after an hour and a half of what amounted to a crushing failure; we head home defeated. I console the kids with the fact that if we’re lucky, their dad won’t have eaten his way through the entire bowl of lollies at home. It has been a rather disappointing experience. The kids don’t understand why their Halloween bears little to no resemblance of the ones that they have seen on TV. Let’s be honest – it’s still won’t be dark for another hour or more.
When we get home we find that the only other people that have come around trick or treating were teenagers who didn’t bother to dress up. And when my daughter finds out that they made off with her plastic skeleton that I’d propped next to the ‘bloody’ pumpkin; she probably won’t forgive me.
I know that there are houses somewhere that are re-enacting their version of Halloween – I’ve seen the lollies disappearing from the shops. Maybe next year I’ll save myself some time and heartache and just ask them where they live. At least then we can be assured of a guaranteed result!
So if your kids are begging you to join into Halloween this year, you think you can avoid these amateur mistakes and you are looking to earn some easy brownie points; here are some books to help you achieve this.
Frightening Flicks – My choice of the best horror movies from our library catalogue. With gore rating, so you can pick the level of fake blood you’re comfortable with.
Maybe try some horrific winners?
Bram Stoker Awards – Named after the author of Dracula, and run by the Horror Writers Association.
Sir Julius Vogel Awards – Named after a former New Zealand Prime Minister/science fiction novelist, the awards “recognise excellence in science fiction, fantasy, or horror works created by New Zealanders and New Zealand residents”.
Women writing wickedness: salute our sinister sisters by horrifying yourself this Halloween with some monstrous madams.
Horror can appear in different forms, and means many different things to many different people. It’s in whispers from an empty attic, it’s in jerky movements beyond the edge of the campfire, it’s in vast and unstoppable forces of evil or, scariest of all, in the things people do to each other. Like any emotion, it’s hard to perfectly pin down and describe, but these are books that may send a frisson of fiction down your spine…
If you want to dig deep into the roots of the genre, one of the first horror writers of all was the fantastic Mary Shelley with her Frankenstein (also, basically the first science fiction writer ever, go Mary!)
Or prove to yourself that the classics still have the power to freak you out with Shirley Jackson. She’s inspired greats like Stephen King with her short stories, and her novels have a splendid atmosphere of terror. Her legacy is so great that the Shirley Jackson awards, given for outstanding physiological suspense, horror and dark fantastic fiction, commemorate her annually.
Want to know the best fictional name I have come across this year? In Tiffany McDaniel’s ‘The Summer that Melted Everything‘ one of our heroes – if you can call a man who publishes an invitation for the devil to come visit his sleepy backwater town a ‘hero’ – carries the incredible name of Autopsy Bliss. Strange accidents, deadly fevers, personal demons, and scariest of all, it’s set in the 80s…
For thirteen creepy, bloody, chilling tales, look beyond the more publicised male authors into the sinister hearts of these ghoulish gals:
Halloween is upon us! It seems that everywhere we go, there are costumes and candy, and, in spite of many people being “dead” against it, it’s gaining momentum and getting bigger each year.
The word Halloween comes from a Scottish term for All Hallows’ Eve, the eve of the Christian celebration of All Hallows’ Day. It initiates the three-day observance dedicated to remembering the dead, including saints, martyrs and the faithful departed believers. If you are interested in learning more about it, we have a great book: Halloween, Its Origin, Rites and Ceremonies in the Scottish Tradition.
Halloween is celebrated by many cultures in many different ways, but the best known is the American way – a fun celebration where costumes are worn and children go trick-or-treating: door knocking asking for candy in exchange for not doing mischief.
In Japan the day is called Obon (Festival of Lanterns); in Mexico it is Dia de Muertos (Day of the Dead); in Cambodia it is P’chum Ben, (Ancestors’ Day); in Romania it is Világítás (Day of the Dead). Samhain is a Gaelic celebration; in China it is Zhong Yuan Jie (Ghost Festival) and many other countries have a similar festivity. I suppose for us humans death is the last frontier and we want to make sense of it in any way we can. And if we can’t, then we will challenge and mock it by dressing up and eating lots of candy!
So what will you be doing? Will you be joining the fun by getting dressed up and making some ghoulish goodies and decorations? Or will you just have a quiet day of remembrance?
Some of my favourite stories are ones that creep me out and send a chill down my spine. When I was a kid there weren’t many authors who wrote horror stories or ghost stories. R.L. Stine’s books were about the creepiest I could find and he’s still writing them today. If you look up R.L. Stine in the library catalogue, you’ll find we have 182 of his books (in paper book, eBook and audiobook format) in the library!
If you like horror stories, ghost stories or stories about the supernatural there are now lots of authors who write these stories. Some of my favourite seriously scary authors are:
Come and join in the Halloween fun at South Library from 11am to 3pm on Saturday 31 October. Free activities including Story time with a Halloween theme, craft, treasure hunt and more. Suitable for families with children aged from 2 to 10.
I think I’m going to put on my crusty curmudgeon hat and say “I hate Halloween”. I’m the sort of person who when kids come trick or treating says “your costumes look neat but we don’t do Halloween here”.
Why? Well let’s start with:
When did we start celebrating Halloween? Only in the last 10 or 15 years when the chain stores realised there was a buck to be made. Then they started promoting it like it had always been a Kiwi thing.
Allegedly it’s a time for kids to have fun but really it seems more like a thing for adults. They are either having Halloween parties and dressing up, or they are dressing up their kids.
It represents the triumph of American culture – Halloween is very much an American tradition which we have seen in films and television.
In many parts of the world All Saints Day is a time to remember the dead – not scary ghouls but real people you loved and who have died. The commercial takeover seems crass.
Halloween rituals make sense in the northern hemisphere where bonfires and lanterns are light against the encroaching darkness of the long Northern winter. Not so much in springtime New Zealand where the days are lighter and longer.
How do you feel about Halloween?
An alternative to Halloween which is green and rooted in Aotearoa’s cycle of seasons and cultural influences is suggested: National Green Day. Perfect for high spring: planting rituals like getting your tomatoes in, planting and enjoying fragrant native plants, harvesting the ti (tea tree), the return of pipiwharauroa (the shining cuckoo), enjoying the song of the riroriro (grey warbler).
Anyway grumps over – if Halloween is your bag we have lots of stuff to help celebrate the day: