by Brian Thornton
Or should that read, "Happy All Hallows Eve"?
Most everyone is familiar with the history of this holiday, an anachronistic throw-back to times when the dark of night was barely cut by the brightest of candles or bonfires. To a time when human beings were much more likely to run from a report of a goblin sighting than running to take pictures of it.
Let's face it, there's something visceral in us (and don't ask me to explain the biochemistry of it all here, because if you're waiting for that, you're in for a looooong wait!) that reacts strongly and positively to a good scare. Whether it's tied in with the notion of Thanatos, the so-called "death impulse," I can't say.
I just know that there is something enticing, enthralling, and horrifying about the supernatural. Modern science notwithstanding, we are only a few generations out of the cave, a blink of the eye in the life-span of a species.
As a result, logic provides no succor in the split second that something terrifying (like a zombie, ghoul, or even, for some folks, clowns) jumps out at us. What we're experiencing in that split second is something that ties us inexorably to those ancestors who made the first paintings on cave walls.
I'm opening up the comments section to ask the following three questions, in honor or All Hallows Eve:
1. What scares you? REALLY scares you?
2. Is there a favorite Halloween-themed book or movie you revisit every year?
3. What is the scariest "new" thing you've read or seen this year?
Here are my answers:
1. The Borg, from Star Trek. The notion of losing my individuality on that level is truly unsettling for me.
2. Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein (movie) and The Night Stalker (book) by Jeff Rice (no relation to Anne Rice). This is the book upon which they based the Darren McGavin TV movies/series about Karl Kolchak.
3. "At the Mountains of Madness," by H.P. Lovecraft. Read it this week. My first time reading it. Lovecraft does a masterful job of taking what starts out as a rather mundane academic recounting of an expedition to Antarctica by scholar/explorers from the fictional Miskatonic University, and slowly ratcheting up the tension as layer after layer of the everyday is stripped away, until the climax, with the narrator and a colleague running pell-mell down an ancient, alien-built subterranean corridor with a shapeless, faceless prehistoric horror called a "Shoggoth" hot on their heels. Well worth a read, if you're not familiar with his work. (Especially today of all days!;) )
So how about it, dear readers. What are your three answers to my three questions?