I love American Scream. Have you seen it?

Of the three families the documentary follows, only for one person do the film makers ask why Halloween means so much to him. For the others, why seems answered with a quick “it’s fun” sort of answer and that’s it.

Victor though didn’t get to celebrate Halloween as a kid. He didn’t get any holidays, but Halloween is the one he devotes his life to.

I don’t do home haunts. I refuse to even go into any of the professional haunted houses. I hate being scared, but I love Halloween. I love witchcraft–Hermione, Kiki, the Wicked Witch of the West, and the Owens sisters.

How many Halloweens do you remember? I don’t actually remember many.

We lived in the boondocks. To trick-or-treat, I had to go somewhere else, some years my grandmother’s neighborhood, other years a classmate’s. I remember the year when people would ask me if I was the big sister or babysitter with the other kids even though I was actually younger than most of my friends. It is what happens when you’re taller than everyone else. “Aren’t you too old to be doing this?” No. Just too tall apparently.

I usually wanted to be Dorothy Gale, but I’d be whatever costume my dad would buy for me until I was old enough to make my own costumes. Only two Halloweens stand out in my memories.

The year my mother filed for custody is the first. It’s a complicated story. My parents didn’t do the usual divorce-and-immediate-custody-battle thing. The custody nightmare began eight years after the divorce. I’ll leave a lot of details out, but suffice it to say, my step-mother refused to let me back into my bedroom to get many of my things. I had only what one suitcase could carry for my new life with my mom and that was it.

But I wanted more of my things and I convinced a friend to help me steal some of them. Though is it really stealing if the things are yours? We went to my dad’s house to trick-or-treat. My dad was at work, of course. My step-mother let us in. She was almost nice.

I said I had to go to the bathroom, but I snuck into my old bedroom and threw whatever I could fit into my trick-or-treat bag. I had made sure to have a big bag. Books, toy horses, a shirt went into the bag. After I returned to the kitchen, my friend did the same, but she had no idea what to take. She tossed whatever she thought worthwhile into her trick-or-treat bag. We then made a hasty exit, climbing on our bikes in our princess costumes and stuffed sacks. The bike chain threatened my dress, but we made out getaway. I was so proud of myself–stealing my own things.

The other Halloween I remember was the very next year. I went as a rich ghost, dressed in a silver dress and silver shoes borrowed from my grandmother (the only year in which we wore the same size). I wove silver Christmas tree garland into a cape. I wore rhinestone jewelry and elbow length white gloves. No one worried about me getting hit by a car. I shimmered brightly in the headlights.

But what sears this Halloween in my mind isn’t the costume or the candy or the friend I went trick-or-treating with. It was arriving at school to learn a girl in my class had been murdered. She wasn’t killed while trick-or-treating. It was actually the night before Halloween or the early morning hours of Halloween day. She was abducted from her home, raped, strangled, and thrown off an overpass. I’ve written about her before and my own near-miss.

It would make sense not to like Halloween, wouldn’t it?

We never carved pumpkins. My dad’s second wife bought pumpkins one year. She carved them. We weren’t allowed because she was certain we’d ruin the pumpkin or cut ourselves. We sat in the driveway and watched her carved several pumpkins. She complained about how much work it was and how we wouldn’t even appreciate it. I don’t remember what we said. Not very much probably.

Anyway, if you see American Scream, let me know. I like what Victor says about Halloween. Other holidays are about family, but Halloween is about community. Have fun.

One thought on “Haunted

  1. I never even heard of ‘American Scream’ before this. So thanks for the recommendation!

    (Btw, I noticed on the poster that one of the people featured is a “Manny Souza.” Surely not from the same Souza clan that I’m thinking of, is it…???)

    When The Missus was in the graduate Creative Writing program at the big university here, members of the program were sort of chosen randomly every week to read from their work at a local nightspot. Her turn came on Halloween one year; she was given the option of inviting another writer to share the stage and she chose me. We both had to wear costumes. Hers was a witch outfit, but I confused everyone by telling them I was dressed as Ted Kaczynski (without using his more common public ID). I’d actually modified a shoebox — including an alarm clock protruding through one side of the box — to resemble one of Kaczynski’s “packages.” And I myself LOOKED like him, or at least the artist’s rendering, especially back then: light-colored hooded jacket, dark glasses, longish hair and beard… Nobody gave any sign that they “got” it. Part of me likes to think they were just too disturbed to laugh; at least that would be somewhat in the spirit of the season. But actually, as I say, I just think using his real name was a mistake. (It was before smartphones, so nobody could even look it up in real time out of puzzlement.)

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