And the soul creeps out of the tree.
Carl Sandberg, Theme in Yellow
I am a jack-o'-lantern With terrible teeth And the children know I am fooling.
Samhain, the ancient Gaelic festival that marks the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter is traditionally marked by fire to represent light in the dark.
We put together a little altar in the corner of the living room with a candle and a photograph of my Dad. The Rosie the Riveter action figure that roro sent us years ago is on there too, I think to represent our feminist foremothers!
I made quite an exciting dinner involving squash and kale and goat’s cheese and we watched the adaptation of M.R. James’s Tractate Middoth.
At the moment, I feel like I want quietness and domesticity this winter. Hot cocoa and snuggling under blankets with hot water bottles.
The Jack O’ Lantern is carved. The lentil soup and roast sweet potatoes are cooking. Time to post a few things I’ve been saving for Halloween.
Ada Calhoun, The Sisters Who Spoke to Spirits
The spirits are the least disturbing thing in this essay about the Fox sisters, whose table-rapping ways kicked off the phenomenal popularity of Spiritualism in the nineteenth century. So much weirdness here.
Documentary, Ghosts on the Underground (2006)
This documentary about spooky experiences on the London Underground terrified me when I first saw it several years ago. I hunted it down last year for a Halloween watch with my partner and was pleased to find it just as creepy as I remembered.
Roger Clarke’s book is an enjoyable ramble around the last five hundred years of belief in ghosts. Most of the hauntings get debunked, but what they reveal about social history and the psychology of the people involved is fascinating.
I love the ghost stories of M.R. James and re-read them all every few years, but I think these two are my favourites. They have given me a life-long dislike of sleeping in twin-bedded hotel rooms and walking along misty beaches on my own, but I feel they are worth it.
Vitamin String Quartet, This is Hallowee
A great cover of a great song.
We are spending it quietly this year, just staying in and watching The Haunting of Hill House. We haven’t even carved a Jack O’ Lantern (that’s one my sister did a couple of years ago), but Andy doesn’t think there’s much point unless you can display it on your porch, which is difficult to do when you live in a second floor flat.
Still, here are some Halloween links:
The most amazing pumpkin carvings you will ever see
From Final Girl, some awesome horror movie posters
And for a Halloween read, how about The Red Tree by Caitlin R. Kiernan
I’ve decided to list, not so much my favourite horror movies, as the ones that I’ve found most effective, the ones that have stayed with me. I have no idea why I love being terrified by horror movies. I suppose a psychotherapist might suggest it’s my way of dealing with death anxiety, in which case I’m glad I found a way to deal with death anxiety and have fun at the same time. On an intellectual level, I love the horror genre because it’s where you see cultural anxieties stripped bare, especially the things we like to pretend we’re ok with (but we’re really, really not).
I have put the post behind a cut to save the sensibilities of those of you who don’t like reading about horror films.