Haunted by Halloween
‘Tis Halloween night, and CJ can look out on the street, confident that soon ghosts will come a rapping and knocking at his door. Goblins and Vampires too – and while recording the knocks echoing through the maison CJ will not add anything to Dr. Barrie Colvin’s research efforts, these rather tangible spooks will need feeding, so I have bought in some chocolate bars. The wind is howling across the roof, and the rain lashes the window – how long till we hear the low rumble of approaching thunder? Perfect Halloween weather I guess!
Since the early 90′s I don’t think I have had many Halloween’s at home. It’s TV, or radio, or a public lecture, but this year while the Trick of Treaters will come knocking, the media haven’t. I can’t say I mind. I could do with the money; a sum like that with things as they are– but actually, if you think paranormal TV or writing on spooks make you rich, you are (as you may have gathered from this blog) seriously misguided. Nope, it will be nice to be home, and yet I feel a trifle neglected.
Yesterday Becky successfully defended her thesis on “A Century of Apparitions”, for her PhD on spooks. She still has revisions to make to the thesis before final submission, but I guess it’s nice to have a girlfriend who is an expert in the area. Sadly she is in Derby tonight, so I’ll be warding off the undead without her expert advice. I received a research grant this year from the SPR to look at poltergeists: well I will, and am actively researching. Not tonight though! You might think with my background in this area I might want to go out and party, or sit at home and watch The Exorcist or something, but actually I have asked some friends round to play a Halloween roleplaying game. Yeah, I know, a bit dull for this old ghostbuster. I’m really looking forward to it though.
Now I could write a lot about the history of Halloween, and why it’s really a Christian festival not a pagan one historically, and why I don’t think that matters a fig and wish all my pagan friends a wonderful Samhain, I won’t, because I have done no original research on the matter. I will just point you to Prof . Ronald Hutton’s Stations of the Sun, if you are outraged by this claim, and you can read his brilliant academic work in the area. Ron is a pagan, and he can say these things without the local moot throwing chairs at him, unlike me. Ah the good old days!
Nostalgia, it’s not what it used to be. Anyway I think back to 1985, when Hugh and I ran our first Cthulhu based live action roleplaying game on Halloween. My parents were away, and we had a group of friends investigate a mystery in our “haunted house”, which had other players dressed up as ghouls in truly horrific monsters, and all kinds of carefully created special effects. Some Trick or Treaters knocked on the door, and were greeted by JB in a full monster costume made for horror impact not Halloween kitsch, and offer them a huge (real) heart. They fled: it was an ox-heart, we had acquired from the butchers – kidney, sheep’s eyeballs and other visceral props were carefully positioned, but I kind of feel sorry for those poor kids. I’d have stopped JB if it had not coincided with one of the players stepping through the cucumber frames in the dark – luckily Axel was not seriously hurt. Anyway the game was fantastic, the players genuinely scared, and the final scenes in the woods near Fornham absolutely terrify, even tome as referee. I hope Hugh dug up the bones he had placed in a parka anorak, and removed the dummy swinging on from the tree afterwards. It was the first “murder mystery” type horror game I ever ran, and while I have run many many more the first is always the best in some ways! Nowadays we would use less fake blood and real meat, and actually use more sophisticated props, but hey we were just kids. If anyone ever wants a game like this run for their friends, you can email me (email@example.com) and my new more vegan-friendly games I will happily run for you and your friends I guess, though it would help if you offer to pay me!
It probably helped that I did not believe in ghosts back then – that was not to change till 1987 and the Thetford Priory incident. I guess if you want a Halloween ghost story, that is as good as any…
Soon after I was off to study for my degree, and in the small Church college I attended Halloween was regarded with deep suspicion by many of the Christian Union. Nothing like the suspicion they regarded me or wicked Uncle DC with. Still the uni (as it became) had Halloween Discos, I think only Hugh ever managed to traumatize people with his Halloween costume. Once I joined the SPR I used to argue I should get the discount for fancy dress as I was dressed up as a ghosthunter, and I did actually manage this one year, so notorious was I. Soon after I founded the Student Parapsychology Society, and every day was Halloween then, not just Halloween at Christmas. My years in the CPRG, SPS and various other groups meant I was often running around at Halloween, and paranormal TV meant it was a time you were always at work.
Hey I could reminisce all night, but soon the ghosts and goblins will approach my door. I had best go and stock up on more chocolate, and buy some tacky Halloween mask I guess just for once I should enter in to the spirit of the season, but to be honest, Halloween is probably one f my least favourite events of the year: perhaps because it normally means work, perhaps because familiarity breeds contempt. For every else, have a wonderful safe and happy Halloween folks, and I’ll pray for you benighted souls as the forces of darkness creep closer to your doors…
And as a strange sadness creeps over me, I’m thinking of Crowley-cat, his shade prowling round his old home tonight I’m sure! I miss you boy, I really do. And on that note, here is my favourite Halloween song, with the best video I can imagine for it. Tonight, while the ghosts of Houdini and Lovecraft play checkers in the hereafter, I’ll remember those great sceptics too, and hope you enjoy this little slice of American Gothic.