Halloween is upon us.
Prepare to be assaulted by all kinds of vampires, werewolves, and other ghost-like creatures that cloves of garlic, religious crosses, and even silver bullets aren’t likely to repel. Kids these days, I have found, are impervious not only to all curses but to any remedy that might counteract them, and they will find their way to your door no matter what you do.
Having realized my fate every October 31st, there are a few things I do to get into the spooky spirit of the holiday.
The Pumpkin Patch
Watching youngsters picking out pumpkins bigger than they are is a treat unto itself. Not to be missed is the proverbial scene where a little boy, having bragged to his mates about his strength, picks up a pumpkin just a little too heavy, drops it with a thud to the ground, then looks around to see if anyone saw him do it. Observant parents, trying to show their kids how to carve a pumpkin, also offer a chuckle considering the offspring usually comes up with a more creative design. Before leaving the patch, make sure you search for Linus and Lucy. I’m convinced like many others that their patience awaiting the arrival of the Great Pumpkin will be well rewarded.
It’s a relief to experience that not all costumes that come to your door are those that resemble druids, devils, or diabolical deviants, like a Jason or a Freddy. A little princess is a glorious sight to see, as long as you don’t try to guess which princess she claims to be, because if you’re wrong, she won’t let you forget it. Better to ask, “And what princess might you be?” than declaring, “Oh, you must be Princess Grace,” when she’s decked out as Princess Diana. The look she gives her mother standing behind might as well express, “Mom, has this guy been left behind or what?” One other thing about costumes: I don’t hand out candy to anyone dressed like a 17-year-old.
It might be wise to have a vast supply of treats on hand lest you desire to be tricked in one way or another by some mischievous ghoul or goblin. Nothing is worse than the feeling of impending doom should you run low on treats—or worse, run out completely. No kid wants to accept a box of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese in lieu of a Three Musketeers bar. My advice: Buy too much of what your wife eats.
If you really want to get into the spirit (or spirits) of Halloween, get yourself a copy of “Monster Mash” by Bobby “Boris” Pickett and the Crypt-Kickers, the perennial musical holiday favorite since it topped the charts in October 1962 (a feat, by the way, I find somewhat disquieting, as it was America’s number one song right in the midst of the Cuban Missile Crisis). “Monster Mash,” with its infectious beat that resembled the then-current dance craze “The Mashed Potato,” and was as novel as “Alley-Oop,” became a smash because its singer and author Bobby Picket mimicked Boris Karloff so effectively. I would bet a bobbed apple that anyone under 50 today has no idea who Boris Karloff is, so it surprises me that it remains a hit. But back in my day we all grew up watching those scary Universal horror films where Bela Lugosi became Dracula, Lon Chaney, Jr. turned into the Wolfman, and Karloff played Frankenstein’s monster. Add these crazy lyrics in the tongue of Boris Karloff to an up-tempo dance number, and how could this not be a Halloween hit?
I was working in the lab late one night when my eyes beheld an eerie sight, for my monster from his slab began to rise, and suddenly to my surprise, he did the Mash, he did the Monster Mash.”
Some other verses are just as colorful:
Out from his coffin Drac’s voice did ring, seems he was troubled by just one thing, he opened the lid and shook his fist and said, ‘Whatever happened to my Transylvania twist?’”
Now there’s a Halloween song as well-dressed as any Halloween costume, complete with sound effects—a boiling cauldron, a squeaky door, and dragging chains. Combine it with the resonance of your front doorbell and the giggly chatter of the darling little trolls just outside (all in anticipation of what kind of treats await them) and you’ll appreciate another Halloween.
:: King Harris
“Monster Mash” was originally published in October 2011, one of many essays that King Harris wrote for his column “It’s Good To Be King” that appeared for several years in SLO City News. It and some 90 other essays appear in the book It’s Good To Be King (CC Imprint, 2023), available in hardback and as an e-book from your favorite online bookseller, and in paperback from his website. Harris, a member of SLO Review’s Advisory Board, died in June 2022 at the age of 75.