By Danny R. Phillips
Halloween, for as long as I can remember, has been my favorite holiday. Christmas is too shiny, Thanksgiving is too anxiety fueled (I come from a large, loud family), and Valentine’s Day is a joke. But Halloween? That’s one I could get behind.
The darkness, the pranks, the unlimited imagination, the scary movies on TV, the candy . . . the perfect holiday. So, if you have the same feelings about the darkest night of celebration, then Halloween Nation: Behind The Scenes of America’s Fright Night is for you.
Author Lesley Pratt Bannatyne has covered all the bases in her research for the book, from witches, ghosts, ghouls, and devils to how to carve proper jack-o-lanterns (and the history behind them), Halloween-themed tattoos (Joseph Boo in Boston is apparently the authority in that subject), where the first Halloween parade began (Anoka, Minnesota, the home of author Garrison Keillor), and how to conduct séances. Halloween Nation has all the info a true fiend would need to do the night up right.
Many things are explained and set right within the pages and photos that make up this reference book of sorts. Halloween may just be one night a year to dress funny or strangely without fear of derision to some, but for other it is a lifestyle that lasts the whole year ’round. Some embrace fully the campiness of “Jack’s Day” while still others live within its shadows.
Witches, it seems, are not all green-skinned, wart-covered hags. No, some can be nice and smoking hot; zombies can go to the mall and can/do get married; not all vampires sparkle; and those who venerate the season are not all Satan-worshipping, child-sacrificing, Heavy Metal-listening freaks that can’t wait for the day when they can go to Hell and rock out with Old Scratch himself.
Ms. Bannatyne’s book shows part of the holiday’s dark overtones and history, but it argues (and succeeds in proving) that the point of Halloween is for fun, for celebrating freedom of self, for remembering those that have gone before us, for showing our creativity, for eating obscene amounts of candy, and perhaps, getting the shit scared out of us.
Halloween Nation does come across, at times, like more of a social science experiment than a holiday-themed read but isn’t Halloween itself a social science experiment? Isn’t it a time to examine ourselves and shrug off the absurdity of everyday life in exchange for mischief and revelry? I can look past all the “facts” that work themselves into the pages and focus solely at the various fun and interesting discussions that lie within its shiny, picture-covered, well-presented pages. It is a beautiful volume to lay upon your coffee table, next to your giant bowl of candy and copies of Famous Monsters Of Filmland magazine.
In short, Halloween is fun. It’s a straight up blast and so is Halloween Nation.
Halloween Nation: Behind The Scenes Of America’s Fright Night can be ordered from Pelican Publishing. Readers may also order toll free from Pelican at 1-800-843-1724 or 1-888-5-PELICAN.