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2014 Halloween Roundup


Each Halloween I talk to media folks and answer questions about Halloween—trends, history, quirks, everything. I also try to scan the stories and news that comes out around Halloween to get a sense of what’s happening. This year I thought it might be fun to gather some of it together. It doesn’t include NEARLY everything, just what flew into my web.


What the mainstream media wanted to know:
What’s up with the sexy Ebola costume, gay Halloween, having to perform for candy (what do you call a cow with no legs? Ground beef.), costume history, history of people dressing up as infections, and fear. Lots about fear – what scares us and why we like to be frightened.

Trends the media reported on:
All sorts of haunted entertainments, but the buzz was about haunts that physically confront you:
“Already this evening, I’ve been bound in cling film and had a hood pulled tight over my mouth, then been doused in water until I choke. We and unable to see, I was bundled into the back of a tractor-trailer by a mute nurse and a cackling chambermaid and driven to an unknown destination. Here, I was forced to et stone-cold mashed potato mixed with insects, drink “blood” and was told that my mother was being held captive in a box.”  Oscar Quine, at Scare Kingdom Scream Park in Lancashire, UK, 2014
Pro haunt associations don’t like this trend, as it’s an accident waiting to happen.
Fun fact: the National Retail Federation estimates adult haunted house market at 32.7 million people.
Psychologists say it’s the same as eating ultra hot peppers; there’s a sense of accomplishment:
“People seem to find pleasure at whatever level is right below the one they can’t stand.” Abigail Marsh (psych prof at Georgetown)
Costume trend:  “We’re seeing a lot more costumes driven by nostalgia on the part of the parents, things like TMNT.  National Retail Fed agrees: retro costumes are among the top sellers.

Things I never saw coming:
-A candy buy-back program (Magic Beans children’s store offers shopping discount in exchange for excess sweets. The candy is donated.
-Pumpkinstein: pumpkins grown in a mold at Cinagro Farms in CA, so that they come out shaped like a Frankenstein head - $100 each, retail.

Big in the news:
-Keene Pumpkin Festival Bruhaha
College-age students on the streets near Keene State College set fires, flipped a car, chanted “bring out the bearcat” (the armored vehicle owned by police). 200 police. 84 arrests.
Basically, there were just too many people, they couldn’t get into parties, and they rioted in the street. There were bottles and billiard balls thrown at police, pepper spray and “sponge rounds” shot at the crowds. The melee was kept away from real festival, which happened downtown and attracts around 60,000 people. Everyone pitched in to clean it up.
In Other News:
-Death is now sexy, cool. The Metropolitan Museum in New York mounted “Death Becomes Her: A Century of Mourning Attire,” where the various shades of widowhood are on display (dark black for most recent, gradually going grayer and adding a frill or pattern as the woman emerges from widowhood).  Gloomth and the Cult of Melancholy, a blog and online shop now gets 1000 visitors a day.
-Muslim leaders in Malaysia denounced Halloween as a “Planned attack” on Islam, and Oktoberfest parties as a public vice. Halloween caught up in culture wars, as always.

-These exist: Halloween apps like Digital Dudz, free on iOS and Android. They’re special effects like beating heart or scanning cyborg eyeball, that you hide in your costume so the screen is exposed.

-Ghosts: People in 1500-1800 thought ghosts were solid, like people. When modern science developed, the discovery of hallucination helped explain them. Ghosts became psychological and pathological, and… transparent (like an hallucination).  The 19th-century world, mesmerized by science, was fascinated with idea that there is more around us we can’t see.




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