Halloween as a deconverted former fundamentalist.

Michael and I went into a Hal­loween shop today.

I’d nev­er been in a Hal­loween shop before, and it was an eye-open­ing expe­ri­ence.


When I was five, we went trick-or-treat­ing in our tiny neigh­bor­hood. If I remem­ber cor­rect­ly, my broth­er was Moses and I was Aaron — we wore bathrobes and had walk­ing sticks. It might have been a church thing and we only stopped at the neigh­bors’ hous­es that we knew. I real­ly don’t remem­ber much oth­er than that.

After that, we didn’t cel­e­brate Hal­loween any­more. And I’m not real­ly sure why.

At my Chris­t­ian school in my ele­men­tary years, we did some­thing where every­one dressed up and got judged accord­ing to our cos­tumes. I think there was can­dy, too. I’m pret­ty sure it was a replace­ment for Hal­loween.

At home, we start­ed going to the base­ment on Hal­loween, pre­tend­ing we weren’t home. Mom and Dad would rent a tape of ran­dom Chris­t­ian come­di­ans, and we’d eat piz­za (a big deal because we didn’t have a lot of mon­ey) and pop­corn. It was always a hap­py evening, good mem­o­ries.


Around this time, I start­ed read­ing Jack Chick tracts. (Truth be told, I col­lect­ed them for a while. I won­der what hap­pened to the ones I had?) This one in par­tic­u­lar ter­ri­fied me.

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I imag­ined Satan­ic influ­ence every­where, even though I don’t seem to remem­ber things like this being taught in my denom­i­na­tion (despite the fact that a lot of them loved Chick tracts).

Whether it was from these tracts, from things I heard from teach­ers or kids at school or church, or some­thing else entire­ly — Hal­loween nights always had a bit of fear attached to them, despite the fun and fam­i­ly.

I wor­ried about kids nation-wide, whether they were being killed, sac­ri­ficed, or recruit­ed for Satan. I wor­ried about my neigh­bors, whether they were giv­ing out poi­soned or boo­by-trapped can­dy.

I wor­ried that some­how, the neigh­bor­hood kids would find out we were in our base­ment instead of giv­ing them can­dy, and what if they were demon­i­cal­ly influ­enced and got angry and some­how demons found their way into my house?

I’d say my own prayer while Dad prayed over the food, try­ing to ward off any evil spir­its that might enter the house. Then I’d feel bet­ter and be able to enjoy the rest of the evening.


I was nev­er allowed to watch Gar­goyles, or watch/read the Goose­bumps show/books, or be inter­est­ed in any­thing that could pos­si­bly have even a tan­gen­tial con­nec­tion to the occult. (Except Sab­ri­na the Teenage Witch — that was innocu­ous enough to be allowed to watch, some­how, maybe because it was part of TGIF for a while.) Scary things — even things that were sup­posed to be scary for fun — were wrong. They made light of true evil, mak­ing it more palat­able. They were rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the real demons, ghouls, witch­es, Satanists.

That was the hor­ror — what I was taught either explic­it­ly in ways that I can’t quite recall or implic­it­ly from just believ­ing in Chris­tian­i­ty, was that those things were real. So rep­re­sen­ta­tions of them were per­son­al­ly hor­ri­fy­ing, and any­one who thought they were fun­ny or total­ly fic­tion­al I deeply dis­trust­ed. After all, they were sup­port­ing true evil, so who knew what they were capa­ble of?


The scari­est thing I ever saw grow­ing up, believe it or not, was this Mick­ey Mouse car­toon:

It was scary because in my lit­tle mind, those things were real. Demons were mov­ing the skele­tons. Satan was alive and active in that car­toon, and my impres­sion­able lit­tle mind and ten­der lit­tle heart were shak­en to their core. To this day, the music in the car­toon sends shiv­ers through my spine and makes me taste fear.

Because it was a rep­re­sen­ta­tion of an evil I believed to be real.


A cou­ple of close friends like to host Hal­loween par­ties. I’ve been going to them since I was in my late teens / ear­ly 20’s, but I’ve nev­er dressed up. The par­ties that we did sev­er­al years ago were pret­ty much geeky hang-out ses­sions, where we played games and ate food and just hung out. The one par­ty that I remem­ber being tru­ly Hal­loween-like, I was at BJU so I couldn’t attend.

But two years ago, I went to my first real Hal­loween par­ty, com­plete with alco­hol, drink­ing games, cos­tumes and stay­ing up late. I was so wor­ried about it, despite my grow­ing doubts about the real­i­ty of hell or demons or even God. I worked myself up so much that I had a mas­sive migraine before going. But it was pret­ty much the same thing as the par­ties I went to as a teenag­er and ear­ly 20-some­thing. There were no orgies, no incan­ta­tions, no drunk­en stu­pors or hor­ror. It was just a group of friends, hav­ing fun.

Last year, I thought about dress­ing up for the first time since 1992. I chick­ened out last minute, but deter­mined to dress up this year.

Midna is fucking AWESOME.

I’m start­ing slow, just wear­ing a mas­quer­ade mask and my lit­tle black dress. Next year, I’m hop­ing to be brave enough to do a cos­play of some sort, maybe Mid­na or Tel­ma from The Leg­end of Zel­da: Twi­light Princess.


Oh, I love you too, Buffy.

Buffy: The Vam­pire Slay­er was always a huge not-allowed-to-watch thing at my house. (Grant­ed, so was Friends, but, you know.) After see­ing so many screen­caps on Tum­blr that made it look awe­some, I decid­ed to watch through the show this past year. I loved it. It cer­tain­ly isn’t with­out its prob­lem­at­ic aspects, but there was so much good, so much pos­i­tive in the show, that I was real­ly sur­prised at how taboo it had been.

But many times, I had to talk myself down from the fear that would well up inside at the more hor­ror-type aspects of the show.

JUST LOOK AT HIS FACE. LOOK AT IT.

Recent­ly, I’ve start­ed watch­ing Super­nat­ur­al. (I’m still semi-ear­ly in Sea­son 2, so NO SPOILERS OR SO HELP ME GODDESS.) I’m find­ing the same sort of thing going on, but with more intro­spec­tion than I had with Buffy. More real­iza­tion of how 16-year-old Dani would have tak­en the show, or even 23-year-old Dani.

But 26-year-old Dani is enjoy­ing it. Able to rec­og­nize that it’s not real, not even a lit­tle bit.


That brings us back to today, then. My first time in a Hal­loween shop.

I was real­ly sur­prised to see so many lit­tle kids every­where — and not a sin­gle one of them cry­ing or scared. They were delight­ed by the scary stuff all around. Par­tic­u­lar­ly one lit­tle girl, who stood danc­ing back and forth on the balls of her feet, point­ing at a mask of a seem­ing­ly decap­i­tat­ed man, breath­less with excite­ment: “Look, Dad­dy! Look how scary!” She was all smiles, all gig­gles, all ener­gy and enjoy­ment, not a hint of fear or unease. It struck me as so odd, because I know how I would have felt at her age — or even just a few years ago.

These kids…they clear­ly could sep­a­rate fic­tion from real­i­ty in a way that I couldn’t at their age. In a way that I couldn’t as a young adult. I envied this abil­i­ty they had that I’m still work­ing on devel­op­ing. I envied their lack of fear, their pure delight, their rea­son­ing skills.

And in the midst of what would have been a build­ing of psy­cho­log­i­cal tor­ment for me just a few years ago, I couldn’t help but smile and feel a few more chains drop free.

2 Comments

  1. David Hughett on May 18, 2018 at 5:29 pm

    That’s a great sto­ry! Thanks for shar­ing.

  2. David Hughett on October 26, 2015 at 4:51 pm

    That’s a great sto­ry! Thanks for shar­ing.

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