Hostages of HalloweenHalloween is right around the corner, trailing seed-laden strings of pumpkin guts and marathons of movies that severely cut into my productivity. What's not to love? Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays for a multitude of reasons, but costumes have always ranked pretty damn high on the list.
Huge shock, right? I know I'm doling out revelations left and right. Who doesn't love costumes for one reason or another? Whether it's the excuse to troll around in what would probably get you arrested by the vice squad on most days, or being allowed in public places dripping in gore, bones exposed and rewarded with candy, costumes are what Halloween is about.
But like most things, many of us probably take for granted that there is a frightening history behind costumes and Halloween, one that still creeps through our shadowy of streets, loaded on sugar and demanding tribute. Right about now you're rolling your eyes and saying, "Yeah, yeah, we know about the Celts and Samhain...blah, blah." Sure, that may be where it started, but as it is with most things, once it got to the Grand Ol' U.S. of A, we put our own angle on it.
Halloween showed up in the U.S. sometime in the 19th century, but didn't really take hold or morph into what we know it as today, with costumes and trick or treating, until the end of the century. By the late 1800's, there was a move to make Halloween more family-friendly, taking out all of the Celtic boogeyman and turning it into a holiday.
By the 1920's-1930's, the family fun seemed to be wearing thin and many kids were using Halloween as an excuse to spread chaos and commit acts of vandalism and violence. Not too different from now, I know, but these little rapscallions were running up damages in excess of $100,000. Considering that it was the Great Depression and the 20s and 30s, that's a pretty sizable bill. During this time period, perhaps related to the Great Depression or WWII sugar rations, trick or treating fell out of favor, but costumes regained. Ultimately, the vandalism got out of hand and communities began to reinstate trick or treating as a means of dissuading neighborhood kids from wrecking havoc.
So there you have it, every October we are basically extorted by a long line of hooligans who snort pixie dust and drool chocolate. Maybe we should go back to the whole sacrifice thing? No? Well, anyway what's the thread tying all of my ramblings together? Weren't the kids just bored, and maybe a little pissed, during the 20s and 30s? Great Depression and all, I guess that's a solid argument too, except that recent research has suggested otherwise.
Deindividuation. (Take that spell checker.) No, I didn't get that from my arrogant word of the day calendar. Deindividuation is the psychological term used to describe a group of youth minds that have begun to care less about consequences and individuality and become more likely to commit acts they would not have done alone. And what was the unifying theme in all of these studies, you ask? Costumes.
Costumed children, especially those in groups, are statistically more likely to go out and do things they wouldn't normally do. As if evil children in horror movies weren't scary enough, now you have to worry about the mildly sociopathic thoughts rattling through the head of your neighbor's eight year old because the little turd whined until he got an Iron Man costume. And God help you if his classmates show up to round out the rest of the Avenger's team because then they won't view themselves as individuals. Flaming canine fecal matter, rotten eggs and toilet paper will spread through the neighborhood like the plague.
Halloween is coming my friends, so stock up on your fun sized extortion payments because the soulless spawn of your neighbor is coming a-knocking and God help you, it's dressed as a minion.
About the author:
H.E. Goodhue is an author and educator. Goodhue's series, Zombie Youth (Severed Press) has been called "unrelenting", "thrilling and exciting" by both fellow authors and literary critics. Goodhue is also the author of Pink Slime, Love Bug, Tidal Grave, RIP Tyde and the soon to be released Dry Rot. H.E. Goodhue currently resides in New Jersey with his wife, daughter and two hardheaded pitbulls.