There’s a nip in the air and the leaves are starting to turn. Yards are dotted with color from mums, ornamental cabbages and peppers. Orange and white pumpkins are arranged on steps. Then there’s the severed hand laying on the grass next to a tombstone and a giant spider. It’s hard to ignore that Halloween is almost here.
This year the decorations in the neighborhood started going up in September while it was still 80 degrees. Eight-foot spiders crawling down the face of a four-story building, complete skeletons cavorting on the porch, full-sized demons and killers from movies stalking across the yard, limbs and bones strewn in the flower beds, bats and ghosts swinging from tree branches low enough to touch my head.
Mostly I’m walking past these homes in daylight, but some evenings after work it’s already dark and these yards teeming with decorations are creeping me out. First, they’re gory and scary. No one has an inflatable Casper the Friendly Ghost, or a smiling pumpkin. Second, when did this formerly one-evening event become a month-long extravaganza? It’s what happens when we find a good thing and want more of it, I guess.
Now we need to make room for bar-hopping costume events on the weekend before; kids-only events where a Halloween parade in costume and the attendant candy-fest can happen in a well-lit, safe place; and haunted houses and corn mazes with a resident slasher. You can also find scores of scary movies on cable to pretend it’s Halloween every night. I suppose if we’re going to do all of these things, it takes a month.
As a child, I remember getting a pumpkin, carving it into a jack-lantern, and trying to stabilize the candle so it wouldn’t keel over. This was the one and only Halloween decoration at our house. When we went trick or treating, I noticed that some homes elaborated a bit by having a stuffed scarecrow or ghoul on their front porch, but that was about it. No orange lights, no spiderwebs wrapping the fence or bushes, no zombies roaming the premises. Just big bowls of candy and friendly people at the door.
So Halloween has fallen victim to “holiday creep” – in the same way that Christmas seems to start showing up right after back-to-school shopping. Spreading out from October 31 like a killer fog from a horror movie, it has merged with harvest celebrations and Octoberfest to be one big orange distraction from the most terrifying prospect—winter.