Now, I was as affected by the tragedy of September 11 as any of you. It was a shock, an outrage, and just downright sad. It was the Pearl Harbor for a new generation.

I quickly realized, however, that the worse thing we could possibly do would be to stop living, to allow September's events to take control of our lives, to descend into an extended Mourning Period from which we might or might not ever emerge from.

No, for that would mean the terrorists had won. Far better, I thought, to get back to Baseball, and all the other activities that directly or indirectly acted as expressions of that precious freedom we used to take for granted, back before recent events forced our attention across the sea to a country where the one soccer field had been turned into a place of executions.

I'd written my little 9/11 fable last month - now it was Halloween, and time to get back to business! Specifically, I returned to my continuing History of Halloween, finally bringing the holiday into the Swingin' Sixties, a most extraordinary decade for all things ghoulish and ghastly.

There was as of October still a bit of unnecessary lugubriousness in the air, and I confess I couldn't resist poking a bit of gentle fun in that direction . . .

Dear Readers, Mom, Uncle Mike, and the Book Again staff,
It is with heavy heart I write these words. As you know, last month I vowed that there would be a Halloween column.
Well, recent events have changed all that. I have tried and tried again to get myself in the proper Halloween mood, and it's just not possible. In these suddenly all-too calamitous times, there is enough real horror in the world without adding to it. Therefore, I regretfully must announce that there will be no Halloween column this year. My heart is not in it, and I'm pretty sure most people out there would agree that any such column would amount to little more than an unnecessary distraction.
Let's face it, a Halloween column is a pretty trivial thing compared to . . .

Hang on - now what on earth was that? Sounded like some sort of thumping - yet I am quite alone.
Hold on a second, I'll be right back

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Is he gone? Good!
Hello, you happy readers. I'm afraid I am responsible for that little thumping that sent Joe racing out of the room just now. Hee hee hee . . . Someone had to do something - this column was boring me to life - heh, heh.
Oh, pardon me - I've yet to properly introduce myself. Bartholemew's the name. I'm a mid-level, non-corporeal designated Samhain muse, second class.
Confused? Me too. Let's just say that in these parts I'm what's known as the Spirit of Halloween. Feel a sudden chill for no reason some autumn evening? That's me, breathing down your neck. Ever jump when you're out walking at night and a black cat appears out of nowhere, hissing and growling? Me again. Ever wonder about those mysterious howls, the grim hooting of owls, or particularly ominous thunder clouds? Me, me, and still me. I'm a purveyor of old bones, a necromancer in nightshade, a dabbler in the delightfully demonic. I 'm the face in the window, the bats overhead, the cry of the banshee. I dance with ghosts, run with werewolves, and fly on brooms, wings, and bed sheets.
And I'll be a flesh wearing human before I let Joe Nolte ruin it all! I therefore submit the following, which for no particular reason I call:

Yes, Virginia, There Is a Halloween Column!

("ghost written" by Bartholemew)


What was Joe thinking - no Halloween column? Preposterous! Might as well cancel the World Series, and for that matter do away with Thanksgiving and Christmas!

No Halloween column, indeed. It's been said over and over again by some of your fellow humans, but let me reiterate - now more than ever we need to live, to do what we love, to take full advantage of life in a Free Country. If we allow our emotions to be dominated by fear and panic, then and only then will our enemies have won.

Not that I'm suggesting we run around carefree as if nothing had happened - we are a nation at war, and should be a bit more alert than usual.

On the other hand it would be absurd to spend Halloween walled up at home, quivering with fear.
Imagine - quivering with fear on Halloween? Ridiculous! Absurd! Folly! Why - sorry, Igor, what was that? Oh, yeah . . .

Ahem. My all-too attentive assistant, Igor, has just been good enough to remind me that you're supposed to quiver with fear on Halloween! Heh heh, I knew that. Just testing you . . .

(Good job, Igor, now don't you have some toadstools to pick or something?)

Anyway, back to Halloween and fear. It's a special fear, this Halloween fear - it's controlled, anticipated, and, yes, enjoyed immensely. Halloween is the day we reserve for taking all our half-hidden ancestral fears of things unknown and unknowable and bringing them out to play, mocking and thus getting control of the more nameless worries that hide deep in the nether regions of our psyches most of the time.

What was that? Oh no, Joe's on his way back - Igor! Let out the mice!

Heh heh heh - that ought to keep him busy . . . I'd better get on with this thing.

Igor reminds me that your usual folklore columnist has indeed already done the Fear and Halloween thing to death (so to speak). He seems, come to think of it, to be rather over fond of this wonderful time of year. I wonder why that is . . .

Pardon me, Igor? Joe is how old? Why, he's practically ancient!

Let's see, that would put his childhood at - ah yes, the early-to-mid sixties! Ah, no wonder he harbors a special love for the Dark Doings of this season.

For if ever a generation could be said to be especially Halloween Happy, it would have to be that which entered elementary school in the early sixties. Oh my, what days those were . . . what happy glorious days. Let's go there . . .

Really, it all begins (for this generation) around 1957. One could argue that it really begins in 1930, with Universal. One could then argue that you can trace horror back through Lon Chaney and the Silent era, those wacky germans with their Max Shrecks and Peter Lorres, Edison's "Frankenstein", the wondrous Grand Guignol of Paris, and back into the 1800's with version after version of Frankenstein and Dracula playing to sell out crowds on the live stage, complete usually with extraordinary special effects, and so back to Mary Shelley, and further and further back.

Trust me, I was there. Heh heh heh . . .

At any rate, modern Halloween, as our hopefully distracted Mr. Nolte has previously pointed out, really didn't get going until the mid 1930's. Prior to that it had been a sort of anarchic anything goes affair, with adults attending costume parties while the kids were left pretty much on their own, to wreak suitable havoc.

By the late twenties folks had gotten fairly fed up with all that havoc wreaking. Something had to be done. And so it was that Halloween became institutionalized, with parades and organized trick or treating replacing pranks and vandalism. By the mid 1930's modern Halloween had taken root - and though Universal's terrible trio, Frankenstein, Dracula and the Mummy, had already run their course on the silver screen (yes, the Invisible Man, too!), there were sequels aplenty that would carry these icons well into the forties, where they would be joined by Lon Chaney Jr.'s Wolf Man.

Unfortunately, the early classics had been made as "A" pictures, with great attention and money lavished upon them, but by the late thirties Universal (under new ownership) had consigned said sequels to the "B" category - which meant less dough, tighter shooting schedules, and inferior scripts. The greatest tragedy resulting from this is that one of the best sequels, "Son of Frankenstein", was originally slated as an "A" picture, only to have the plug pulled at the last minute. I say tragedy, because, dear readers, "Son" was originally to have been filmed in COLOR!
Ah, to have seen Karloff, Rathbone and Lugosi in living, fiendishly green hued color . . .

But I digress.

Horror pictures were all the rage throughout the thirties, but as the forties hit so did War, and folks were less patient with shadowy doings in unnamed European countries. There was enough of that going on in real life.

Horror films in the forties tended to be comedies as often as not, sometimes with great results (I highly recommend "The Canterville Ghost" and "I Married a Witch", to name but two), sometimes not. The final nail in the coffin (so to speak) was when the great Universal cycle of monster sequels concluded in 1948 with Abbott and Costello meeting Frankenstein.

Horror was dead (so to speak).

As we moved from the forties into the Nuclear Fifties, monster movies came alive again (so to speak), albeit in a greatly changed manner. The two greatest preoccupations in that decade were UFO's and the Bomb, and so every creature that shambled onto the screen was either an atomic mutation or an alien from Outer Space.

All good fun, of course, but not quite as cool as the original Universal monsters.

I had to believe at the time (not that I'm so old, as a matter of fact I was barely in long pants during the Black Plague) that I was simply being nostalgic. Kids had this new thing called Rock & Roll, hot rods were ubiquitous, and these new, Sci Fi type monsters seemed to suit them just fine.


So, as I said, our story begins in 1957 - and, funnily enough, with Universal.

You have to remember that television and the movie studios were locked in mortal combat in the fifties. TV had stolen a huge segment of the formerly movie-going public, and the studios were doing everything possible to lure the crowds back. This is partly why such gimmicks as 3D (which didn't last) and Wide Screen (which did) were trotted out during the early to mid fifties. The studios were struggling for survival, and among other things they were not about to let TV have broadcast rights to anything decent.

TV in the mid fifties was still largely broadcasting "B" and "C" pictures - films no one cared very much about.

Then everything changed.

Walt Disney pioneered the way with his "Disneyland" show, and its immediate hit with "Davy Crockett" in early 1955. Those with eyes enough to see began to realize that TV and Film could work together, cooperate, and most importantly bring in lots of extra cash.

Universal, cash on their mind, were quick to see the possibilities, and in 1957 they put together a package of films to license to television stations, including "Frankenstein", "Dracula", and the rest of that ghoulish gang.

They called it "Chiller Theater".

Well, it was an instant success. Independent stations from ghost to coast soon had their own creepy host to introduce these frightful films, and a whole new generation fell instantly in love with Universal's creepy crew. It was monster mania, my friends, and it was scant months later that the first and still ultimate fan mag of the genre hit the news stands: Famous Monsters of Filmland, edited by the great and still very much alive Forry Ackerman (I believe Joe has mentioned him in previous columns). The magazine fed the fans, and created new ones, and Monster Madness was in full bloom.

Naturally, a studio in England decides to capitalize on this, and in short order have remade both "Frankenstein" and "Dracula", this time in living, dripping color, as well as introducing the world to a couple of newcomers named Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee.

In the states, the typical atomic alien monsters begin to be supplanted by more classic tales, as William Castle and Vincent Price gave us such eerie delights as "The Tingler" and "House on Haunted Hill". By 1960, AIP, the studio responsible for much of the aforementioned Atomic Alien Monsters, had switched gears, luring Price away from Castle and turning out their own neo-classic horror flicks, including "The Raven", "Comedy of Terrors", "The Pit and the Pendulum", and many, many others.

The most significant development as we entered the sixties, however, was not in the movie houses. The most significant development came from a little plastics company named Aurora, who manufactured model airplanes. Someone, observing this monster craze sweeping the classrooms, wondered if any of these kids would be interested in making models of their favorite fiends . . .
So it was, in late '61, that Monster Models hit the stores. Again, pandemonium.

By October of the following year this craze had caught up with our own Joe Nolte, then a mere child of six. The children's magazine "Jack and Jill" printed a Halloween tale featuring a kid who mysteriously vanished, and deliberately did not supply an ending. It was a contest for the young readers, to finish the tale themselves and submit the results.

Young Joe did just that, and the following January found his name in print as an "honorable mention", to his delightful disbelief.

Unfortunately, they did not print his ending, so (I believe) Joe to this day has no idea what exactly it was that he wrote . . .

Funnily enough, one of the entries that did see print was a grim little piece written by none other than a ten year old Matt Groening.

Matt would of course grow up to create the Simpsons, which continues to honor this season with its yearly "Halloween Tree House of Horror" episodes. As I said, a monster mad generation.

Oh, yes, that same October of '62 also gave us (besides the Cuban Missile Crisis), the immortal "Monster Mash" by Boris Pickett and the Crypt Kickers. It quickly soared to the top of the charts.

And I believe it was also in 1962 that a certain gloomy Mansion first appeared outside Frontierland in Disneyland, though it would remain closed for seven long years.

The mania continued, of course, and by the fall of 1964 not one but two TV sitcoms appeared based on this monstrous craze: The Munsters and the Addams Family. The mania by this time was everywhere, as Creepy Crawlers, do it yourself Monster kits, and other assorted terrifying toys appeared to the delight of monster mad kids across the nation.

And a word should be said for the "Milton the Monster" cartoon, which aired Saturday mornings in '65/'66 immediately after the Beatles cartoon show.

But times change, kids grow up, and the craze ebbed. It was inevitable.

Of course, there was a certain gothic Soap Opera that began airing in '66, only to be trounced repeatedly in the ratings. As a last ditch effort, they threw a ghost into the show late in the year.
Ratings improved, for a time, but had dropped again by April 1967. The show was to be cancelled.
At that point, having nothing to lose, they decided to throw in a vampire for a few episodes.

Within a week the deluge of mail told them they were quite possibly onto something, so they kept the vampire on, and Dark Shadows continued all the way into early 1971.

(And if you have Sci Fi channel, Barnabas Collins (the vampire) is about to appear for the first time as I write this.)

So the magic hadn't quite dissipated, and indeed I've noticed with delight a resurgence of interest in the genre of late, thanks largely to "Goosebumps" and a certain Harry Potter. It gives me hope for the future . . .

What was that? Joe's coming back? No, I haven't sent this yet! Igor, where are you? Drat - gotta go . . .

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I wonder where all those mice came from . . .

At any rate, as I was saying, I think a Halloween column would be trivial and untimely in these uncertain days, and I can only hope you all understand. Furthermore - now wait a minute. I don't recall writing all this . . . what on earth . . .

What was that? Sounded like a huge crash coming from the kitchen.

Hang on again, I'll be right back.

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Heh heh heh . . . It's me, Bartholemew. I knew that crash would get him. At any rate, I'm sure Joe Nolte will return to his senses soon enough. He's on his own for November, at any rate. I take Thanksgiving off. In the meantime I'm sending this column before he gets back. It'll be our little secret, eh, readers?

Therefore, from myself and Igor, and all the happy haunted denizens of this extraordinarily special time of year, from ghost and ghoul and witch and werewolf . . .