On ghouls and garages

The emo wreath of skulls and black flowers hanging off our front door says it all.

Halloween is coming. Fortean times have arrived.

The real boon of this holiday isn’t just about recycling those old black and orange wrapped toffee candies. (Speaking of which, someone should carbon-date those things. I’m pretty sure we’ve been communally passing along the same ones to each other for decades.)

Halloween is the one time we can allow ourselves to be indulgent in a pretty powerful emotion. I like to look at it as the counter-point to Saint Valentine’s Day. Sure, a healthy dose of love will get that heart pounding, but nothing beats the cardio workout of a good scare.

For me, the best part of trick-or-treating wasn’t the ever-filling pillowcase, the premiere sack of choice for professional treaters. It was approaching the houses that were decorated to the nines.

I would like to personally salute those scare enthusiasts who lay out gravestones on their lawns and fill their garages with a fog machine haze. As a kid, it was the anticipation that would drive me nuts, knowing that at some point, an air-pressure powered Frankenstein’s Monster could burst out of a casket at any moment.

The ensuing yelp, I figured, was a good price for handful of goodies.

I can’t understand why anyone wouldn’t want to indulge in some spooky craftsmanship. Let’s just face it, plumbing the depths of human irrationality and poking at the primal parts of our brain is a whole lot of fun.

Finding the fear factor is comparable to stand-up comedy, where you work a crowd to elicit a specific response. The scare maestros are emotional manipulators on an equally powerful end of the spectrum. It’s just that the laughter in the crowd is usually preceded by screams.

The true connoisseurs of scares understand that it’s really not the destination but the journey that matters. You don’t just have to worry about what’s going to pop out of the box at the end of the garage – you still have to make it there.

Anticipation is the where the real fear comes from. The “scare-ee” has the complete assured knowledge that something will happen, but has no control over the “when”. Throw in some fog, semi-darkness, creepy music and twisting corridors and you can stretch that anticipation into genuine moments of nail-biting anxiety.

It’s a double payoff of course. Those crafting the Haunted House get the satisfaction of having freaked out a bunch of people, and you get an exact figure of how jumpy you are, with a bonus blast of endorphins when the relief sets in.

There are plenty of us who particularly enjoy a good scare. With Halloween landing soon, it’s our time to pander to those who are willing to move their sleds out of the garage – to make room for animatronic zombies.

Now, this isn’t just a nostalgic tribute to all those done-up houses that thrilled the neighborhood kids on Halloween.

This is a warning.

I joined forces with a group of like-minded scaremongers and crafted a Haunted House for the Varietease vs. Sasquatch Prom Date coming up this weekend at the Yukon Convention Centre.

The only thing you’ll have to fear is what might be around the next corner….

Happy Halloween!

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