Things You Must Do During the Month of October (or, How to Not Celebrate Halloween Like a Messy 18-year-old)

The transition from “kid Halloween” to “adult Halloween” happens without us really knowing it.

Stage 1: We have a truly golden period from about ages 2-11 (or 12/13, depending on how happy or sheltered your childhood was) where any adult you encounter on Halloween straight up gives you candy and there is a whole day at school devoted to the holiday, complete with a costume parade, themed games, and plenty of disgusting yet delicious orange colored treats. While towards the end of our run as trick-or-treaters, we may bend slightly to tween peer pressure and opt for costumes that show off our assets rather than weird costumes that truly speak to us (dolphin, wizard, Marie Curie), we generally still appreciate the childlike whimsy of the holiday and brazenly demand treats from strangers.

Trick or treaters on the porchStage 2: We have an awkward, frustrating stage where we think trick-or-treating is lame and instead look for Halloween parties with people of the opposite sex. Most of us have no success with these kinds of functions, so we either become the assholes who smash pumpkins in people’s yards or the sheepish homebodies who reluctantly help our moms hand out candy.

Stage 3: We turn 18. We go to college (or at least to college parties) where Halloween becomes fun again. It’s a distinctly dignified and proud experience as you’re finally asserting your independence with like-minded adults (i.e. you don’t have parents around to stop you from binge-drinking and everyone is horny).

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERAIn general, the cycle is pretty seamless. Halloween goes from magical and untouchable to truly confusing to plain rowdy (which we mistake for being “awesome” since our vision of the golden years has become clouded).

But, guys, let’s face facts: “Grown up” Halloween is a rip-off!

When I went to college, I was underwhelmed, to say the least, by the way 18 to 22-year-olds celebrate the holiday. There are costumes, there are treats, there is a general sense of mischief and merriment, but unlike the “kid Halloween,” no adults are in on it (and that is half the fun, as I’ll explain later). I had been led to believe that Halloween got fun again in college, but really it’s just like any other weekend night on a college campus. There’s alcohol and sloppy grinding and mistakes, but this time with wigs and makeup! It’s like Vegas! Costumes and liquor and broken dreams abound!

Again, I am told this is all fun, but, like Charlie Brown, I can’t help but feel like everyone else is riding the joy train and I got a rock in my candy bag.

Screen Shot 2014-10-31 at 11.32.35 AMI guess I still want Halloween to be what it was when I was a kid—one of the coolest nights of the year when you get to dress up as whatever the hell you want and every adult is contractually obligated to give you candy, whether it be your usually crotchety bus driver or your normally reclusive neighbor. You are having the time of your life… and the adults are totally in on it! You would think they would be jealous of all the fun kids get to have, but no! They revel in it! They help them get all gussied up and walk them from neighborhood to neighborhood and even fill up giant bowls of candy at their own homes, gamely offering it to all children, no matter how bratty or insistent they are (“I wanted a chocolate one!”).

When it comes down to it, there is something straight up delightful about seeing kids ecstatic with joy. Sure they’re up past their bedtime. Sure this candy’s gonna mess them up like a jug of Carlo Rossi. Sure they’re not really “learning anything” from it. But it’s one night of pure, unrestrained joy and fun for kids, and we’re all loving it. Plus, parents can eat their kids’ Halloween candy. In short, October 31st is the best night to be alive when you’re a kid. There’s just an air of merriment and a communal celebration of youth and freedom and the insatiable greed and gluttony that comes with that.

So the thing with “grown up” Halloween is that no one is condoning our bad behavior. Though the transition is fairly smooth, the holiday itself dramatically changes from the one night a year you’re allowed to get crazy to the one night a year you choose to get crazy. And that’s all fine and good—adults gotta kick back, too. But it seems we’re all desperately grasping at this feeling that’s escaped us. That old time feeling of Halloween night. A feeling of complete condoned abandon.

I feel the best way to capture that feeling is to build to Halloween night throughout October. Spend time doing those simple, innocent enough autumnal activities that make your night of abandon feel warranted.

Hey, you don’t need no one’s permission. You’re a grown ass person and you can do what you want—no excuses! This is more a guide for me and people like me who yearn for those bygone moments and feel deep, deep shame waking up in a cat costume, whiskers smudged and mouth tasting like old wine and Doritos.

Watch Hocus Pocus
If you have never watched Hocus Pocus… what the hell are you doing with your life?!?! Raising kids? Backpacking through Europe? Well stop that and watch this movie! It has come to be a seminal Halloween classic (to nobody except my generation). Older generations have respectable Hitchcockian Halloween classics, with nuanced characters and terrors of a psychological nature, but we, my ADD-addled friends, have three loud overdrawn witches that were pretty much invented so they could be impersonated by drag queens. And we like it that way! Who needs subtlety? We don’t need no depth of character. Make the bad guys bad and the good guys good. And make every line a knee-slapper.

What’s great about Hocus Pocus is that the premise is actually pretty terrifying—three witches suck the life out of children to maintain their youth. At the beginning of the movie, we see them straight up kill a little girl. This should be horrifying. But the witches are so bug-eyed and bumbling and full of one-liners, that everything they do, including murdering children, seems like a lark. As a movie, it’s just a good time. Plenty of jokes, musical numbers (!), people in costumes, some super 90s bullies, a pretty hot Sarah Jessica Parker, a talking cat, all the good stuff.

But Hocus Pocus is something more: It is Halloween. According to Wikipedia, “the traditional focus of All Hallows’ Eve revolves around the theme of using ‘humor and ridicule to confront the power of death.'” Then isn’t Hocus Pocus the very spirit of Halloween? They’re killing kids, but they’re out of brooms and Kathy Najimi has to ride a vacuum! Oh-ho-ho!

This is Halloween, people. Horrifying undertones drowned in frivolous fun.

Hocus-Pocus-19Go on a hayride
Everybody nestle on in! It’s time for a crowded, bumpy, all-too-short ride with screaming infants and frail grandparents alike! What looks like a soft, welcoming bed of hay will poke, prod, and stick to every part of your body. You may wonder, “How did all this hay get in my hair? My head was definitely above hay level.” Well cause hay’s the devil, that’s how. And hay will find its way into your asscrack, no matter how many clothing items you’ve layered on. This sounds unpleasant to say the least, but hay rides are actually the tits! It’s similar to being pulled in a wagon as a child. Your expectations are much higher than the experience itself. You think you’ll be flying through your neighborhood without having to do any work. In reality, it’s a much slower, labored ride, but you enjoy it nonetheless. You’re just chillin’, taking in the scenery and the fall air, and moving while sitting—it’s like magic!

gatlinburg-tn-hayrideEat pumpkin pie
Just eat pumpkin pie. Put a dollop of whipped cream on it. Place a dainty silver fork next to it. Upload pictures of it to Instagram. And then shovel it down in 30 seconds like the monster you are.

Screen Shot 2014-10-31 at 10.59.45 AMDo something actually scary
Once at a sleepover, my friends decided to watch a scary movie and I, being the shameless pansy I am, lay on the couch behind them with my back to the TV. I even borrowed my friend’s iPod so I wouldn’t have to hear the movie. And her selection consisted mainly of Kenny Chesney and The Pussycat Dolls. In short, I’ve endured some trying things to avoid being scared.

I have since become less sensitive to scary movies, after being peer-pressured to watch them fairly often in college. It’s still not my favorite genre and I still get scared, but I’ll watch them now (especially around H-ween). And I no longer lie on the couch with an iPod or have an irrational fear of Tim Curry… actually, I still kinda do.


Tim Curry, b. 1946

My point is—do something that will give you an appropriate good old fashioned scare during the Halloween season! It might be a scary movie marathon, or a trip through a haunted forest, or maybe getting blackout drunk in a zombie costume (I advocate this the least). Just do something that takes you out of your comfort zone and rattles you a bit. Shake them Halloween bones!

Spend more time than necessary on a Halloween costume
We’ve all been in that place where we just throw a bunch of stuff together and call it a costume (ex: me the last 3 years).

Screen Shot 2014-10-31 at 11.07.00 AMBut it’s rewarding to put in some time and effort and look bomb ass on Halloween night. I kind of tried this year. Ok, I’m proud. Whatever. Leave me alone!
Screen Shot 2014-10-29 at 6.24.07 PMDo stuff with pumpkins
I have never been a pumpkin carver. I carved my first pumpkin when I was 17, and while it was fun, three days later, my pumpkin had a shriveled visage and slugs coming out of its mouth.

Screen Shot 2014-10-31 at 11.10.58 AMThere are ways to better preserve your carving work, but I’m lazy and, instead, will advocate for painting or Sharpie-ing your pumpkin!

Try to score candy from someone
It ain’t Halloween if no one gives you candy! You may not be a little kid anymore, but there are ways to get loot. Around this time of year, your workplace, local library, and different fixtures around the community usually have a mini Snickers or two to give out. Listen to the greedy 5-year-old goblin that lives inside you and gather ALL THE CANDY YOU CAN and hoard it in a pillowcase! Get crazy! Grab a mint on your way out of a restaurant!

OTC-mintsFind an off-kilter spooky festivity to attend
A screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show or Halloween karaoke (SCARYOKE!)

Eat some stews and sweet breads
You’re gearing up for winter. Just do it.

Find a way to see some kids in costumes
That sounds really creepy. But (hopefully) you know what I mean. Kids in costumes are the best. I once saw a two-year-old boy dressed up as Po from Teletubbies and I have never been the same. Maybe give out candy in your neighborhood. Even if you have a party to go to, it’s worth it to stay local for an hour or two just to see all the cute costumes, though this year I imagine you’ll be seeing Elsa’s for days.

Screen Shot 2014-10-31 at 11.14.18 AM

*******!*!*!*!*!*Bonus Viewing Materials*!*!*!*!*!*******

“Anything Can Happen on Halloween” from The Worst Witch
I have never seen this movie, and you probably haven’t either. But let’s just enjoy this clip for what it is: Tim Curry at his finest. He dons a magical, bad special effects-laden cape and he busts out some sick rhymes (Favorite: “Has anybody seen my tambourine? I may start playing Begin the Beguine!”). You gotta give it up for Curry, though. This song is utter nonsense and he still performs it to the hilt. A true professional. Fun fact: I once looked up the lyricist of this song and it was a man who had actually won an Oscar for music. Ah, the world.

Sexy Sax Man from The Lost Boys
When it comes to selecting the emblem of Halloween, many people favor a grinning jack-o-lantern or a white-sheeted ghost. Me? Well to me, the true spirit of Halloween is the sexy sax man from The Lost Boys. His greased muscles, his equally greased hair, his gypsy skirts, his soulful saxophonal moanings, his undulating hips. The man is a vision. A relic of 1987 that was meant to dissipate into the fabric of time with neon legwarmers and teased bangs. Yet the fleeting primal demigod was, as if by magic, captured forever on film. We see him now, and it is as if we are looking at something from another world. We see Jami Gertz’ hair, we see Kiefer Sutherland’s leather jacket, we see Alex Winter, yet we are not taken aback as we know these are signs of another time. But this man—this saxophone-wielding, gold chained, purple panted creature—when did his kind ever exist? He must be supernatural. Of another land, another dimension even. He only comes out once a year, with the vampires in Santa Carla, through the humble TV screens of our homes.

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5 Responses to Things You Must Do During the Month of October (or, How to Not Celebrate Halloween Like a Messy 18-year-old)

  1. Daniel says:

    Yes. Most people truly have no idea how pivotal Hocus Pocus is to Hallowe’en.

    Also, I would add, watch the first 10 or so Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Specials because they are almost as important as Hocus Pocus (

    • maryquinneth says:

      Thank you!

      Funny story (but not really): This post started out as a list of movies/shows one should watch during the Halloween season, and there was a whole section dedicated to Treehouse of Horror! But in the “creative process,” as they say, the piece took on “new life.”

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