“Listen to them. Children of the night. What music they make!”
Last Saturday, Hallowe’en, the graves opened up in St Margarets and the ‘undead’ – or the “alternatively alive” as they prefer to be called these days – walked our streets.
Now I’ve got nothing against monsters – some of my best friends turn in to zombies on Saturday nights – but that is on a one-to-one basis. It is another matter entirely when you have the full set walking up your path and banging on the front door. Vampires, Frankenstein’s monster, Zombies, Mummies, Ghouls, Ghosts, Werewolves and Witches -they were all there on Saturday night accompanied by their shadowy outriders – the Parents. Oh, the horror, the horror!
I doubt in any of this sepulchral squad knew or cared about the long tradition of Hallowe’en in this country, about how 31st October was marked as the last day of the year in the Celtic calendar when witches and warlocks walked abroad. The arrival of Christianity in the 3rd century put a bit of a damper on proceedings. Hallowe’en was renamed ‘All Saints Day’ (November 1st) – the word “hallows” being Old English for ‘halig’ – a Holy Man or Saint. In 610 Pope Boniface dedicated the day to all Christian martyrs and over the centuries the festival has grown into a time for remembering all the dead. In spite of this, the festival’s pre-christian connections with magic and mystery remain. It is said that it is possible on Halloween to divine who you will marry. It is also thought that those born on the day have the gift of the second sight.
You don’t need the second sight to predict what the monster class of 2015 want. Warbling their malevolent “Trick or Treat” chant, a 1950’s import from the USA, they were after sweets, preferably containing as many E numbers as possible. Give them some and they would mysteriously disappear back into the night, a.k.a the house next door.
Of course in St Margarets, us being a civilised lot, we have a system for controlling “trick or treaters”. It works like this…
- Leave a pumpkin lantern or candle on your door step and the monstrous swarm will come, bang on your door, drag you away from “Strictly Come Dancing” and take your sweets.
- Don’t leave a pumpkin lantern or candle on your door step and the monstrous swarm will come, bang on your door, drag you away from “Strictly Come Dancing” and take your sweets.
They’ve all gone now, those malignant beings who stalked our streets on Saturday, transformed by the magic of Hallowe’en back into perfectly normal schoolchildren …but that is their devilish deceit. They will return, this pestilent posse, one night when hooded hags ride broomsticks across a crescent moon and the doors of Hell’s pit creak open once again…
But that’s the way I like it. I am pleased to live in a community where children feel safe and confident enough to walk the streets at night (escorted by their parents) and gently torment their neighbours with demands for sweets. They are the young and we were like them once, weren’t we?… well, unless of course you are one of that cadaverous company the ‘undead’, sorry, the ‘alternatively alive’ . If you cannot see your own reflection in a mirror you may well be.
A montage of classic Hollywood monsters
— from Martyn Day
N.B: A version of this article first appeared in the on the site in November 2010