Did Halloween creep up on you unexpectedly this year? Are you feeling guilty that you accidentally put up the same Target “I (pumpkin) fall” banner on your door as three other houses in your subdivision? Did your homemade costumes underperform on TikTok? Well snuggle up in your last-minute adult animal onesie, I’m about to change the way you look at your own Halloween experiences for the rest of your life.
To take this journey, you have to understand the Midwest’s internal conflict about Halloween. I grew up in the 80s and 90s in the northernmost part of the Bible Belt — maybe the Bible Gut, depending on your interpretation of Southern Illinois and Northern Missouri’s spiritual zoning. Still actively caught up in the Satanic Panic that dominated many household decisions and Sunday sermons, even remotely religious parents maintained serious paranoia about this Christian, yes Christian, holiday. In the last age without the internet available even to introduce potential doubt about urban legends, parents in our area were beyond convinced that Satanists were out to collect kids for their rituals, and if the Satanists decided not to move forward with some poor kid for whatever reason, the other houses in their same neighborhood would hand them apples full of razorblades and drugs. I’m not kidding when I say it was a game changer for me the first time I saw someone online ask, “why would we give you our expensive drugs?”
Enter my mother. Here in my mid-thirties, I’m working hard on not remembering my mother with as much anger as I had coming of age because I believe a lot of this was fueled by mental health issues, but her version of religion made me and my sister positively miserable at all times. If you think Halloween was a borderline case with our family, let me reset your understanding: I wasn’t allowed to have a Super Nintendo in part because the slogan was “Now you’re playing with power — SUPER POWER!” and that evoked some sort of occult mysticism. Instead, I was given a cheap telescope for Christmas which I occasionally used to look up at places I wanted to move when I turned 18. Yeah, neighborhood Halloween people were definitely on the way to “split Hell wide open,” as went the common household refrain.
Oddly, we did typically have Halloween costumes as kids. There were younger years…