When witches go riding,
And black cats are seen,
The moon laughs and whispers,
‘Tis near Halloween. - Author Unknown
Since Halloween is my favorite holiday, I thought it might be fun if this month’s “favorites” column were about all of my favorite things associated with it. Now, I’ve already written a column about my favorite horror movies, and another which listed my picks for the scariest short stories (many of which I included in PDF form). Furthermore, four of the selections in “My Favorite Books” would be considered horror: The Illustrated Man, Conjure Wife, Complete Fiction of H.P. Lovecraft and The Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allen Poe. Three of those, though, are anthologies; though I have often stated that I don’t like novels as much as short stories because it’s too difficult to maintain a mood for the whole of a long work (especially when it comes to horror), surely there must be some exceptions? The answer is of course “yes”, so let’s start with that:
My Favorite Horror Novels
Conjure Wife would have to be my absolute favorite, because it’s the only horror novel (and one of the few novels of any kind) which made it into “My Favorite Books”. But Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes is a very close second; in fact, it was on the short list when I was preparing that column, and I only cut it because my one-to-an-author rule resulted in its being elbowed out by The Illustrated Man. Two other favorites are actually on that list as well, as part of larger books: H.P. Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness (which contains one of the scariest passages in his entire oeuvre) starts on page 510 of Complete Fiction, and Edgar Allen Poe’s The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket starts on page 708 of Complete Tales and Poems. If you’re a Poe fan and have never read that one, you really ought to; though it starts out slowly and not very frighteningly, the pace and weirdness both gradually build to a shattering and horrific conclusion. I don’t generally like modern horror novels, but Tanith Lee’s The Book of the Mad is a notable exception, and the series it concludes (The Secret Books of Paradys) was another that almost made the final cut for my favorite book column.
My Favorite Monsters
Of the classic Universal horror movie monsters, I’d have to say my favorite was the Mummy; interestingly, I also find he’s the one that loses the most in remakes. Karloff’s Im-Ho-Tep was menacing, yet in a way sympathetic; he was a complex monster, unlike the automatons of ‘40s and ‘50s mummy movies or the unremittingly malevolent demigod of the recent ones. Frankenstein’s monster as portrayed in the first two Universal movies has similar appeal, though he also degenerated into a zombie in later films. The shape-shifting alien from The Thing is probably the most powerful of all movie monsters, and my vote for the most unique one would have to be the menace from The Monolith Monsters (1957), which is not any kind of creature but rather a chemical reaction.
My Favorite Horror Stars
When I think of horror actors, one name stands out above all others: Vincent Price. He is the only actor I can think of whose name alone is enough to get me to watch a movie, and his performances can make a poor movie watchable and a mediocre movie entertaining. The first movie I can recall recognizing his name in was The Mad Magician (1954), and it’s still among my favorite of his films, but there are so many others there’s no way to list them all. I’m also very fond of Boris Karloff and Christopher Lee, but I’m afraid they don’t quite reach the level of esteem I have for Vincent.
My Favorite “Horror” Songs
When it comes to setting a horror mood, there’s nothing like Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor (I especially recommend the E. Power Biggs recording). But for just plain Halloween fun, I would have to say my all-time favorite song is Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves of London”:
My Favorite Halloween Candy
When I was a child, people gave all sorts of things for trick or treat: candy, cookies, popcorn balls; my husband says someone in his neighborhood even used to give comic books. But since candy is the classic (and most common) treat, I’ll concentrate on that. As I’ve aged my taste in candy has changed somewhat, but there are two kinds of chocolates I’ve loved since I was a child: the kind with some sort of fruit or fruit gel inside, and the kind with crunchy stuff mixed in. The former type was largely represented in trick or treat bags by Raisinets, and the latter by Nestle’s Crunch bars; I also like Kit Kats, but those weren’t available in Louisiana until I was in my early teens. Other favorites included Sno-Caps (nonpareils) and Three Musketeers. Alas, since I retired I just can’t eat chocolate candy any more; I no longer burn enough calories to keep it from going straight to my waistline. C’est la vie.
My Favorite Way To Spend the Holiday
I’ve never been a Halloween party type of gal; I’ve been to a few over the years, but they were never really my preferred pastime on the night itself. As a child I of course went trick-or-treating, but when I got into my teens that fell by the wayside. Still, I found plenty to do:
If there was a “haunted house” fund-raiser in the planning I was involved, and while I was with Jack in the early ‘90s we always set up our house as one for the trick-or-treaters. While I was working I usually costumed on Halloween; since many people in New Orleans do I didn’t even attract any undue attention, and the clients seemed to like it…Since we live in the country now we don’t get any trick-or-treaters, but we usually celebrate with a Jack o’ Lantern, a Halloween cake and a scary movie, and I read a horror story aloud at some point in the festivities.
Oh, and one other thing; those with sharp eyes have probably noticed that in all the pictures where my fingernails can be seen, they’re different colors; that’s because I get my nails done every three weeks, and always use a color which is appropriate for the season. For Halloween, as you might expect, they’re always glossy black.