A Little Fright Reading…

It’s probably still a bit premature to be prepping your Halloween costume, even for the hardest of the diehards; none of the haunted houses will be operational until the butt-end of the month; and you know it’s tough enough talking your friends into horror movie marathons even in October. So what is a ‘Weener to do to satisfy their Halloween pangs in early September?

Hit up the bookstore!

If you’re like me, fitting books into your “busy” “life” is challenging. So now is the perfect time to begin the Bataan Death March towards finishing some Halloween literature in time for the big day. And I have three excellent recommendations to simplify the whole experience:

“The Halloween Tree” by Ray Bradbury
“The Thief of Always” by Clive Barker
“Death Makes a Holiday” by David J Skal

I’m actually not a big fan of Bradbury’s “Halloween Tree.” But for any kid who grew up in the safe harbors of suburban Middle-American in recent decades, Bradbury’s story transports you back to the hairier, scarier days when people lived out in rural farm towns and dressed as ghouls, skeletons, and ghosts, instead of Wolverine, dead Steve Irwin and Sexy [insert female costume name]. Bradbury’s story isn’t about candy. It’s a tour back in time to Halloween’s earliest obsessions with death and the life-cycle of the harvest.

If you’re a Bradbury fan, you’ll enjoy it. Plus, it’s short! That’s always a plus.  A summary and more factoids can be found here.

“Thief of Always” is a really wonderful and creepy book, and it’s surprisingly (to me) one of Barker’s lesser known works. Technically it’s not about Halloween. It tells the story of Harvey, a bored a little boy, who gets a magical invitation to a very magical house – a house that of course turns out to not be exactly what it seems. But Halloween plays a very big and interesting part in the middle of the book. It’s a lush, spooky read throughout, aided by Barker’s own twisted thick-ink illustrations.


A little more work than the two fantasy books, but with a much bigger reward, is Glendale’s own David J Skal’s “Death Makes a Holiday: A Cultural History of Halloween.” Scholarly non-fiction tracing the history of Halloween back to its European origins when it had an ever evolving series of goofy names like ‘Hallow Even Fire’ and ‘Hallowmas.’

The book begins with a twisted bang, touching on the urban legend of poisoned Halloween candy and telling the story of Ronald O’Bryan, a man who actually murdered his own son and tried to pin it on the suburban myth.

Since the Halloween holiday is the only unifying theme, Skal is allowed to jump to various different topics from chapter-to-chapter. From the evolution of the jack-o-lantern (it used to be a turnip before the holiday jumped the pond to North America), to a bizarre chapter about how Salem, Mass took its own pained witch-burning past and used it to transform itself into a gross tourism obsessed McDonald’s caricature of itself, to an inspiring and almost touching section on a Burbank man who turned his house into a bigger and bigger Knott’s Scary Farm-worthy attraction every year, and finally closing the book out with Halloween’s saturation of popular entertainment. There’s a lot about Halloween you don’t know.

More info about the book.

Read the fiction for eerie fun and pick up the non-fiction to annoy your friends this Halloween by fact droppin’ like a champ while drunk at your Halloween party!

Have a creepy weekend, people.