“Halloween is the most popular holiday next to Christmas…and I’ll tell you why: Because it’s fun.”
That’s the take of Texas Tech University’s Rob Weiner, a pop culture expert and associate librarian who knows his horror flicks. He believes that people like to be scared, that it’s cathartic and makes Halloween a frightening delight to many.
Horror and Halloween aren’t exactly like two peas in a pod but almost. Yes, kids love to dress up in a favorite costume and go door to door to trick-or-treat – a throwback to what Halloween used to be.
But the fall holiday definitely has a scare quotient. Revelers watch menacing movies, read books about monsters, play chilling video game, navigate haunted houses or decorate their homes with frightening displays.
Weiner says people like scary, creepy things. And there’s a good and possibly ancient reason for that.
“There’s something about that primally. There’s that ‘what’s going to happen?’ Especially with movies,” Weiner says.
Being scared, Weiner says, brings tangential benefits to those feeling fearful or are anticipating it.
“You can be terrified without being horrified, but both are cathartic experiences for us as human beings. For many people they’re fun.”
Some of Weiner’s favorite horror movies include the Exorcist; Godzilla; Friday, the 13th; the Nightmare on Elm Street series; Dracula with Christopher Lee; and the original Frankenstein movies with Boris Karloff. Often, though, horror movies are campy, don’t have good story lines and aren’t well written. But, Weiner says, that doesn’t mean people shouldn’t watch them.
“We like creepy things, whether it’s the clown in IT—which was a really successful movie,” Weiner explains. “The thing about that film is not only is it a good horror movie, but its a good movie by itself.”
Halloween’s origins began in Celtic times when it signaled the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of winter, which often was associated with human death. Celts believed that on the night of October 31 ghosts of the dead returned to earth. In the Middle Ages, usually poor people dressed up and went door to door to ask for food or other help.
Youngsters still trick or treat today but, Weiner says, because of safety concerns over the past few decades, it isn’t what it once was.
He’s hopeful everyone has a Happy Halloween – whether they go to a party, a church festival or some other gathering.
“The important thing about Halloween is that it’s fun. Ultimately it’s not supposed to be terrifying or horrifying. It’s a community event that should bring us closer together, not tear us apart,” he says.