The people living on my street take Halloween very seriously. Preparations started at the beginning of the month, so that by yesterday the scene was set for a party. Hedges became home to vast numbers of oversized spiders and their spooky tangled webs. Gardens were turned into graveyards, occupied by tombstones, skeletons and ghosts. Houses, unexpectedly inhabited by an assortment of ghouls, witches and zombies have been covered in helpful – but perhaps unnecessary – warnings to ‘Keep Out’. Elsewhere, simple effects have allowed lights to blink and flash their alarm while shrieks and screams have penetrated the (natural and obligingly atmospheric), fogs that have swept in from the ocean at nightfall. This effect has been compounded by the glow of a million orange bulbs that decorate porches, roofs and garages. The street also boasts two enormous inflatable cats, and the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man towers over us all. It’s a scary place to be.
And – if it’s your first time – really rather daunting. Our participation was perhaps modest compared to some, but we had fun decorating the porch and buying candy ready for those who came trick-or-treating. There was some debate as to how much we should get, but in the end decided to err on the side of caution and bought almost 200 fun-size candy bars. Further, in order to compensate for my guilt at providing the neighbours’ children with such nutritionally inadequate material, I bought 20 or so mandarins in the hope that some of them would choose a more healthy option. Having already discussed this with a friend, she suggested that I draw faces on them so that they resembled little carved pumpkins, which would hopefully make them more appealing. I thought that this was a great idea. My husband was sure that I wouldn’t get rid of a single one. As it turns out, they actually proved to be rather popular – although not as popular as the candy, of course. So, various tiny (and some surprisingly large) fairy tale characters, super-heroes, vampires and demons started arriving – crowds and crowds of them – at about 6.30pm, just after sundown. This was the truly terrifying part of Halloween. Where on earth did all these children come from? And where were we going to get more (more!) candy? Sadly, it was all over for us by 7.20pm (7.20pm!) and the rest of the evening was spent hiding in the dark watching a Buffy the Vampire Slayer marathon, ignoring the doorbell and pretending not to be at home.