Saturday, October 28, 2006

A Halloween Questionnaire

Since I'm itching to blog but don't have much time, here's a little questionnaire I'm hoping lots of people will answer. (Yes, this is a naked plea for comments.)

Favorite Halloween costume?

When I was ten or twelve, somewhere in there, my mother made me a bat costume with very convincing wings. But since I also had a hat with ears, and since my mother had drawn whiskers on my face, most people mistook me for a cat until I stretched out my arms. Then they thought I was a flying cat.

It was still a great costume, though.

And then there was the year, in my early twenties, when I dressed up as Samurai Editor, with a vaguely Japanese-looking bathrobe, a plastic sword, and a copy of Strunk & White stuck in my belt.

Some of my students would still agree with that one.

Favorite Halloween tradition?

When I was growing up, my mother had a Halloween party every year where she transformed my bedroom into a haunted house, complete with a sheet mummy on the bed. The best part of this was tactile: she put out bowls containing peeled grapes (eyeballs) and cold spaghetti (monster guts). Kids love stuff like that. She also read us ghost stories while holding a flashlight under her face, which made her spookier than the stories.

Most exotic place you've spent Halloween?

In 1988, I went to London for the World Fantasy Convention, always held in late October. On October 31, I took the train from London to Edinburgh. We pulled into Edinburgh at dusk, arriving through fields dotted with bonfires. (It was a lot like the Loreena McKennitt song All Souls Night.) Once I'd checked into my hotel, I took a "Haunted Edinburgh" tour, featuring extras dressed in white sheets who periodically made scary noises and rushed out at us. When one of these apparitions ran out to confront me, gibbering and waving its hands, I gibbered and waved my hands back, and the ghost started to laugh. At our next stop, a cemetery, I saw that ghost or another one (who can tell, with the sheets?) hiding behind a tombstone, and I waved. The ghost waved back.

It's very important to make friends with ghosts.


  1. Hi Susan! My favorite Halloween costume was the one I designed myself as an adult. I'd been through theatre classes in college so I used that training. I found an exotic, long sleeved, black lace nightgown complete with ruffles at the ends of the sleeves and hem, which was ankle length. Because it was lace, I wore a flesh colored leotard and tights under it. I found a witches hat made of gauze, added some black ballet slippers (the flat kind) and a mask for my eyes that was brown sequins shaped like bat wings. I wore it out on a bar hopping excursion with my friends.

    My favorite Halloween tradition is: when I was 10 my dad stopped the trick or treating and instead took my sister and me to the movies every Halloween. It was great time with a parent and the movies were cool.

    The only place I can call exotic is the Haunted House I went to right here in San Antonio. I'd never been to one outside of carnivals and this was an interesting experience.

    Peace and Happy Haunting!

  2. Anonymous2:11 PM

    Greetings, Susan!

    Actually, the only Halloween costume I can remember having was a red cape with a hood, which my mother made for me when I entered the first grade. I was five years old and quite pleased to be dressed as Little Red Riding Hood with a basket in place of a bag for receiving candy. I think there's actually a picture of me in my cape, somewhere in the photo album my mother gave to me when I graduated from college, but not dressed up for Halloween.

    There were no traditions as such while I was growing up that were connected with Halloween. No parties or outings.

    Since marrying, though, about fourteen years ago, Halloween has become an event, because it is my husband's favorite holiday. He buys vast quantities of candy and sits at the door with our dogs, waiting for the neighborhood children to come to the door. We live in a ... relatively economical part of town, so a lot of new families with small children buy houses nearby and there's always a fresh crop of Trick-or-Treaters.

    The most "exotic" place I spent Halloween was in Minneapolis at the World Fantasy Convention. Lots of fun!


  3. Paul A.8:06 PM

    That sounds like it was indeed a great costume.

    Halloween is not a very big thing in this part of the world. When I was in primary school, the big dressing-up occasion was the Friday of Book Week, when everybody was invited to come to school in a costume related to the year's theme, and the best costumes got prizes. My mother had some brilliant costume ideas, and always put a lot of effort into them. Of my costumes, the best was the Capt. Jas. Hook costume (which won a prize), but my favourite in concept was the flying pig, complete with jet pack and crash helmet.

  4. Thanks for the comments, Lee and Liz! I'm always interested in hearing other people's stories.

    Paul: My high school English department did a "dress up as your favorite character from literature" day every April 1. One year I went to school as the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland, complete with sandwichboard playing cards. It was a blissful experience, because I got to yell, "Off with your head!" at my least favorite math teacher, and he couldn't do a thing about it.

    In fourth grade, we put on a play of Greek myths. I got to be the Minotaur. This was very exciting, because in real life I was the kid everybody beat up, so I really got into wearing an ugly mask and roaring at people.

    My costume came with bones for me to chew, but the bones were cut out of white construction paper. At first, I didn't understand how to pretend to gnaw on them (like nibbling on corn of the cob), so I tried to jam one into my mouth, and it got stuck on my braces. This meant that the monster had a long, silly white tongue for a while -- but when I finally worked the bone loose, it looked very convincingly gnawed!

  5. I never liked dressing up for Halloween, so I don't have any favorite costumes of my own. It's quite a relief for me to be old enough to just opt out of the whole thing.

    But there is a young friend of mine, who wore a beaver costume for 3 years. The first year, she was only 3 months old, and she fit in it completely, with only her face peeking out of the hood. The second year, it fit her like a furry dress, with the tail dragging after her. The third year, it looked more like a jacket, and it was tight enough that she couldn't fit the beaver-face hood over the hood of her coat...but she loved it anyhow. She would run up to the neighbors' doors with her little plastic pumpkin and shout, "Peek-A-Boo!"

    A few years after that, I saw her dressed up for an event in Boston, a few days before Halloween. She was wearing feline ears on a headband, and had a long tail pinned to the seat of her trousers. I asked what her costume was. "Part leopard, part tiger cub, part lioness, and part ladybug." (As you might guess, the ladybug part was very small.) I treasure the memory of watching her chase pigeons across Boston Common.

  6. Cheri Smith5:28 AM

    Favorite costume: Pippi Longstockings...I braided my hair around coat hangers so the pig tails would stick out and stay that way...made for tricky entrances and exits through doorways, but otherwise, fun.
    Favorite tradition: When we were little, my Mom thought we should give a trick for a treat--so my sister and brother and I would have to perform some sort of dance or song at each house. I think we really hauled in the candy because of this, now that I think of it.
    Exotic Halloween place: My husband, Doug, spent All Hallows Eve in Salem, Mass a few years that town REALLY gets into the holiday.


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