“HALLOWEEN NATION: Behind the Scenes of America’s Fright Night” (Pelican Publishing Company) has scads of scary yet scintillating info on America’s favorite holiday, including interviews from NPR’s Garrison Keillor, “The Simpsons” “Treehouse of Horror” writer Mike Reiss, and Incubus guitarist Mike Einziger.
For Halloween authority Lesley Pratt Bannatyne’s new book, her fifth on this topic, the journalist-author attended a séance for Houdini, participated in World Zombie Day, and also chatted with a witch who made jewelry for Fleetwood Mac’s Stevie Nicks, and with fang makers, professional haunters, registered mediums, Joe Boo tattoo artist…
Here are just a few fun factoids:
· “Halloween’s a monster of an industry. We grow 1.5 billion pounds of pumpkin each year and spend somewhere around $7.4 million on costumes for our pets.” (My white dove Nureyev will not be dressed as his namesake, or as anything else.)
· The world’s heaviest pumpkin weighed 1,725 pounds; the fastest-carved pumpkin took 24.03 seconds; the max number of pumpkins carved — one ton in three hours and 33 minutes, according to Bannatyne’s culling of stats from Guinness World Records.
The author was told these relevant, authoritative, encouraging words — “Bad people don’t grow giant pumpkins” — by John Doucet of the New England Giant Pumpkin Growers Association.
· Naked Pumpkin Runs are held in several cities including Seattle and Boulder. People, not pumpkins are naked. Runners do cover their heads, however — with pumpkins.
· Paranormal investigator Ron Kolek of the New England Ghost Project lists a dozen, not 13, “telltale signs that you may live in a haunted house.” (If you have more than a couple of these signs, you may be living inside a haunted brain.)
· The highest-rated episode of the year on the longest-running sitcom in TV history, “The Simpsons”, is its Halloween special, “Treehouse of Horror”.
· Speaking of horror, the top ten fears, according to internet hits are: flying, heights, clowns, intimacy (fourth?!), death (fifth?!), rejection, people, snakes, success, and driving, wrote web researcher Bill Tancer.
Never fear, because in addition to horror, Halloween helpful hints are offered as well. DJ Addam Bomb dropped this play list for Halloween parties. The Bomb suggests Nina Simone’s “I Put A Spell on You”, followed up later that night by Marilyn Manson’s version; Iggy Pop’s “Nightclubbing”; Ella Fitzgerald’s “Ding Dong the Witch Is Dead”; Frank Sinatra’s “Witchcraft”; “Spooky” by Classics Four…
So what’s behind the popularity of the spookiest night of the year, with all its “Unctuous Vapor, which the Night Condenses”, as John Milton wrote in “Paradise Lost”?
“Halloween gives us a chance to impersonate evil and that is a rare opportunity,” as Garrison Keillor opines. “We are driving away evil spirits, and we are celebrating life itself by hauling out morbid icons and playing with them…” The prairie home companion terms his hometown of Anoka, MN the “Halloween Capital of the World”.
In “The War of the Worlds” 1938 broadcast — which terrified an estimated 1.7 million people among its six million listeners — Orson Welles concluded “…if your doorbell rings and nobody’s there, that was no Martian. It’s Halloween.”