It is that time of year when we start looking forward to autumn. Nothing reminds us quicker that the weather is going to become tolerable, at least in temperature, that leaves will soon be trading their green for vibrant yellows, reds, and oranges, and that all things pumpkin spice – even things well all agree should not contain pumpkin spice – will be hitting the stores, if they haven’t already, than the first Halloween decorations hitting the store shelves.
With the pandemic Halloween is probably going to look and feel a bit different this year. Everything else has, but this is Halloween. In a certain kind of away, a pandemic screams Halloween. Personally, I want to spend the day dressed as a Victorian plague doctor. Honestly, I have wanted to go out in public dressed in a bird beak mask and Gothic cowl since April when we were sent home from University and told not to come back. I thought it would be hysterical to show up for a Zoom class dressed as a plague doctor. Just because someone somewhere is going to be a little to sensitive about this, let me state right here and now that I deal with stress with humour. I did the same thing when I broke my shoulder, by celebrating my first major broken bone upon seeing my X-Ray in the aftercare clinic. I am pretty sure that the doctor was considering that I needed a psych eval to go along with the arm sling.
This pandemic is serious business, and everyone needs to be wearing a proper mask and social distancing. Every day I check the number of cases and deaths in my area followed by the numbers for the United States, reminding myself that it is one day closer to election day where maybe, just maybe, we can exchange our non-leader for someone who can help get this pandemic under control in some way. I do not want to talk about politics and pandemics (although that would make a great book title), not when I brought home a prop skeleton of a raven (the tag said crow, but it now upgraded to a raven, because I said so).
I love all things Gothic, and by Gothic, I mean Victorian Gothic. I mean Gothic literature like Edgar Allen Poe and Bram Stoker and Mary Shelly. I mean old style Gothic Horror. I am talking Wuthering Heights here; I mean the original Dark Shadows that ran from 1966 to 1971 staring Johnathan Frid. As a child I watched reruns of the show and Barnabas Collins was my favourite TV character. At 3 and 4 I was staring wide-eyed and in awe at Barnabas Collins. A few years later my mother took me to my first haunted house. I insisted on going, she was convinced that it was going to be too scary. An amateur actor hired to play a vampire was doing his best and I actually squealed in delight and told him that he reminded me of Barnabas Collins. The man quit on the spot because he “couldn’t scare a little kid”. My mother would tell this story for years just to prove what kind of weirdo she thought I was.
My childhood dentist looked very much like Boris Karloff, and I told him as much. He asked my mother how in the world a kid knew who Boris Karloff was. I also knew the names of Lon Chaney, Bella Lugosi, and Vincent Price. They were my favourites. I was a weird child that grew into a weird adult. I am really quite okay with this. I am lucky enough to have a small group of close friends that indulge me, and on some level interested when I go on one of my “useless facts” (or more aptly, the “why do you know this?” facts) tangents on things like Edgar Allen Poe or how ravens and crows are different.
This is why I get excited for Halloween season. I can find things like crow/raven skeleton props. It is now sitting on my desk with Edgar Allen Poe Funko Pop. To those that do not know me, they probably think I am going through a “Poe Phase” with my Poe inspired messenger bag that has been repurposed into a purse and my Poe scarf that uses a stanza of The Raven as it’s main feature. (I have a Dracula one as well. I bought them for my business casual wardrobe that University is forcing me to assemble.)
The truth is my Poe phase stared in school when I was required to read The Fall of the House of Usher and The Cask of Amontillado. In school I always groaned over required reading because so much of it was not enjoyable. It was all stuff that the school and the teachers thought we needed to read to be well rounded students. I fell in love with Poe’s work. I never admitted this when I was in school, because what kid or teenager wants to admit that they liked the selection of classic literature they were forced to read? You would never live it down.
Austin Keon gives the advice of learning about the role models of your role models in his book Steal like an Artist because you are a sum of all of your influences. This led me to name my literary influences. The three big ones are Edgar Allen Poe, Neil Gaiman, Chuck Palahniuk. Andre Norton could probably be thrown in there along as well. These are all very different authors who write very different things. I find myself wondering how this amalgamation is going to manifest as I continue writing.