HJ-ED-DHJHerald Journal Columns
October 30, 2006, Herald Journal

Halloween tales abound all year


Halloween’s more fun for kids than it is for adults, because adults know for certain that Halloween’s scary creatures don’t exist.

Adults have many outlets to temporarily suspend our disbelief, though. Here are my favorites and not-so favorites:

Best all around ghost movies: “The Sixth Sense,” and “The Others.” The first is about a child psychologist befriending a little boy who can “see dead people.” The second is about a mother and two children who suspect they are not alone in their home. They both have surprise endings so I won’t tell more.

Scariest ghost book: “Ghost Story,” by Peter Straub. This appropriately named book is about an evil shape-shifting spirit on which all the other Halloween creatures are based, vampires, werewolves, and Native American manitou, for example. Do not read this book after dark.

This was made into a movie in 1981 that featured older male actors, such as Fred Astaire. However, there is no way to include all the details in a two-hour movie, and it is the accumulation of details that makes the book scary.

Most romantic ghost movies: “Ghost” and “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir.” Both of these love story movies made me cry.

Best ghost story book supposedly based on a true account: “The Amityville Horror,” by Jay Anson. The stuff that happened in that house is difficult to explain. The book will make you wonder if the house is haunted.

After I read the book, I saw on TV a photograph, taken by para-normal researchers, of a little boy in the stairwell of the house in Amityville. No one in the house saw him there, but his image was picked up by the film in a camera.

The movie based on the book is nothing like the book at all. It is a generic horror film. The only thing that is the same is the name.

The best and scariest ghost animation: a banshee by Walt Disney. The animated image of the banshee, which had a skull face and wore a hooded shroud, was superimposed on a black and white film of a forest of bare trees.

According to an Irish legend, if you hear the banshee wail, you or someone close to you will die soon. It flitted through the tree branches, followed its victim through the woods, and howled. Even though the banshee was just a painting on film, it makes the little hairs on the back of my neck stand up when I think of it.

The scariest movie that plays out only in your imagination: “The Blair Witch Project.” This movie shows very little, only people stumbling around in circles while lost in the woods, but the horror and dread are intense.

The most unscary ghost story: “Christmas Carol.” Even the Ghost of Christmas to Come is not scary. This is a Christmas story about Ebenezer Scrooge’s life.

The worst ghost story remake: “The Haunting.” The 1963 original was fairly good, but the 1999 remake was so terrible, I only watched half of it.

The most humorous ghost movie: “Ghostbusters.” Even the theme music makes me laugh.