Cutesy CutOuts vs. Halloween Horrors

Clamoring Crowds vs. Eerie Isolation

Master_Nick-Shackled-PirateWe’re just a few days into October, but I have been picking up Halloween props and costume pieces since August, and joined in other such Autumnal activities back in September.
I love this season, yet I have, shall we say, a couple strong preferences.
I’m not partial to cute, cartoonish things that look safe. I like an immersive atmosphere which makes one feel the that the gothic horrors are real. I want the illusion, but I want it to be convincing and scary. You’ll see this in my own paintings and fiction as well as the entertainments I enjoy.
Also, as much as I love events associated with Halloween, I am an introvert prone to an anxious sense of claustrophobia in crowds. Yet without the people, who makes the event happen?
It’s a conundrum.

The first Autumnal event I attended this year did not focus so much on ghosts and ghoulies. I went up to Apple Hill with the family to celebrate my Aunt’s birthday. We made the trek on a Friday morning, very early in the season, rather than on a weekend closer to the holidays. Thus we saw less vendors, but also encountered less of everyone else shambling slowly in our path and babbling all at once all around us. (Attendance was sparse also because some lunatic had set a forest fire which still raged just up the road. As much as I like my elbow room, I’d prefer we not have bloody arsonists clear the space.)

Master_Nick_Roberts-pillory-bigMost of the vendors who did set up purveyed wares far too cutesy for my taste. What kept coming to mind was, “Yeah, I shop at Michael’s Arts and Crafts stores too. Of course, I’m painting succubi and kink scenes with my supplies, but still…” I’m not decorating a rural kitchen, so much of Apple Hill isn’t really my scene.

To be fair, the food was tasty, the animals in the petting zoo were adorable, and I did get a few things for my sweetie and a large oatmeal stout for myself. I also had my picture taken with my head lodged in a faux pillory, painted as a carnival cutout. Therein lies an example of the difference between cute, cartoonish Halloween decor and the outright scary. (Compare and contrast the included photos.)

A few days after the Apple Hill excursion, the aforementioned sweetie took me to the Pirates of Emerson Haunted Theme Park in the Bay Area. Now this was more my speed. We toured six different attractions, and found the atmosphere of most to be effectively creepy. Almost every time a costumed character popped out at us, I laughed out loud — not mocking the actors’ attempts, just genuinely having fun. This was my kind of playground.

Again, going to an Autumnal event in September, we found the space sparsely populated. On the downside, there weren’t many actors on staff lying in wait to scare us. On the upside, with very few tourists crowding us, the overall illusion stood intact. We had a sense of isolation in haunted landscapes with not but bloody monsters for company.

On our way out, we stopped at another carnival cutout for another photo op. This standin was the polar opposite of painted pillory at Apple Hill. In a way, I’m glad I saw the cutesy stuff first, for had it been the other way ’round, I’d have felt let down.

Thank goodness we beat the crowds to both events. And I’m thankful again that not everything is tamed and dumbed down for kids! Some of us grownups like to play too!

Nick Roberts © 2014

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