It’s Halloween and people all over are having fun with spooky movies, candy, scary stories and creative costumes. Others, are, perhaps, uncomfortable with all of this, some feeling it is perhaps an embrace of evil, demonic, even Satanic forces.
I am not going to tell anyone what to believe about it, but I have my own opinions. I tend to be a middle-of-the-road person on a lot of topics, and this is one. I believe there is value in exploring our fears in safe ways. When I was young, I loved scary stories, the soap opera Dark Shadows, and movies like Frankenstein. I don’t think anyone in my family actually understands why, nor did I, until I was older. It was a form of catharsis for me to do something that scared me, to express my fears and overcome them. After having watched or read something that was scary, I remember I felt lighter, cleaner, happier. There was so much that scared me as a child, and because I was the oldest child, I felt like I was supposed to have been brave, but I didn’t feel brave at all. I was ashamed of being afraid and so I often did what I could to hide my fears from anyone. Watching spooky stories was a way for me to safely express my fears and feeling stronger for having dealt with them.
That said, I did experience a lot of oppression from fear as a child, terrorized by descriptions of Satan that I heard at church, and from my family. I had recurring nightmares about this Prince of Darkness living in my basement. I lay awake at night, afraid to sleep, and saw every shadow as a potential demonic presence. This was extremely unhealthy and I suffered quite a bit from physical ailments related to not sleeping and being so frightened that I had to take medicine for a nervous stomach and was tested for anemia due to listlessness.
Because of this, there are certain types of scary subjects that I avoid if I can. And, I do believe there are some folks who are too obsessed with the macabre and paranormal. Many of those people are Christians, unfortunately. They become so obsessed with sensational stories of Satanism, exorcisms, demonic activity and such that they lose sight of who is in charge, and where their hope lies. I honestly had to work hard to restructure my thinking in this regard, to remember that God is on my side and I have nothing to fear. As a child, however, I had different ways of coping, because I wasn’t mature enough to realize what I needed to do, and because adults around me seemed to talk about them too much. So, I did what I had to do to process my fears.
That’s why scary stories became useful to me. They helped me deal with things in a controlled environment. It’s why I love story-telling in the first place. There are ways to embrace truth, open up to new ideas and graces, and understand others that a person like me can only find in works of fiction.
So, tonight, on Halloween, I have my treats sitting in a pumpkin bowl next to a ceramic lit pumpkin and a scarecrow, and I am wearing a moose on my head hoping to get a few little ghouls and goblins at my door before I settle in for a spooky good tale. Happy Halloween everyone!