Halloween is fast approaching, there are Christmas adverts all around and everyone at work is queuing to heat up soup in the microwave. It’s definitely Autumn.
My parents, being thoroughly British and Middle Class, dismissed celebrating Halloween (along with Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day) as being American rubbish which is best ignored. We were also banned from going to Bonfires after a nasty incident where a rocket went down my brother’s jumper. It could have been nasty. It was the 1970s and clothes were mostly constructed from manmade fibres. I continued this family tradition of ignoring Halloween and am usually to be found sitting with the TV and lights off and hiding from Trick or Treaters.
The thing is though, I love horror. Ever since a teenage baby sitter allowed me to stay up late and watch the terrifying Hammer Horror shows, I’ve been hooked. As a child I always ran straight for the ghost train at the fair. I was dying to own a Ouija board and loved a pretend séance. I passed through the usual teenage phase of loving gory slash-fests and was hooked to John Carpenter and Wes Craven. I ploughed my way through Stephen King novels and spent sleepless nights feeling twitchy and jumpy. I grew to appreciate the campness of horror too. There’s nothing quite like a vampish Bride of Dracula or a Victorian heroine screaming in her white nightdress. I also love zombies. I can happily while away an evening watching a Zombie Apocalypse.
A couple of years ago I was invited to take part in a world record breaking attempt for the most people around the world dancing to Michael Jackson’s Thriller simultaneously. I definitely liked the idea, even if I did find Michael himself a bit perturbing and saccharine. I watched the clips on YouTube of the video and it looked simple enough. It wasn’t.
My colleague and I had to go to dance classes to learn the moves. I’d forgotten that I have very little grace. I’m not a natural. Cue lots of sulking. We were given links to a “Teach Yourself” thing on the internet and I set about learning the dance. It’s horribly complicated and I always ended up red faced and sweaty and cursing my smoking habit but I finally learnt it, after many hours. We drove down to the place where the record attempt was being held (a deserted roller disco at midnight, you couldn’t make it up) and got a few funny looks on the way there. I was in scrubs, green make-up and was splattered with copious amounts of blood and a few gunshot wounds. I was zombie nurse. We did the dance, raised money for charity and I didn’t fall over, much.
The thing was, it was a liberating experience: all those years ignoring Halloween when I could have had such intense fun just by pretending to be a member of the living dead. I was definitely doing this again. Last year I took part in a Zombie Walk where about 200 of us ambled slowly around the city centre, groaning. It was amazing. We even mobbed a bus. I went as a zombie priest and “married” two zombie brides in their tattered Miss Haversham dresses (a real life married couple). This year I’m considering an Olympic themed costume. Maybe a javelin through my back with drips of blood, a sign saying “Team ZomB” and the Olympic rings in blood? It’s topical.
So, I’m reclaiming Halloween. I’m advocating it as the gayest festival of the year. Forget Easter, it’s about children and eggs and religion. Forget Christmas with its wholesome family values and the depressing Valentine’s Day (terrible if you’re single). Halloween is definitely one for the gays. We can dress up and frighten people. Pretty much like a normal Saturday night in some parts of the UK. Go forth and horrify.