It’s Sunday night, and I’ve just finished a “two-night stand” signing copies of my novel THE PUMPKIN MAN at the Barnes & Noble across from Cincinnati – at Newport, KY on the Levee. It’s an awesome store and I always enjoy spending a few hours there (I’ve done the five-hour drive down there from my home near Chicago several times to sign my previous books).
I noticed something though this time while I signed there and talked to the dozens of people who wandered in from the multitude of tourist attractions of the Levee.
People are afraid to admit that they are attracted to horror.
I had several store browsers this weekend tell me point blank “I don’t really like that stuff.” Then they’d ask (or wander away for a bit only to return to ask), “So what’s the book about?”
I’d give them a thumbnail description of the novel… “well, it’s an urban legend / Ouija board supernatural horror kind of book. There’s this guy who is an amazing pumpkin carver, creating these realistic looking jack-o-lanterns. But he’s doing more than carving – he’s transferring the essence of his victims to his pumpkins with his knife. And then, after he carves their faces into the pumpkins, he leaves the jack-o-lanterns in place of his victims’ heads.”
“Oooh, creepy!” they’d usually say. Many would grimace and say “Ewww” before disappearing. But some of these people who don’t like horror would pick up a copy and half-skim the back of the book before saying, “I’ll give it a shot.” And some would walk away for five minutes, only to come back and say, “OK, I’m going to try it.”
Many people, I realized, are afraid to admit that they like horror.
And yet… it attracts us. We seem to be wired as a species to love horror. Who hasn’t passed a traffic accident and struggled to find a way to legitimately slow down to see more of “the action?” I’ve seen the most straitlaced, conservative people try to get close to a crash site to “see what’s going on.”
They know what’s going on: Blood. Death.
Many people don’t want to admit it, but we’re fascinated by death. Especially the deaths of others. Most of us don’t really like the idea of our own. Understandably. But most people also don’t admit to this fascination with the gruesome.
The one time that we can “legitimately” let out these proclivities is Halloween. We’ve carved out this little bit of turf each year for us to relish the ghoulish. The macabre.
If you’re reading the Horror-Web site, you’re probably attuned to the allure of the dark and macabre all year long. So I’m preaching to the choir. All I can say is… the other 364 days (and the people who live them) need our help.
Ministry had a hit underground song called “Everyday is Halloween” when I was in college — and I have to concur. To celebrate life, we have to celebrate death. The parade of the ghoulish and grotesque should not be a one night a year thing. Halloween should be with us in some way, everyday.
This is Halloween week. The “acceptable time” to enjoy the dark side of the world. I hope you do.
And I hope you help some of the “Non-believers” to embrace their inner horror as well. Remind them that they shouldn’t just expect to just get candy in their trick or treat bags as a prize. When they reach in to the bag to feel a big hairy spider grab their fingers back, let them know that under no circumstances should they jerk it away.
Tell them to give that spider a good pet. Embrace the creepy.
There will probably be fingers and limbs in the bag too. You might not want to tell them to pet those, though.
EDITORS NOTE: Horror-Web Readers can win an e-book copy of The Pumpkin Man and get entered into a contest to win autographed copies of either The Pumpkin Man trade paperback, or a GRAND PRIZE including ALL of John Everson’s novels and an autographed copy of the CD The Mechanical Heart from the band New Years Day, who provide the soundtrack to The Pumpkin Man website. Just visit http://www.thepumpkinman-horror.com and fill out the Contest Form. Make sure you choose Horror-Web in the referral site dropdown list.