Driving through the neighborhoods of Trussville these days may bring you to a startling realization. Halloween has gotten big. I mean that figuratively and literally. The number and size of Halloween lawn decorations have exploded. I dare say it has begun to rival Christmas.
Ken Lass, Tribune columnist
Which I am not at all sure is a good thing. While the themes of Christmas are generally positive, happy and even spiritual, the concepts of Halloween seem to be getting darker and more graphic. It was not always so. Lawn decor used to be laden with friendly, white-sheeted ghosts, smiling pumpkins and an occasional benign witch who never did anything more sinister than stir a cauldron.
But these days bigger is all the rage. Not to mention scarier. Giant skeletons and monsters with jagged fangs and claws, wearing evil grins, some of them leaning forward as if about to pounce on you. Massive spider webs with humongous spiders heading down toward you. We’ve come a long way from Casper the Friendly Ghost.
It’s not cheap to go this route. I saw a nine foot, animated grim reaper listed on one website for $209. A twelve foot giant skeleton had a price tag of $99.98. That’s a lot of cash to turn your front yard into a scene from Friday the 13th. But it’s a price more and more folks are willing to pay for the opportunity to send a chill through the neighborhood kids as they pass by. Adults too.
America has become obsessed with being scared. Have you checked out the movies lately? The horror genre has never been more popular, even when it’s not Halloween season. TV shows like The Walking Dead are among the most watched. I stumbled upon a website titled “The 20 Best Horror Shows on TV Now”. I didn’t even know there were twenty horror shows on TV.
What is it about being frightened that seems so appealing? Psychologists say getting scared out of your wits releases a hormone in your body called dopamine, which they claim is stimulating. They also say the feeling of emerging safely from a terrifying experience, such as watching a horror flick, gives one a sense of accomplishment. The same thrill you might get from conquering a high speed roller coaster.
This is not true for everybody. I prefer to chicken out of scary situations. I’d rather get my adrenalin rush watching my favorite football team score a touchdown, or from hiding behind the drapes while playing hide and seek with my grandkids. I wait excitedly for them to find me, only to discover they have long since lost interest in the game and have gone outside to play. Yes, that makes me eminently dull and boring. But at least I don’t have to worry about crapping my pants while watching some demented serial killer ravage the suburbs.
I’m trying really hard not to have the grumpy old curmudgeonly “get off my lawn” take on this. I get that it’s all supposed to be in good fun. Kids like to be scared, so long as they know it’s controlled. But I do wish the season could evolve into something a bit less gory and a little more playful. I truly appreciate our local churches who take the edge off of the creepiness by putting on fall festivals that emphasize more wholesome adventures.
Anyway, I hope your biggest problem this Halloween is buying way too much candy, only to discover the kids don’t trick or treat in your neighborhood anymore. Meaning, of course, you have to eat it all.