“Everyone in the audience, do not panic, but scream . . . SCREAM FOR YOUR LIVES!!”
Those were the infamous lines of Vincent Price staring in The Tingler, a classic William Castle production. Price played a mad scientist—imagine that—and urged horny teenagers across Eisenhower’s America to shriek for the heck of shrieking. Young ladies clutched at their young gentlemen for safety, and young gentlemen—glimpsing at heaving bosoms under tight angora sweaters—yielded. No thoughts of chivalry guided their actions, but thoughts more sinister than Vincent Price’s wormed into their very ungentlemanly minds. Ahh . . . those were the days.
Or were they? Let’s face it, childhood is—and always was—a dangerous thing. Even in the fifties, parents had to worry more than just their teenagers going bump-bump in the night. The draft was still active, and young men fought ghosts and shadows across the globe in Korea after they graduated high school. Kids drove drunk in automobiles when seatbelts were mere fashion statements. We don’t have to mention the eternal skeletons of sexual abuse, addiction, mental illness, and domestic violence lurking in closets. (Those subjects weren’t addressed on Leave it to Beaver.)
At the same time, there is some nostalgia about looking into the past. Halloween is my favorite holiday. It’s the only day of the year when kids dress in masks, extort candy from strangers, and get away with it. It is one of the few times adults still unplug from their televisions and computers and visit with their neighbors, even if most of those neighbors are under three feet and dressed as Japanese anime characters.
Halloween is a time when I can carve a Jack-o-Lantern and curl up on the couch and watch a scary movie. I can hide my toes under a blanket so the monster on the other side of the television won’t bite off my feet, and I can forget about all the real-world ghouls and goblins and shriek for the sake of shrieking.