I’ve never been a big fan of Halloween – I know some people love it, but it was never really a big part of my childhood, and it also happens to fall exactly one week before my birthday, so I always felt it was taking attention away from that! I’m also not quite sure when the whole of October became Halloween month – but that’s probably the same thing as happens to most big celebrations! Halloween has often seemed like an excuse for people to be racist, misogynist or ableist in the costumes they make or that are on sale, although my favourite year was the one where I dressed as the Tenth Doctor and my friend Kirsty went as a Weeping Angel, back in 2012. We spent most of the night talking to a guy dressed as either Troughton or Hartnell (it’s now six years ago so I can’t remember precisely!) and I’ve rarely had so much fun – even if Kirsty did lose out on the costume competition to someone dressed as a tin of soup, which is quite possibly the greatest injustice ever perpetuated.
While I’m not normally a fan of scary movies (theoretically I can appreciate them, but not so much in reality), ghost stories, and particularly revenant stories, are things I find fascinating. One of my favourite modules in my undergrad degree was called ‘Body and Soul’ and it was all about life after death, so included lots of visions of heaven, hell and purgatory, burials (like Sutton Hoo) and corpses coming back to life. Annoyingly, when I tried googling revenants, I just got lots of results for the Leonardo diCaprio film… but rest assured that revenants are much more interesting than that! In the final exam for that module, I think I made a comparison between saints and revenants on the grounds of the incorruptibility of the body, which over four years later I’m still not sure whether it was genius or the worst comparison ever. Probably the latter!
Nowadays vampire-lore has changed a bit – but some of the basic premises remain the same as they were in the Middle Ages and William of Newburgh’s twelfth century accounts of the undead in his Historia rerum Anglicarum. They were thought to be the reanimated corpses of those who had died, often with unfinished business or an incomplete/improper funeral, and that they drink human blood (unlike the ‘vegetarian’ vampires of Twilight). Vampire stories come from so many different parts of the world but often seem to have common threads in them – the removal of the heart seems a fairly common way to get rid of a vampire, although Hugh, bishop of Lincoln, got rid of those plaguing a local village by writing a letter of absolution.
So I may not much like a lot of the things associated with Halloween, especially its growing commercialism, but the basic concepts are often things I find fascinating. And any excuse to watch the Rocky Horror Picture Show is good by me!
Here’s a fairly creepy photo of a skull I took in a museum in Sweden:
I know a lot of people are terrified of clowns, so for some this may be the creepiest photo of me in existence.
Here’s a picture of me and some of my friends from (I think) Halloween 2015.
And finally, one of me from Halloween 2012!