Is it a pumpkin? That big round orange thing with a goofy smile on its face? People voted for much the same thing for president before they knew how frightening it really was. What is so scary about pumpkins? The only thing scary about pumpkins is that someone might come along and try to make beer out of them. But there they are every Halloween, part of the American legend on an evening dedicated to people trying to scare each other. 

What scares you might not scare me at all. I came home early from work last week and was sitting in the kitchen eating a sandwich, and my wife walked into the room and jumped ten feet into the air when she saw me. “That scared the crap out of me!” She said. And she really looked disturbed, with her hand over her heart in case it tried to jump out. I guess it was the sandwich, which had a frightening amount of calories in it.

Now a spider, for instance, really is scary if it’s big enough. My wife was cleaning the garage and she yelled, “ACK! Get in here and get this spider! It’s huge!” I made a little avuncular chuckle and thought how much I love women because they make the rest of us seem useful, and I gave a little speech about how spiders are a beneficial part of the food chain because they eat all the insects, and isn’t it interesting that they have eight eyes, etc. Well, once I got a look at this spider, it was ginormous, with hair all over it and giant teeth, and it was breathing heavily and not looking at all beneficial. I saw something just like it in a movie, and it tried to trample the entire city of Tokyo and they had to call out the army, and they were so confused that they were barking out commands in Japanese that came out a second later in English. If I could read lips in Japanese it looked like one of the generals was asking if spiders even have teeth. I was trying to remember how the movie ended so I would know what to do, but instead I grabbed a shovel and conked it over the head and scooped it up and threw it outside in the general direction of Tokyo and closed the garage door before it came to and tried to grab my shovel and conk me back. 

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My friends Lauren and Tim had a great Halloween costume party last Saturday and I was really afraid. I was afraid I was going to get a ticket for parking on the street. Lauren had bought some great props on Craigslist from a haunted house designer, and there was scary stuff all over the place. They had this huge monster guy in a corner and when you got too close to him he started talking some smack to you which I couldn’t understand because monsters are not known for their great diction. Then he would laugh that evil laugh: Mwah ha ha ha ha! HA HA HA! HAHAHAHAHAHA! As if he just told the greatest joke in the world. Comedy is another thing monsters are not famous for, so I told my notorious penguin joke and got a great laugh out of him.
I’m a bit of an amateur psychologist, specializing in the analysis of peoples’ choice in costumes. I can tell a lot about your personality from the costume you picked, so I had a little fun with some of the party guests. There was a guy dressed as a clown, but I was not afraid of him. A little psychoanalysis makes everything seem less scary. I asked the clown, “Were you lonely growing up? I bet you always wanted to please people but you never knew how to go about it and it seemed like everything you did came out wrong and inappropriate. Am I close?” He said something I can’t print here but what he meant was, “Yes.”

This one gal had a great costume, all done up like an old lady. “That is an interesting outfit,” I said. “The gray hair, the wrinkles, great stuff. I believe that as a child everyone said you had an ‘old soul,’ and subconsciously, you always wanted to be older, and that when you got a little older you wished you were wiser. And so by dressing up as a hideous old woman-” “I’m not wearing a costume,” she said. “I’m here to pick up my granddaughter.”

It was time for the pumpkin carving contest! Is there anything more scary than people with Jell-o shots, sharp knives and dulled senses poking holes into a fruit with a one-inch thick skin? There were decorations all over the house, things like cut-off bloody fingers, and I wouldn’t be surprised if one or two of them were real. I like to carve a “reverse pumpkin,” where I remove everything but the eyes, nose and mouth. A pumpkin without any of those has no sense. 

As the evening wore on, all the decorations and costumes were starting to get to me, and I felt a little uncomfortable, like people were looking at me funny. Maybe this whole Halloween thing was a little scarier than I thought. I had to get away, and I ducked into the bathroom to get an aspirin out of the medicine cabinet. I closed the cabinet door, and that’s when I saw it reflected in the mirror: a big scary pimple on my forehead, and there’s no way I could pass it off as part of my outfit.

I guess deep down we all really like to be frightened a little bit, it keeps the adrenaline flowing and lets us know we’re still alive. I already have my costume for next year: it’s me sitting around the kitchen eating a sandwich. I don’t know if that will scare you, but I bet it gives my wife a trauma.

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