Halloween is a much quieter affair as children grow up. The quest for the perfect costume is a thing of the past. I can get away without the dreaded carving of the pumpkins – surely a ritual belonging to one of Dante’s circles of hell, due to its sticky, globby mess. No more freezing, wet traipses through the neighborhood, extorting nutritionally bankrupt treats from good-natured homeowners.
The one thing I miss the least from those old days of children and Halloween is the sheer terror produced in Middle Sister EVERY SINGLE DAY of October. I’ve never understood why so many people find it hilarious to create hideous graveyard scenes in their front yards – and it seems to get more and more common every year.
There was one particular house, along the only walk-able route to our elementary school, that made October a nightmare for our family. The zombies, bloody, severed arms and legs, and hanged bodies in the display at that house frightened Middle Sister so horribly that she arrived at school shaking uncontrollably and crying. Every single October for years. We tried walking on the other side of the street, carrying an umbrella to shield her as we passed. No good. We tried driving to school. Still too scared. In the end we had to take a circuitous drive through the neighborhood, carefully avoiding THAT HOUSE all month.
Ten years out of elementary school, I’m still on “yard watch” for Middle Sister. There are three repulsive houses on the walking route we like to take when we exercise together. There’s another house on the way to our favorite book store with an ax-murderer scene graphically portrayed on the front lawn. Every trip away from home finds me saying, “Don’t look to the left,” or “Close your eyes for a moment.”
These kinds of displays just make me angry. They are, quite simply, juvenile and thoughtless. Why would anyone intentionally create something in a public space that is ugly, frightening, and cruel, and which can potentially damage/terrify young (and not so young) people?
Here’s a question I would suggest people ask themselves before creating such a display: Would you force a young child watch a movie like “Nightmare on Elm Street” or “Texas Chain Saw Massacre?” Because if you’re re-creating a similar scene in your front yard, you’re forcing every child who passes your house to be exposed to the same type of inappropriate content. It’s no more socially acceptable than public profanity or a pornographic photo on a billboard.
In other words, if you’re inclined to put up a display like that, how about instead you try behaving like a mature, responsible adult?