Oh, the horror!

Susan
Susan Flanagan
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Bludgeoned babies were not what I expected to see when I went shopping for a morph suit for No. 3 to wear on Halloween. When I walked into the Kenmount Road store, the scene that greeted me was horrific. Dozens of realistic, life-sized, bludgeoned zombie babies rotated on swings and dozens more sat looking eerily demonic.

Parents covered their children’s eyes. I heard one mother whisper, “Don’t look. You’ll have nightmares.”

I thought she was talking to me. I got the heck out of there as soon as I could.

What’s happened to Halloween? It used to be a time for children to dress up as Winnie the Pooh or Snow White and stock up on treats. Now it’s more an X-rated novelty night for adults with Naughty Nurse costumes outselling Barney.

Even my 12-year-old girl, who had been to the store before, was disgusted by half-rotten corpses being eaten by rats. Luckily, I didn’t make it that deep into the horror.

And it wasn’t only that store. Others displayed the same lack of regard for normal emotions. Imagine a parent who has recently lost a child witnessing that display.

In my experience it doesn’t take grotesque decorations to make Halloween exciting for a child. When our first three boys were little, we lived near Belvedere Cemetery where a twisted, spooky old tree grew alongside the graves. Disneyland had nothing on donning costumes, reading the Berenstain Bears’ “Spooky Old Tree” and heading over to the cemetery for a visit.

Yesterday, I took surprise baby and his girlfriend to Lester’s Farm. By the time they chose pumpkins, visited the petting barn, sized up huge Halloween decorations made of hay bales, climbed around on used tractor tires and got an ice cream, they were completely wiped out. Now I know they are only preschoolers, but my teenagers can’t wait to go to Lester’s either.

Costume conundrum

I may as well move on to the topic of costumes, since I’m on a roll. Store-bought or homemade? Das ist die Frage.

I vote for homemade any day. Not only because it’ll save you $50, but because it’s more fun. I remember how hard it was to make the hat stay on the year my girl dressed as an orange crayon. We had designed the top of the crayon too tall to be held in place with simple elastic. But if you ask her what costume stands out in her mind, it’ll probably be that cursed crayon.

Another year, No. 4 dressed as a juice box. The paint hadn’t dried by the time he grabbed the pillow case to set out.

This is the stuff lifelong memories are made of.

The year Guitar Hero came out, No. 2 designed and coloured a cardboard guitar, donned a black wig and cape and he looked great.

The time my eldest dressed as Super Mario, he was superb, complete with moustache and arm movements. Now you can buy a Mario costume, but it’s not nearly as good as the one my son made.

My friend Jessica teaches at St. Paul’s where costumes are judged for their inventiveness.

“A homemade disguise will almost always win out over a store bought one,” she says.

I agree. If I gave you one minute to think of the best or funniest Halloween costume ever, I’d wager my week’s wages from The Telegram that it is a homemade costume you’re thinking of.

I remember the poorly named Mardi Gras party on George Street and seeing Little Bo Peep with an entire herd of sheep parading behind her into Trappers.

I also remember a couple dressed as Tia Maria and Milk, the man’s body encased in a cardboard bottle with face visible in the stovepipe neck; his partner in a huge Sunshine Dairy carton.

There was a double rum and Coke — two girlfriends, their heads, along with giant straws and lemon wedges, protruding from inverted brown garbage buckets that had cotton balls glued around the top. These costumes took time to make.

The highlight of the evening that year was three mad scientists who carried in an old door with a fair maiden covered in a sheet and the inner workings of a VCR or some such machine connected to her head by wires.

Last year at our family costume party, a family of five came dressed as Johnny Depp characters. Captain Jack Sparrow from “Pirates of the Caribbean,” “Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street,” “Edward Scissorhands” and “Willy Wonka,” and the little girl was the Mad Hatter from “Alice in Wonderland.”

Now that’s inventive.

So remember, this Halloween: if you think your decorations or costumes would offend your grandmother, they’d probably offend others as well.

So let’s hear from you if you think I’m a prude and you don’t mind the demon bludgeoned zombie baby decorations.

I know what you’re thinking. At the Flanagans’ they probably give out Bibles on Halloween like the Calgary-based non-denominational Christian group, Jesus Ween.

Not a bad idea to fill up the pillow case quickly.

But don’t worry, you won’t get a Bible at our house. What you will get is a toothbrush.

Susan Flanagan is a journalist and mother of five living in St. John’s. She can be reached at susan@48degrees.ca

Scholarship feedback

Marilyn says: Our organization promotes the very thing that you are doing … finding ways to finance education without incurring debt. We also offer scholarships to Atlantic Canadian students each year. Please visit our website for more details. http://www.solveyourdebts.com/scholarships

Michelle, a school guidance counsellor, stressed how important it is for a parent to be actively involved in their child’s scholarship process.

More feedback on full-day K

Pamela, a professional engineer, says “… the issue is not full-day kindergarten but the availability of registered daycare spaces (especially for children under two). …

“After having my first child I was forced to consider giving up my career as I could not find child care with just two weeks left to my maternity leave. I put my child’s name on several daycare wait lists when he was just a month old, but 11 months later there were still no openings.

“Luckily, within my final week of maternity leave, a space opened up and I could return to my career. It is frustrating that I was encouraged to enter and pursue a non-traditional female career (and a lot of the encouragement came from government in the form of scholarships), yet I was nearly forced to give up the years I had invested due to the lack of daycare spaces for children under two.

“Government needs to either provide two years’ maternity leave or guarantee child care for children beyond the age of one. Child-care providers are an invaluable contributor to our society’s well-being. We need more of them and they deserve better pay.

“Government needs to step up to support our children and their caregivers so that working parents can continue to achieve their career goals and contribute to our province’s economy. (By the way), after having my second child I engaged in the (federal) Foreign Live-In Caregiver Program to avoid the stresses I previously endured with finding local child care.”

Todd from St. John’s writes: “N.L., as a have province, can afford a full-day K. As you mentioned, there are too many repercussions and ramifications on learning and family and social aspects to not extend K all the way. Otherwise, it defies the logic of common sense.”

Organizations: Snow White, Disneyland, The Telegram

Geographic location: Kenmount Road, St. Paul, George Street Caribbean Fleet Street Wonderland

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Recent comments

  • Krista
    October 27, 2011 - 15:15

    I will agree on the trashy adult costumes..they have taken over. But Halloween is MEANT TO BE SCARY. And I'm sorry but a ZOMBIE baby....something that ISN'T REAL is a bit different than someone REALLY losing a baby. Should we keep living babies away from people who have lost children? Should we stop making films in which a parent loses a child? GIVE ME A BREAK. Everyone is SO whiney now. As a kid I LOVED going out to trick or treat at NIGHT (unlike now when people like to go out in the afternoon) and I LIKED the fact it was scary. It's healthy. You go ahead and shelter your children..they will grow up and be whiney like the current generation. Babied and sheltered is not what is going to help children. People NEED to learn to have a bit of fear...and know how to deal with it. Children are usually not stupid either...some have nightmares....some know how to handle it..the point is to teach your kids it ISN'T REAL. I miss the days of the sitcom Roseanne when her and Dan Connor would have funny scary halloween episodes in which they tried to have an awesome haunted house or freak out each other and their neighbors. It's what Halloween is all about.

  • Angry Teenager
    October 26, 2011 - 18:29

    Last time I check Halloween is for everyone, it's not just for your children. Sure, when your a kid it's fun to go trick-or-treating and read children's books about Halloween, but as you grow older your tastes do to. You start to invite the guys over for a movie night and watch graphic stuff like Saw and The Exorcist. You try and scare each other with plastic masks and the like, laughing your butts of when you get one of them to scream like a little girl. You buy these "demon bludgeoned zombie baby decorations" and set them up around your house to get the spirit of Halloween really flowing. And when you grow old, like my old man, you go out and have a "drink with the b'ys" as he likes to say. In fact, sheltering your kids like you describe only ruins the fun of Halloween. I remember when I was a child every year my dad would dress up as Frankenstein's monster, with the nail through his neck and the fake blood splattered on his shirt. It used to make me run under the table, but every year I got more and more used to it until I got to the point where I could look at him and tell him in a smug way "Nice neck dad", and we both laugh about it. Sure, you might think that these decorations are the devils work and are too horrific for you to look at, but at the end of the day it's just a chunk of plastic, and nothing more.

  • John
    October 26, 2011 - 14:38

    What’s happened to Halloween? It used to be a time when we embraced the horrific, the terrifying, or at the very least took some time to welcome a little fear into our lives. People once covered their faces in terrifying masks, outdoing themselves every year to see who could be scarier, creepier, a TRUE monster for halloween. We'd threaten our neighbors with "tricks" and REAL scares if they didn't pay us off with "treats". Sadly, now we dress children up as Winnie the Pooh or Snow White and stock up on chocolate for a holiday that's so close to being given to the very young that it may as well be called DisneyDay. Halloween is one of the few holidays left for those of us who don't just want to play cute, be politically correct, or all-give-and-no-take on EVERY single dang holiday of the year. We've barely managed to hold on to it as an adult occassion, and even when we do our "day of terror" is slowly becoming little more than a soft core...ah... adult movie stage. Instead of promising scares and trying to terrify the masses, I have to put up with X-rated novelty night for adults too cowardly (or ummm... thorny) to play up the scares, or some damn kid dressed as Barney. Rip that dinosaurs head off and smear some blood on yourself kid! NOW THAT'S HALLOWEEN! Bring your kids to my house this halloween lady... I'll show you REAL horror. No kids gloves for Halloween people. You have your days. Give us ours.

  • John
    October 26, 2011 - 14:34

    What’s happened to Halloween? It used to be a time when we embraced the horrific, the terrifying, or at the very least took some time to welcome a little fear into our lives. People once covered their faces in terrifying masks, outdoing themselves every year to see who could be scarier, creepier, a TRUE monster for halloween. We'd threaten our neighbors with "tricks" and REAL scares if they didn't pay us off with "treats". Sadly, now we dress children up as Winnie the Pooh or Snow White and stock up on chocolate for a holiday that's so close to being given to the very young that it may as well be called DisneyDay. Halloween is one of the few holidays left for those of us who don't just want to play cute, be politically correct, or all-give-and-no-take on EVERY single dang holiday of the year. We've barely managed to hold on to it as an adult occassion, and even when we do our "day of terror" is slowly becoming little more than a soft core...ah... adult movie stage. Instead of promising scares and trying to terrify the masses, I have to put up with X-rated novelty night for adults too cowardly (or ummm... thorny) to play up the scares, or some damn kid dressed as Barney. Rip that dinosaurs head off and smear some blood on yourself kid! NOW THAT'S HALLOWEEN! Bring your kids to my house this halloween lady... I'll show you REAL horror. No kids gloves for Halloween people. You have your days. Give us ours.

  • prufock
    October 25, 2011 - 14:03

    Halloween is SUPPOSED to be scary. If you think it's all about Winnie the Pooh and Tigger too, perhaps you should do some research on the origins of the day. It wasn't all for kids. Once it was much less a "kid-friendly" holiday, focusing on drinking, partying, and sex - much like it is now. I agree, kids should enjoy the holiday in their way, but there's no reason adults shouldn't enjoy it in their way too.

  • Mindy
    October 25, 2011 - 12:59

    A good horror movie and a good Hallolween go hand in hand as far as I'm concerned. I decorate for halloween and there are zombies/skulls/rats and more. I have children and when they were young it was all done in FUN! To this day my children enjoy the goulish Halloween, Yes i agree with Missus give up the complaints. If your child or you can't handle it then don't go! ....to each their own.

  • Pete
    October 25, 2011 - 11:44

    The real horror here is how this drivel can make the front page.

  • wavy
    October 25, 2011 - 11:19

    The difference between fresh-eating zombie baby decorations and say, oh I don't know, an excursion to a REAL cemetery for a few Halloween kicks is, one of them is real, the other is pretend. Unlike a trip to a (Holy?) place where people like to honour, meditate, reflect, remember and pay their respects to a lost relative, friend, loved one or a fallen soldier, a place where appropriate respect should be given, at least I can point to the zombie baby DOLLS hanging in a decoration shop and assure my kids "It's not real, sweetheart. Pretend. Fake, like Darth Vader" Gross? Yes. Offensive? Perhaps. But fake nonetheless and, therefore, dismissive. Can you say the same about taking kids to Belvedere Cemetery, of all places? When Halloween is over, I put my decorations away for another year. What lasting impressions do kids take with them upon leaving a cemetery they visited to celebrate Halloween (I can't believe I even typed that; talk about offensive!)? The next solemn occasion they attend at Belvedere, will the kids blurt out "hey mom, 'member when we came here for Halloween?!?? That was cool!" versus the next time my kids come across a bunch of zombie babies feeding on human flesh, if you catch my drift. I don't think you are a prude so much as your opinion and attitude lacks context, perspective, prudence, tact and taste.

  • Anon
    October 25, 2011 - 11:09

    "WAAAAAHHHH, back in my day Halloween was only a little bit scary..."

  • Dee
    October 25, 2011 - 09:45

    I don,t know where you come from,but Halloween was always about,ghosts,witches,zombies,grave yards,scary movie week,what did you expect when you went in a Halloween store.I never did understand when I would go to parties and a clown,blue brothers,Winnie the pooh or barbie would win best spot over a dead bride,zombies,a guy with his head hanging off,I guess the judges really did,nt know anything about Halloween either.

  • Missus
    October 25, 2011 - 08:28

    Jeez already, is it all people can do but complain? Come off it, if you don't want your kids to see it then don' t bring them there

  • RB
    October 25, 2011 - 07:13

    I agree..... the baby zombies are way over the top. Halloween has become more about being gross than being spooky. We've set our up house and yard as a haunted house - lots of ghosts, witches, mice, pumpkins and cemetaries... and not a brain-eating zombie in sight!!