In 1987, there was a brief moment when it seemed that my single mother was going to get married to a man with a mustache and impossibly muscular arms. It was great. I suddenly found myself with a step-brother! I was seven years old, he was four. We got all dressed up to go to Salem for the festivities – he as Alf, me as a ninja assassin (Halloween being the only time it’s acceptable to wear all black outside of stage crew; plus, I was starting to get chubby and the black masked my figure).
Everything was magical. We bobbed for apples and we watched the mock-witch trials. There was a chill in the air and leaves on the ground. Then we went to the spook house…
A sound effects cassette blaring, fake cobwebs abounding, from the moment we stepped in line, I was anxious. Never one to step away from the spotlight, I took the lead of our group of strangers, quietly emoting better than any scream queen as I stepped into the black-lit hallway ahead towards certain doom.
Within three feet, there was a diorama set up: a prison cage with colored lights. How lovely. Atmosphere! Then, without warning, some terrible man in a mask jumped out through the bars, reaching for me. I threw my hands back, preventing anyone from passing. Saving the group, holding tight to the walls, I screamed with all the terror a seven year old gay boy could muster until we had to be escorted out the front door – sobbing hysterically and insisting we go home.
That was a good Halloween.
That was a good Halloween.
Twenty years later, that was Michigan.
I never that thought I could recapture the magic of Halloween as it existed in childhood. In Los Angeles, we have no foliage; the only costume options in any store are "Slutty Cafeteria Lady" or "Slutty Manatee." But in Michigan, every house proudly displays a jack-o’-lantern and has decorations to spare. There are corn mazes, pumpkin patches, petting zoos! These people care about Halloween. Michigan State is performing Evil Dead: The Musical. Even the Christians, who hate Halloween, have those Hell Houses every few blocks. Don’t even get me started on Wiard’s Orchard...
Growing up in Boston, I only thought such wondrous places existed in the movies. Wiard’s not only had a haunted barn, but they have a Haunted Mineshaft and a Haunted Asylum (where walls actually implode and you have to squeeze yourself through to get out)…they even have karaoke! They house a Haunted Hayride that's better than anything Hollywood could muster and (get this) when you're done with the hayride, they have donuts and fresh apple cider waiting for you…for FREE!! There was joy in every presentation. My faith in humanity is momentarily restored. There must be a God, because I found Halloween Heaven, kids, and it’s name is Michigan.
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