Jewish World Review Oct. 17, 2003 / 21 Tishrei, 5764

Greg Crosby

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The scary thing about October | It's almost Halloween again. What's really scary is that it only seems like the 4th of July was a few weeks ago. It doesn't help that we've got temperatures that are still in the eighties and nineties, either. How can you get into the spirit of autumn when the weather just won't cooperate? I know, I know, it's always hot in October in Southern California and I complain about it every year but this year it just really bugs me.

Want to hear something sad? I can't remember when it last rained. I can't even remember when it last felt truly cold. Everybody loves this climate so what's the matter with me? I was born and raised here, I should be used to it by now, but I'm not. Call me nuts, but after 27 straight months of heat I start to get a little weary of it all. Matter of fact, I'm beginning to resent it. There's just something unnatural about a place that doesn't get a change of season. Pumpkins and candy apples just don't go with barbeques and swimming pools, I'm sorry. Fall is supposed to be the thing that leaves do when the weather turns cold, not the thing that people do when they get nauseous from heatstroke.

I swear it was different when I was a kid. Halloween was windy and chilly back then in the good old days. And Halloween was all about kids going out trick or treating. It was a kid holiday not a grown up thing like it is now. Halloween was ghosts and witches and black cats and lots of candy. Today Halloween is blood and gore and severed body parts and chainsaws. When did Halloween get so grisly? Maybe it just takes more to scare us than it used to.

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There was nothing more frightening to me as a young kid than those old Universal horror movies from the 30's. The original "Frankenstein" and the "Mummy" and the "Wolf Man" really did it for me. Man, when Lon Chaney Jr. turned into the werewolf when the moon was full and those great Universal clouds floated by and the ground was covered with fog, I could feel the hair on the back of my neck stand straight up! Maria Ouspenskaya was the old gypsy woman and I could recite her entire speech by heart.

"Even the man who is pure in heart
And says his prayers by night
May become a wolf when the wolf bane blooms
And the moon is full and bright."

Then there was Boris Karloff as the mummy with one crippled arm and dragging one foot on the ground . limping along slowly sneaking up on people. I still don't understand what that was all about, but wow, did it scare the heck out of me. I mean how would you like to be sitting at home alone at night with your back to the open window and see Boris Karloff in the mirror hobbling toward you all in bandages and dragging that foot? No good.

Even the Invisible Man frightened me. The worst part was when he unwrapped the bandages around his head exposing . nothing! And remember how he took off his bandaged nose and threw it at the crowd? Then he laughed and said, "Here's a souvenir for you!" It still gives me chills thinking about it. Charles Laughton's "Hunchback of Notre Dame" was pretty frightening to me as a child, too. I don't know why - maybe it's just the image of a walleyed, hair lipped hunchback running around through the streets and swinging on ropes up in the bell tower that kind of got to me. You really don't want to run into a guy like that.

Of course I loved all those movies, they were my favorites. They scared me, but it was a good kind of scared, if you know what I mean. The special effects were nothing compared to what they can do with computers today, but somehow, it was better and more real. No blood. No body parts. Just wonderful monsters. It wasn't Halloween until they ran those pictures on TV.

I still watch all my old favorite monster movies when they run them and they still bring a shutter down my spine. But it needs to get a lot colder out .really. There's nothing less scary than a mummy limping along in ninety degree weather.

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JWR contributor Greg Crosby, former creative head for Walt Disney publications, has written thousands of comics, hundreds of children's books, dozens of essays, and a letter to his congressman. A freelance writer in Southern California, you may contact him by clicking here.

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