What do people do?
Many, if not most, people seem to get a certain delight out of being frightened. This is not exclusive to children, as countless people over fifty enjoy spine chilling fun. At least, according to definition, “halloween things that go bump in the night” is an accurate description of imaginary circumstances that produce the sensation of fear. If any time of the year such emotions are likely, nothing fills the bill like “All Hallows Evening” (shortened to “Halloween”) for its emphasis on the dead and possibly their spirits allowed to walk the earth on that night. The origins of Halloween as a religious holiday are sketchy at best. Many believe that it was a kind of takeaway from pagan festivals such as the Celtic observance of “Samhain.” As with other Christian holy days, there is a remarkable similarity between the pagan special days and Christian observations. It is thought by some that the Christian holy days deliberately coincided with the pagan celebrations to divert attention away from polytheism toward the Christian and Jewish ideas of the monotheistic God.
To get the feel of the ghosts and goblins of Halloween night, many cities and towns operate a “haunted house.” A trip to San Francisco provides a tour of haunted places listening for “things that go bump in the night.” For those who are able to travel abroad, Stonehenge with its mysterious past among the Druids makes for a great Halloween trip.
In both the Christian and the pagan observations of October 31, there is the concept of interaction between this world and the “other realm” where departed spirits are permitted to roam the earth. About halfway between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice, the evening of October 31 falls at a time when the nights are longer making it ideal time to allow imaginary things that go bump in the night to send chills down the spines of the susceptible. Some places like Victoria, B.C., capitalizes on a reputation of being “haunted” and provides special tours of the creepiest locations. During the Halloween season, a trip to Sleepy Hollow in New York has delightful exhibits of jack-o’lanterns and the prospect of spotting a headless horseman.
Like Christmas and Easter, Halloween became commercialized with the Christian and pagan concepts all but forgotten. Unlike those other two Christian holidays, Halloween is not solely child centered. After the kids have gone out trick-or-treating, the adults often attend elaborate costume parties with a Halloween theme punctuated by carved pumpkins and fake spider webs.
Christians today reject the commercialized Halloween celebrations as having their roots in duothestic paganism which, oddly enough, predates both Christian and Jewish religions. Most people, however, look on October 31 as an excuse to have costume parties and enjoy the pseudo fear of things that go bump in the night. Nevertheless, there is evidence that even human sacrifice may have once been prevalent in some of the pagan observations of Samhain and the like. Even the pagans seem to have allowed October 31 to become a party time. A painting called Snap-Apple Night done by Daniel Maclise in 1833 shows a divination party going on with people dressed to the nines, singing and dancing and children bobbing for apples. So much for “things that go bump in the night.”