Many Cleveland residents plan for the occasion as early as September in preparation for the one day when the worse a person looks, the better.
For Thad and Jayne Spurlin of Cleveland, Halloween holds special memories when their four children, now grown, enjoyed going door-to-door shouting, “Trick-or-treats!” It is also linked with new memories.
“Our granddaughter will be 5 on Oct. 31,” Jayne says. “That makes it very special for us. We always dress for Halloween. My husband took me trick-or-treating last year on Centenary Street. I was dressed in full garb and no one knew I was an adult.”
“It’s fun, plus it’s a good time to get out and see the kids all dressed up,” Thad added. “We really enjoy it.”
But the season that brings out more superstitions and hair-raising carnivals with haunted houses and wild masquerade parties has a spine-chilling history that is even more eerie than the macabre masks people will wear.
“As far as history goes, it’s supposed to be the eve of All Saints Day,” Thad says. “I think they’re suppose to drive evil spirits away. That’s when they believed all that stuff. We just like to see the little kids dressed up.”
While many people view the Oct. 31 celebration as harmless fun, others express concerned about its origin.
The Encyclopedia Americana says, “Elements of the customs connected with Halloween can be traced to a Druid ceremony in pre-Christian times. The Celts had festivals for two major gods — a sun god (called Lug) and a god of the dead, called Samhain, whose festival was held on Nov. 1, the beginning of the Celtic New Year.”
Philip Carr-Gomm, chosen chief of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids in England, says in his, “Elements of the Druids in England,” “Samhuinn, From Oct. 31 to Nov. 2 was a time of no time.
“Time was abolished for the three days of this festival and people did crazy things, men dressed as women and women as men ... children would knock on neighbors’ doors for food and treats in a way that we still find today, in a watered down way, in the custom of trick-or-treating on Halloween.”
He added, “With the coming of Christianity, this festival turned into Halloween, Oct. 31, All Hallows (All Saints Day), Nov. 1 and All Souls Day, Nov. 2. Here we can see most clearly the way in which Christianity built on pagan foundations it found rooted in these isles. Not only does the purpose of the festival match the earlier one, but even the unusual length of the festival is the same.”
Isaac Bonewits, author of “Bonewit’s Essential Guide to Witchcraft and Wicca” describes Halloween as “The modern name for Samhain, an ancient Celtic holy day which many neopagans — especially wiccans, druids and celtic reconstructionists — celebrate as a spiritual beginning of a new year.”
Bonewits said, “Halloween is a time to lift the veil between many material and spiritual worlds in divination, so as to gain spiritual insight about our past and futures ... to deepen our connection to the gods and goddesses we worship.”
For such reasons, many choose not to celebrate Halloween while others still see it as harmless fun for children.
Halloween’s origin, however, can be traced back to an even darker, more disturbing event in the history of religion, according to Colonel J. Garnier, author of “The Worship of the Dead.”
In his book, Garnier links the celebration to the flood of Noah’s day. He said, “The mythologies of all the ancient nations are interwoven with the events of the Deluge. The force of this argument is illustrated by the fact of the observance of a great festival of the dead in commemoration of the event, not only by nations more or less in communication with each other, but by others so widely separated, both by the ocean and by centuries of time.
“This festival, moreover, held by all on or about the very day on which, according to the Mosaic account, the deluge took place, the seventeenth day of the second month — the month nearly corresponding with our November.”
The slightest possibility that this festival may be connected with honoring people whom God punished because of their badness in Noah’s day has caused some believers to distance themselves completely from Halloween.
Whether it is viewed as harmless fun, a longstanding tradition, sacred rites or something to avoid, Halloween no longer has any skeletons in its closet. Even unmasked it is as scary as ever.
With a spooky origin and excited children dressed for trick-or-treats, Halloween remains a fright night phenomenon to incite everything from fun and revelries to creepy things that go bump in the night.