Welcome. Outside my Brooklyn building, a life-size witch dangles an alarmingly lifelike orange tabby by one foot over a bubbling cauldron. Enter the building and a skeleton dressed as a butler stands by the elevator, proffering a bowl of mini Kit Kats. You’ll tiptoe around all manner of rubber rodent and spider en route to the mailboxes. It’s Halloween season and my landlord does not mess around.
I was reading “A Scaredy-Cat’s Investigation Into Why People Enjoy Fear,” from 2016, Steph Yin’s attempt to understand the appeal of horror films and haunted houses. This passage stood out:
For many, being scared is a jolting escape from daily life. When immersed in a scary situation, you can suspend your disbelief and live in the moment — and that loss of control can feel really good.
I’m curious about how this works in 2021. After a year and a half of what for many has been near-constant immersion in scary situations, does Halloween offer the same respite? I suspect it does. The frights of Halloween, no matter how realistic, are manufactured and finite. We know that no matter how scary the movie or haunted hayride, it’ll end, and there will be candy.
And it seems like Americans are ready to get spooked: The National Retail Federation reports that consumer spending is expected to hit a record high of $10.1 billion this Halloween.
That doesn’t make the cast of characters in “Behind the ‘Boo!’: How Haunted House Actors Scare Guests” any less terrifying. In one of New York’s hair-raising habitats, you’ll encounter Jacket, an actor’s “exuberant take on a psycho killer”: “‘Jacket is crazy, has an ax, runs rampant, likes candy, likes to make friends.’”
Tavi Gevinson recommends.
The writer and actor Tavi Gevinson prefers running to slow songs:
If I listen to fast songs, I try to run at the pace of the music and can’t keep up. So I like to listen to songs that go at a steady clip, or ideally craft a playlist that starts a little more hyper and then reaches some kind of slow catharsis.
—From “Tavi Gevinson Finds Comfort in Legal Pads, Canned Fish and Rumi,” by Juan A. Ramírez
How will you observe Halloween, if at all? Is there an animatronic mummy hand reaching for passersby’s coat hems from the cobweb-strewn bushes in front of your house? Are you taking little ones trick-or-treating? Will you hand out candy? Dress up? Tell us: firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to include your full name and location and we might feature your response in a future newsletter. We’re At Home and Away. We’ll read every letter sent. More ideas for passing the time, wherever you are, appear below. I’ll see you on Friday.