The Zen of HauntingWe think, therefore we are. We’re dead, therefore we haunt.
Well, now you know why we haunt. It’s pretty much the same as why we eat. We eat because we’re bears. We haunt because we’re dead bears. So much for philosophical nuance. If you start going off on, “How do dead bears eat?”, so help us, we will take over your computer and put up nothing but pictures of your aunt’s cats in dresses every time you click.But why we haunt doesn’t explain why our humans haunt. It is a rare breed of human that starts haunting even before they’re dead. As a group, they call themselves haunters, but they haunt for so many different reasons. Some are interested in giving visitors that surge of adrenaline you get from a jump scare. Other’s lean toward creeping you out with weird looking dolls or clowns. There are those who think skeleton pirates are a thing because Disney used skeletons on a ride and one of them talked. And there are some who terrorize and beat up people to the point of cruelty because… well, we don’t know why. All we know is there’s a waiting list of humans wanting to be the next victim. You’re all crazy. Our humans aren’t really like any of those above. They grew up as kids in towns where you put on costumes and ran through a neighborhood that you knew intimately. You knew which house down the street served ice cream cones, and which ones gave out popcorn balls or pumpkin pie. You knew the neighbors who gave out full sized candy bars instead of Tootsie Roll Pops. You knew the houses that would let you come by twice for a cup of cider when all that running made you thirsty. And you knew that one house that kept the lights out and always wound up with free toilet paper all over their trees and bushes the next day.They still have vivid memories of the decorated neighborhood houses. Jack-o-lanterns brightened nearly every porch in the dark. Carved by hand, no two were ever alike. They remember the Beistle cardboard skeletons taped to front doors; their joints pinned together with metal rivets. Try as one might, they never could be positioned in a way that looked quite right. And, then there were the paper cartoon owls, witches, and black cats that adorned house windows. Long before they became retro-chic they were a staple of Halloween. They remember the house with flickering lights that played the vinyl album Chilling Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House all night long. And everyone had to make a special trip to see Bobby’s dad who always dressed up in a hockey mask; holding candy in one hand, and a machete in the other. Yeah, Bobby’s dad was 5’6” and 285 pounds, but that’s what made it okay. They all knew who he was, but he could still give them just a bit of a chill when he lifted that blade. Those were some of the best nights of their youth. They ran out into Halloween night with their pillow cases and were in awe of a world created just to thrill them.As they grew older, they became the young adults handing out the candy. They became the ones to tape the owls and witches to the front window. They were the ones begging their parents to let them play their own personal cassette tape of Chilling Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House just a bit too loud. And they put the candy in a bowl lined with tiny skulls making sure the most timid trick-or-treaters didn’t have to reach into the bowl if they didn’t want to. They remember what it meant to be young, and the trust adults placed in them to scare, but never truly terrify. Those are our humans. They haunt because they remember. They haunt to give others memories that they hope will be even better than theirs. So, they have a cauldron creep stirring his stick in a pot full of who knows what; because if they could have done it as a kid, they would have. They make tombstones with funny epitaphs; because tombstones need to be scary, but not too scary. And they have to make adults escorting their kids laugh. When our humans were kids, parents stayed home. It was the one night a year kids got to run around the neighborhood after dark. Our humans realize those days are pretty much gone. They know that there are multiple generations visiting nowadays. Each year, they add to the haunt. Each year, the fun they have creating props and decorations gets socked away in memory. They work hard to make sure those who visit Halloween night have the same opportunity to create new and lasting memories. They haunt, hoping to become the inspiration that leads a future kid handing out candy in a plastic skull to think, “Wouldn’t it be great if I…”Look around their haunt. You won’t find dismembered, bloody corpses. They’re not trying to turn your stomach. They’re trying to tickle your funny bone and maybe make the hair on the back of your neck stand up just a bit. They know there are plenty of places out there if you simply have to get your fix of hacked up body parts. You won’t see spiders lunging out at you or Wendigos screaming in darkened corners. There are no cars driving head long toward you; no zombies grabbing at you like you were a buffet. They’re not adrenaline junkies, so they leave that stuff to the pros. And they aren’t going to lock you in a coffin, punch you, or try waterboarding you. What the heck is that? That’s just wrong. Stop thinking that’s a haunt. It’s torture for hipsters. And by the way, if you go to those places, stay away from your aunt’s dressed up cats. We know how serial killers get started.What our humans do is make things that are a bit creepy, a bit funny, and hearken back to a day they remember. They want you to try and figure out what that sound is, what that skeleton is doing with that shovel, and why anyone in their right mind would name their kid Ima Ghoner. They haunt trying to make memories that make you smile, not cringe. They’re totally down with all the other options. It’s just not what they do. They recreate their childhood with a bit of extra tech.Maybe we haunt alongside them because even though we don’t remember those days, we sort of wish we did. Maybe that’s reason enough to put a chill in the air when kids walk by never seeing us. Maybe it’s why we tap their shoulder from behind just as they convince themselves it’s all fake. Or maybe it’s because our humans serve hot dogs and cider along with their candy. If we scare enough kids away, the leftovers are ours. We’re bears. We don’t think about it all that deep as long as it’s fun. We sort of think our humans are the same.
The Beistle Company was a popular maker of cardboard Halloween decorations throughout the 60’s and 70’s. Today they’re called Retro and cost far more than they did when our humans were young. But the memories they have of them are free.
Honeycomb crepe paper decorations were fashionable back when our humans’ hair wasn’t quite so white or as sparse. There were spiders and bats with round bellies, 2-D looking cardboard cats poking out of 3-D looking honeycomb pumpkins, and sets of honeycomb ghosts. The paper ghosts have returned thanks to human nostalgia for kitschy Halloween stuff. So, the humans bought a set to keep us happy. We feel much better knowing dead things can return if the demand is great enough.
The humans are so into having visitors leave with happy memories they setup an old fire pit that someone gave them. It helps keep the parents warm while their kids run upstairs to get candy. It rains a lot in Oregon, so being cold and wet is pretty much a staple of October weather. We like the fire pit, too. Just because we don’t have bones anymore, doesn’t mean we don’t enjoy warming them in front of a fire.