Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Halloween: an American Perspective

In 2011, I was living in Oxford. I am an American, and have always loved Halloween. One of my earliest costumes was literally a handmade costume that my mom helped me make, which was of my imaginary friend. Sure, all the kids in kindergarten laughed, but the thing even lit up- it was cool.

While in Oxford, I was drafting School of Deaths, a book about Grim Reapers, and I was excited to see what Halloween would be like in Europe. I figured with all the old castles and history, Halloween would be huge.

October rolled around and some of the stores put out Harry Potter costumes.  Blenheim Palace, which is where the Churchills are from, and its right next to Oxford, advertised a "haunted experience".

photo I took at Blenheim

Now, when I went to high school we loved the haunted forest.  It's a 2 hour walk in the dark through various themed areas. The best is where the volunteers jump out of the trees with actual chainsaws- scares kids' pants off. And the clown part- freeeaky.

At any rate, I get to Blenheim, and go on the train outside the palace, where they've got one two-foot deflated looking scarecrow with "boo" written underneath.  That was it.  That was the Halloween there.  The "haunted experience" (and I asked) was a kids' show which I walked in on for two minutes, then walked out of- it was a puppeteer- and not at all what I call "scary".

It turned out that Halloween wasn't big in England at all- at least not in Oxford.  Sure most of the "kids" got dressed up and stayed up all night - but they did EVERY night- it's a college town after all.  Maybe it's because Guy Fawkes' Day, which is HUGE, and frankly awesome, was only a few days' later, but Halloween in Oxford was a letdown.

my American housemates and I carved this

Still, the seeds of that experience led to the final story of School of Deaths.  How would you feel at a school for reapers?  Perhaps America's only a pale shadow of what's really out there... 

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