How to Scare the Kids at Hallowe’en

These days Hallowe’en seems to be more about commercial gain than anything else: fancy costumes, masks, fireworks and pumpkins are all deemed essential in order for us to have a good time on that particular day in October.

It’s a shame that many parents go along with the hype and buy into all the commercial crap that says we have to buy loads of stuff we don’t need in order to have a celebration, but there you go.Historically, Hallowe’en is steeped in pre-Christian, seasonal celebrations such as those practised by the Gaelic and Pagan peoples. Such festivities, along with the notion that spirits, dead folk and suchlike could enter our world and influence the outcome of the harvest, helps perpetuate the modern theme of scaring the pants off each other with ghoulies and ghosties and long-legged Freddy Kruegers.

While I don’t agree with the commercial aspect of Hallowe’en, I’m all in favour of scaring the hell out of our children with a spooky story – after all, telling stories is one of the ways we pass on knowledge, learn the difference between good and evil, and find out how other cultures and communities live.

Some years ago, I took part in a Hallowe’en storytelling event in woods near the Humber Bridge in Hull. Three storytellers (including me), were strategically placed at intervals along a pre-set route through the woods. A guide led groups of parents and children along the path, stopping to hear each story as they passed.

I’m not what you’d call courageous, so I’ll happily admit that standing alone in a clearing by the side of the path, in the dark, listening to the (decidedly spooky) sounds of the woods, and waiting for the next group to appear, was not my idea of fun. However, three groups of children did turn up and I told my tale about two kids who ventured into the woods at night and who, naturally, came to a bad end.

I don’t know if my story imparted any sense of caution on my audience, but it scared me. Follow the link if you’d like to read my Tale for Hallowe’en, but maybe don’t read it in the woods, at night, on Hallowe’en. Just in case.

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