5 Ways to Get Your Halloween Spirit Back: Chasing the Black and Orange Dragon

Paper Cuts

Paper (n): material manufactured in thin sheets from the pulp of wood or other fibrous substances, used for writing, drawing, or printing on

 Cut (v): make (a movie) into a coherent whole by removing parts or placing them in a different order.

Guys and gals, we’re less than a week away from Halloween.

I don’t make the news. I just report it. A week! And while I see that all my horror-loving buddies challenging themselves to watch a horror movie a day, or creating lists for All Hallow’s Read, I myself… I’m…

This is hard for me to admit, but: I’m not feeling it this year. At least not yet.

It’s not for lack of trying. I’m busy, but on my way to work I’ve been photographing my various neighbor’s Halloween displays, and have been trying to keep my reading seasonally-appropriate even if it’s just a couple of pages before bed. But, for the first time ever, maybe I just have too much going on. New job, writing deadlines, life stuff: ya’ know how it is.

There’s been nary a spare second for me to poison my body with pumpkin spice-infused anything.

So now I’ve only got a week to make it ALL happen.

Let me ask: have you, dear reader, found yourself nodding along with my above description of the season-thus-far? Well, take my hand. Let us walk together through the pumpkin patch and fill our eyes, ears, and hearts with the one holiday that we don’t care that the merchandise and branded cereal is on the shelves months ahead of time.

Before I get started, let me say: this isn’t one of those man-baby nostalgia trips (although 75% of this holiday, for everyone over the age of 10, is nostalgia-based. It’s better if we admit that). No. I’m going to try and skew age-appropriate with most of the following bullet points.

And that’s because as great as Ernest Scared Stupid is… I feel like I can run the whole movie through without ever turning the TV on. Also want to note that, while I did mention my job getting in the way, this list is not meant to be one of those millennial “ugh! Adulting is so hard!!” listicles. This is Cemetery Dance Online. You want pilfered memes and teh internet speak: go elsewhere.

This is just me trying to fill a month into a week of fun. So here we go. I plan on doing all of this stuff before the big day:

  1. Up Your Jack O’Lantern Game

Okay, I said that I was going to try to act halfway adult making this list and then my first word of advice is “carve a funny face in a squash!” but seriously: as someone who’s never really been artistically inclined, there is nothing more fun (or seasonal) than carving a jack o’lantern.

It’s the tactile nature of it. It’s the skill involved. It’s the fact that most times you’re tasked with creating your masterpiece with inferior tools (for real: how many of those tiny little saws have I busted in my lifetime? Fifty? A hundred?). It’s the smell.

Since college, I’ve been trying to get the people around me to indulge in some pumpkin disfigurement. And I’m lucky enough that they’ve humored me. With my girlfriend this has become a yearly tradition (or a competition…), with us each choosing a pattern from Zombie Pumpkins and doing our best with it. Here are some of our masterpieces:


If you like those, definitely toss Zombie Pumpkins a couple bucks to print out their designs.

  1. Support Your Local Haunt

It doesn’t matter if you live in the middle of nowhere or in a bustling metropolitan hub: the haunted attraction industry is booming and I guarantee that there is a grade-A haunted house within an hour’s drive of you.

For a couple of years running, I’ve been hitting up Philadelphia’s Eastern State Penitentiary for their Terror Behind the Walls event: one of the country’s most historic abandoned prisons converted into a multi-house haunted attraction.

It. Is. Dope.

But this year I think we’re going to switch it up and hit South Philly’s Fright Factory.

For me, a good haunt packs the thrills and “wow look how cool that is” moments of like 10 horror movies.

Get a babysitter for the kids, grab your significant other, and go pay to be menaced by a guy with a chainsaw.

  1. Freebase Horror Movies

With the advent of Netflix, Amazon Prime, Shudder, etc.: this is now the easiest item on this list to accomplish.

Hell, you’re probably doing it right now: is that Baskin you’ve got opened up in the other tab? How is that? I hear good things…

But if you’re lucky enough to live in a city with a repertory theater scene: most of them are playing horror movies this week! And if you’re in Philly like I am, then the madmen at Exhumed Films are showing 24 hours of 35mm horror classics during their annual 24-Hour Horrorthon.

I’ll be there. But I may not be there for all 24 hours.

I’ll probably be too tired from…

  1. Read Horror Stories in Front of Strangers

I mean, on October 26 this is going to be something I do in a semi-professional manner. I’ve been invited by Christoph Paul to read at KGB Bar in New York. The line-up includes Brian Keene, Mary SanGiovanni, Nick Cato, Paul, and Leza Cantoral. The info for that event is here and we’d love to see you.

But even if you don’t fancy yourself a writer or aren’t doing something like that, it doesn’t mean you can’t pick up an anthology of classics, get a few friends together, and belt out a couple of spooky stories.

Alternatively, if you’ve got kids, then sit them down and read them some Edward Lee. We all have to grow up sometime.

  1. Give Out Candy You Goddamn Selfish Monster!

I plan on capping off October by getting dressed up as Dracula and handing out candy to the neighborhood trick or treaters. It may seem like the obvious thing to do—but I sincerely hope that you’ll be spending your Halloween the same way.

I mean, you don’t have to be Dracula, you can be dressed as whatever the heck you want. But the important thing is that us Halloween-loving adults rein in our selfish “but I want to enjoy the holiday too!” impulses and pay the joy of the season forward. Pay it forward to the kids who the night’s really supposed to be about.

You never know if the little boy or girl dressed as their favorite cartoon character is taking note of their wacky neighbor. You know the one. The guy or gal with the Stephen King sleeve tattoo or the Morticia Addams haircut year-round. Because maybe, just maybe, you’re the cool older kid in the neighborhood (even if you’re a grownass adult) who inspires them to keep that Halloween spirit going a little past its expiration date.

Then we got another horror fan.

Happy Halloween, everyone!

I know I’ve been away from CD for a little while, but I’ll be back next month with a new Paper Cuts column. Probably.

If you’re just joining us with this installment: please check out my other pieces here.

Adam Cesare is a New Yorker who lives in Philadelphia. He studied English and film at Boston University. His books include Mercy House, Video Night, The Summer Job, and Tribesmen. He has an oft-neglected website and tweets as @Adam_Cesare. He also has a YouTube channel where he offers book and movie recommendations and is currently doing a 7-month read-along of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series.

2 thoughts on “5 Ways to Get Your Halloween Spirit Back: Chasing the Black and Orange Dragon”

  1. Welcome back – I have noticed a dearth of CD-Related newsletters recently and put it down to the revamp… but I missed them (and you!).
    Although we watch an amazing number of horror films and I’m married to someone who will happily go to work in costume and make-up for Hallowe’en (his best so far was as a red demon complete with horns – imagine how his crossing-guard duty went that afternoon!) I’m all a bit bemused by it, coming from England where traditionally it’s Guy Fawkes/Pope-burning that is celebrated a bit later on November 5 – even if the Hallowe’en tradition increasingly is crossing back across the Atlantic. So the whole event is a bit of a damp squib for me – and usually we ‘celebrate’ with pizza and beer and listen to the Orson Welles ‘War of the Worlds’ broadcast; no trick-or-treaters locally.

    1. Oh hell yeah, thank you Julian! I was recently wondering if the UK celebrated Halloween like we did, thanks for the headsup. Hope you had a happy one!

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