I was ten years old when Halloween hit theaters. My friends and I trudged the three blocks to the Kent Theater on an October Saturday afternoon and had our tiny minds blown. The good thing about 1978 was no one cared who went in to see a movie, even if it was four ten-year old boys.
The sad thing about 1978 was that once a movie ended its theater run, it was gone. I remember not getting an opportunity to go to the Kent after that first matinee, but man, every scene was burned into my memory. I would have to wait years to see it again on that crazy VCR contraption.
Still obsessing over Halloween a year later, my friends and I found out through some magazine or newspaper article that the pale, blank-faced Michael Myers mask was actually a doctored William Shatner mask. Stores weren’t selling Michael Myers costumes because we were still hooked on those cheap plastic boxed costumes our mothers got us from Woolworth. Well, if not hooked, resigned to the fact that it was all we were allowed to buy.
However, you could find full head masks at the stationery store where we bought our comics every week. Lo and behold, they had a Captain Kirk mask sitting all deflated in their battered costume box! My friends and I pooled our money so we had the ten bucks to buy the mask, raced home on our bikes with our Halloween booty and set about transforming it into the scariest psycho killer ever. Now, the hair wasn’t exactly right, and the eye holes were too small, but we’d make it work. We cut the eye holes to make them a little bigger, a little less expressive, and gave it a haircut. The experience was prophetic in the sense that none of us were ever destined to become barbers.
The last problem with the mask was the color. It was a fresh, peachy tone. We needed to whiten that sucker up. No problem. Jimmy grabbed a can of white ceiling paint from the shed and I got the brush. Together, we carefully painted the mask, mindful not to get any in the hair. Mission accomplished, we left it in David’s basement to dry overnight. Halloween was a week away, but Michael Myers would soon rise up and terrorize the neighborhood.
We all raced to David’s house after school, marveling at our creation. It wasn’t perfect, but anyone who’d ever seen Halloween would know who we were when we wore it. Jimmy grabbed it first, pulling it over his head and pretending he had a knife, stabbing—actually, punching—us in the chest. After five minutes of chasing us around, his legs got wobbly. He ripped the mask off, gasping for air.
No one cared that he looked as pale as the mask. We just wanted our shot. Alan was next, leaving the basement to slowly walk the neighborhood, stopping to stare at the normies. The fact that the mask was twice the size of his regular head, perched atop a stick figure body, was odd enough. When he was done, adult neighbors giving him strange looks, he took it off and said, “It’s really hot in there. I feel sick.”
Alan dry heaved over the sewer cap we used as home plate in Wiffle ball. My patience had worn thin, and I snatched the mask away from him. Inside, it was as hot as Alan had said, filled with Jimmy and Alan’s sweat. No matter. I felt larger than life, a total badass. Now we could properly re-enact Halloween whenever we wanted (yeah, we were strange kids). And when Halloween night came, we’d be the toast of the neighborhood. The big kids would think we were so cool, they might even skip the atomic wedgies for a night.
There was, however, one small problem, a problem that became painfully apparent after several seconds within the clammy mask.
It reeked of paint fumes.
I’m talking fumes so thick, you could practically see them. I soldiered on, eyes watering, lungs burning, nostrils trying to close up to stop the noxious assault. Running after David had me gasping. Yet, I refused to take the mask off.
At one point, bright dots sparked in my periphery. My stomach lurched into my throat. My head spun, limbs feeling as if they weren’t my own.
This freaking mask was killing me!
But dammit, I was Michael Fucking Myers! I was not going to let something as ridiculous as paint fumes spoil my fun.
Until it did.
I don’t remember how I ended up on my ass in the grass, but there I was, fumbling to get the mask off. Each breath stung, brain cells perishing by the millions. When David finally stepped in and saved me, he was just a blurry outline against a slate gray sky.
“My turn!” he blurted, dashing away.
And as little boys (and sometimes grown men) are known to do, we let him poison himself with nary a word of caution. It didn’t take long for David to actually puke seconds before yanking the mask halfway up his face.
Here we were, four Michael Myers wannabes, fighting the spins that come from overexposure to noxious chemicals. The mask lay between us, wet and limp as a used condom.
“That really smells,” Jimmy said, being the first to regain his senses.
“Let’s give it another day to air out. We’ll try again tomorrow,” David said, plucking it from the grass and taking it back to his basement.
We tried it on the next day. And the next. And the next.
The horrid paint smell never lessened. Not one bit. Not one iota. It was as pungent by Halloween as it had been that first day we tried it on.
So what did we do?
We took turns wearing it, stalking trick or treaters in the dark. We got dizzy, we got nauseous, we coughed and hacked up strange sludge from our lungs.
But we were all Michael Myers, even if it only lasted for five minutes at a time. We liked to think that if John Carpenter knew what we were doing, the punishment we put ourselves through just to emulate his masterpiece, he may have adopted us. Shit, maybe he’d put us in his next movie!
I can’t be sure how much gray matter we irreparably damaged, but I’m pretty sure it was enough to lock my face in a permanent cringe should someone find a way to quantify it. Of course, none of us grew up to be rocket scientists. Hmmmm. In our weakening minds, we were simply suffering for our fandom, for our love of Halloween and scary movies.
We were Michael Myers.
No amount of ceiling paint or common sense could take that away from us.
Hunter Shea is the product of a misspent childhood watching scary movies, reading forbidden books and wishing Bigfoot would walk past his house. He doesn’t just write about the paranormal—he actively seeks out the things that scare the hell out of people and experiences them for himself. You can follow his madness at huntershea.com.