When I was a kid, Halloween was for kids. The total extent of my parents’ involvement was helping me with my costume (as in going to the store and picking one out), and telling me what time I had to be home from trick or treating. Somehwere along the way, it became as much an adult holiday as a childrens’ one. Maybe it’s because our generation and the one after never actually grew up.
Personally, I have no desire to dress like a vampire and attend a gathering of similarly-clad grownups. But I do enjoy the various monster-fest and Halloweekend (what a great name!) offerings oozing out of my TV, especially lesser known (but no less scary) low budget flicks like “Near Dark,” “Tremors,” “Dog Soldiers,” and “They Live,” starring Rowdy Roddy Piper of all people. Some mix chills and laughs, others simply pile up the body parts. But for reasons better left unexamined, I find them irresistable.
And yet, the scariest work I’ve ever encountered isn’t a movie at all. It’s a short story by southern gothic horror writer Robert McCammon, with the disarmingly deceptive title of “Pin.” In a nutshell, “Pin” takes us into the mind of a lunatic who believes he will see God if he sticks a pin deep enough into his eye. That’s it. But in the hands of a master like McCammon, it’s more than enough. I had to put the book down at least three times to wipe the sweat from my forehead and step outside for a few deep, cleansing breaths. I forced myself to get through it because I considered it a personal challenge. And, of course, I needed to know what happened.
McCammon has had a successful career, but nothing like King, Koontz or Straub. And yet, for my money, he’s a better writer. If you want to check him out, I suggest novels like “Gone South” or “Boys Life.” But start with “Pin.” I dare you.