Phase of the Dead

This is an age in which people are offended by real or imagined slights regarding gender, race, nationality, body shape, occupation, disability, hairdos, styles of dress, and forms of address. Homeowners who decorate their property with images or figures of overweight waitresses, slant-eyed Orientals, effeminate males or burly females, dark-skinned mannequins with Afro wigs, blind beggars with cups for alms, paralyzed children in wheelchairs, or farmers dressed like rubes in overalls would almost certainly invite protests from neighbors and other citizens.

     Yet at this time of the year many front lawns are filled with simulacra of dismembered bodies, skeletons, severed heads with contorted faces, zombies, sepulchral witches, ghouls with parts of their faces eaten away, tombstones and open graves, ghosts floating in the wind, butchers with reddened hatchets, leather-faced menaces with chainsaws, and corpses hanging by the neck from trees. Passersby do not even raise eyebrows at such grisly sights. Instead, they may pass compliments such as “The Smiths are really going all out this year.”

And families really do go all out—out of their neighborhoods to intensify the experience of Halloween. They visit haunted houses where they might be shocked by electric current or take ghost walks and stumble through corn mazes on fright hikes where costumed goblins, zombies, and vampires lunge out at them from parts of the haunted trail. Photos from previous Octobers appearing in newspapers which promote the events show wary parents holding the hands of their eager-eyed children as they walk apprehensively through the spooky surroundings. The screams heard when the made-up monsters spring out of hiding are only the precursor to what dreams may come in the form of nightmares on Elm Street in the months to come.               

The fabricated dead may leap, lurk, fly, or creep, but the truly deceased are incapable of protesting the flagrant manner in which they are portrayed at this time of year. Fortunately, the craze only lasts a month so come November when the pretenders have shuffled off to Buffalo the dearly departed who have shuffled off this mortal coil can again rest in peace.


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