I go by Rook Wilder, formerly Herr Punkinstein, which is my handle on Blogger for my blog Celtic Punkin, which is often about Halloween, but also about gaming and other things that pop into my head. I am relatively unknown.
What was Halloween like in your neighborhood as a kid?
Growing up in a suburban neighborhood of relatively modest middle class means, Halloween was a fairly happy and safe time during my youth. Practically all the neighborhood parents had the porch lights on and candy for the kids, with only a very few grumpy holdouts that refused to answer their doors. When I was very young I would trick or treat with my friend escorted by my father. Our school either had costume parties and competitions or at the very least encouraged
wearing costumes on Halloween. It was a good time to a kid (the 80s and 90s).
My most vivid memory is the year I made a werewolf costume with a store bought mask and some fake fur that allowed me to "transform" by buttoning up my shirt and shucking the mask. My buddy always dressed as a soldier every year because he had no creativity.
Presently I am in Tidewater, Virginia, where I've lived for more than a decade, but I grew up in Alabama and spent 3 Halloweens in Winter Harbor, Maine. Alabama October days are warm but the nights are crisp. I remember that it was a truly magical time when things seemed to be as the ancient Celts said, and the world was on the cusp of change.
Do you have a particularly fond/funny/scary Halloween memory?
I wish I did, but honestly they all sort of blur together into a single tapestry. I can say that here and there I've done something interesting, but mostly no.
Any favorite costumes from Halloweens past?
I've been a werewolf twice, but the second time was not near as good as that first great one from my middle school years, for which I have no pictures. I did a full on Jonah Hex costume years before the film ever came out, but again I have no pictures. I've always wanted to do a really good scarecrow, but never pulled it off. I'm allergic to most make ups, so this means I have to wear masks and such. One year I did a highwayman, but everyone kept thinking it was a pirate.
And then where was my Herr Punkinstein costume...
What do you do to celebrate now, out in the real world?
Most years I try to have a Halloween bonfire, because if you don't have a bonfire the sun won't know how to find its way back after winter. Usually this involves inviting people over, burning some hot dogs, consuming copious amounts of alcohol and tending the bonfire, in costume. We try to get to Busch Gardens in Williamsburg for Howl O Scream, and at least one of the local haunts. We have a great ghost train hayride at Northwest River Park and there is a great little Farm (Hunt Club Farm, it is called) that does a triple threat hayride, corn maze, and haunted village. If I'm home on Halloween night, I give candy to kids. I always decorate the house and my desk at work.
Do you have any yearly rituals?
Previously I would venture into the yard starkers except for a flannel shirt tied around my waist and a pair of moccasins to "bless the yard" with my "harvest god icon" which was a nice little ceramic jack o lantern with black cat and corn stalks my mother once painted...but I lost that in an ugly break up. Now I have the First Pumpkin Delight of the Season, which is a Little Debbie snack. And the bonfire.
Howl O Scream, Haunted Hunt Club Farms, Northwest River Park are my locations to visit. Songs and albums is a tough one. I have an ever-expanding iPod playlist specifically for Halloween, but I listen to it all year as the mood takes me. I also use Live 365 internet radio and Pandora to get other people's Halloween songs. Movies, well "Trick 'r Treat" (2007) is a must, as is "Hocus Pocus" (love that film), often "Halloween" (the original), and "It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown".
What do you think it is about Halloween that keeps it in our hearts as we get older?
That's a tough question. I cannot fully answer that for anyone but myself, but I had a mentor in college, the late Dr. Stephen Glosecki, professor of English and expert on Beowulf. He did interviews on local television and talk radio for holidays including Halloween and Friday the 13th and he said that as we live in an ever-increasingly more technological world we hunger for the myth and mystery that Halloween represents. That's as good an answer as any and I tend to agree with him.
For me personally I can't fully say. Halloween is the one season of the year when the world around me looks like it looks inside my head all the time. It allows us, as humans, who must face mortality and fear daily, to embrace the world beyond, to embrace the scary things and make them our friends, and thus not so scary. Then again some people just really like the things of Halloween. These people are often called morbid, but skeletons and bats and ghosts are really badass.
Inside the Spookster's Studio
My favorite thing to get was seasonal candy, like eyeball bubble gum or candy skeletons. I like Snickers and Kit Kats, but I could get those anytime.
Thanks for joining the festivities this year! Where can people find you online?
I can be found at Celtic Punkin if someone where so inclined.
Before you run off to check out all the Cryptkeepers at Countdown to Halloween, here is today's audio Trick or Treat mix: We Can't Kill the Metal