Happy Halloween 2018!
Updated: Nov 3, 2018
In the last decade or so, Halloween has become my favorite holiday. It has nothing to do with drinking, as anyone who knows me well will tell you that I’m not a huge “Party Girl.” And it definitely has nothing to do with witches, zombies, or skeletons. I still get freaked out by the Wicked Witch in The Wizard of Oz, and I can’t stand to see skeletons thanks to Poltergeist. My love for Halloween is quite simple and innocent, actually—I love dressing up in costumes. You can be anything you want to be for that one night. I’m not into Cosplay or anything like that, and it disturbs me a little that so many costumes for women turn the tamest things sexy (i.e., sexy nun, sexy Raggedy Ann, even a sexy unicorn). No judgment if you’re into those things, but it’s just not me. Quite simply, I enjoy putting on a costume and becoming someone else for a night; even better if said costume includes a wig. That way I can see how I'd look in other hairstyles and colors.
Despite my aversion to the monsters mentioned above, I do enjoy a good ghost story. It puzzles me that I’m not terrified of all things paranormal considering my parents took me to see The Amityville Horror at age 7. (This is not a judgment of my parents or their parenting skills, but that one still baffles me.) I literally look away when I see a house with those creepy half-moon windows. To me, they will always resemble the demonic eyes of a possessed home. And yet, true crime is one of my favorite genres.
Last weekend, my boyfriend, Brad, and I watched the original Amityville Horror movie. Brad declared it the scariest movie he’s ever seen. I agree wholeheartedly. It was the first time I’d seen that movie in 39 years, and it was just as terrifying as I remember, although now I know that I need to watch something funny afterward to get those scary images out of my mind. (We watched Tucker and Dale vs. Evil, which is a hilarious spoof on slasher films.)
I think what makes The Amityville Horror and any good ghost story so compelling is an element of truth. Although it is debatable whether or not the paranormal events in the movie (and book by Jay Anson) actually took place, George and Kathy Lutz went to their graves claiming that they did. And there’s no denying that evil resided in the house where six members of the DeFoe family were brutally murdered.
While working as a book editor for Publications International, Ltd., I became somewhat of an expert on ghost stories and the paranormal genre. While there, I edited four books packed with true encounters with the other side: Armchair Reader: Weird, Scary, and Unusual (2009); Armchair Reader: Haunted America (2011); Haunted America: Ghost Stories and True Tales of Terror (2011); and Ghostly Encounters: Terrifying Tales of Paranormal Encounters (2013). It stoked my fascination for the narrative nonfiction genre and true tales of hauntings, which began in earnest after reading Erik Larson’s Devil in the White City (2004). This book recounts the story of America’s first serial killer—H. H. Holmes—who stalked his victims at the World’s Columbian Exposition (World’s Fair) of 1893 in Chicago. From then on, narrative nonfiction has been one of my favorite genres to read and edit.
Recently, Brad and I went on Weird Chicago’s Devil in the White City tour, along with my sister and my niece. The story of Holmes’ killing spree during the World’s Fair is quite fascinating, and I’m surprised that there’s never been a movie made about it. According to Larson’s website, Leonardo DiCaprio (@LeoDiCaprio) purchased the movie rights in 2010, but it has yet to be made. Let's get a move on, Leo!
During the tour, we learned that one of Holmes’ murders took place in the Irvington neighborhood on the east side of Indianapolis. Brad lives in Indy, and last weekend, we attended the Irvington Halloween Festival. While at the festival, we researched where the murder took place, and lo and behold, we were only a few blocks from it, so we decided to explore. There wasn’t much to see—it’s just an ordinary-looking house where people still live (which is why I'm not going to post pics)—but I felt a sense of sadness for the boy whose life was brutally cut short there at the hands of a madman 125 years ago.
Walking back to the car, Brad asked me if I’d rather live in a house with a ghost or a house that has those eerie half-moon windows. Without even the slightest hesitation, I answered, “I’d much rather live in a house with a ghost!” I think he was quite surprised by my answer, to say the least, so I added, "As long as it’s a nice entity, not an evil spirit.” He said he’d rather live in a house with half-moon windows. I replied with a laugh, “Well, I guess we’ll have to live in separate houses then.” But after we watched The Amityville Horror that night, he changed his mind, saying, “I don’t want to live in a house with a ghost OR those demonic-looking windows!” On that, we can agree.
Happy Halloween, everyone! May you have more treats than tricks, and please keep White Dog Editorial Services in mind for all your editing needs. I offer developmental editing, copy editing, and proofreading of books (fiction and nonfiction for adults and children), articles, websites, newsletters, résumés, and other corporate communications and marketing materials.