This is one of my favorite times of year, and it’s one of Chris Holm’s (Dead Harvest, The Wrong Goodbye) faves too, so I asked him to do a Halloween friendly Top 5, and he kindly obliged!
My Top Five Halloween Traditions
by Chris F. Holm
1. Over-the-Top Decorations
You know that one house on the block that takes Halloween way too seriously? Yeah, that’s mine. Our poor trick-or-treaters have to navigate the unquiet graveyard on our front lawn and a walkway lined with flickering jack o’lanterns past the giant spider in his web and our starch-and-cheesecloth ghosts to reach our bloody-handprinted door if they want their share of loot. Most of ’em love it. And the ones that don’t always seem to wind up daring one another to scale our steps and knock the door once more…
(Sidebar on those ghosts: Blow up a balloon, and place it on something tallish, like a lamp or vase. Drape with cheesecloth. Spray with spray starch. Let dry. Pop balloon. Hang with fishing line. Optional: spray with glow-in-the-dark paint from the craft store. They look awesome.)
2. John Carpenter’s Halloween
Look, it may be a little on-the-nose, but the fact is, there’s never been a better Halloween flick than Carpenter’s classic, which singlehandedly invented the slasher genre. Think you know it — that it’s just cheesy, bloody fun? Think again. Halloween is taut and tense and scary as all get-out. It’s also one of my favorite movies of all time. And you’d best believe it’s playing on my TV when the kids come ’round.
3. Something Wicked This Way Comes
There is no greater time of year, says I, than autumn. And there’s no novel more wonderfully evocative of the season than Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes. The story sits at that perfect intersection of magic, wonder, and terror, and captures perfectly what it felt like to be a kid set loose on the thrillingest of holidays. It’s a story you wouldn’t mind your twelve-year-old reading, and yet it still has the power to scare the hell out of us grown-ups, too. I dip into it every fall, if I can find the time.
4. October Beers
There’s something of a war in my house as to which local October brew is superior: the pumpkin-and-spice concoction that is Shipyard’s Pumpkinhead, or the rich, dark brew that is Gritty’s Halloween. (My wife’s in the former camp; I’m in the latter.) Truth be told, we both win. As they’ve grown in popularity, they’re hitting the shelves earlier and earlier in the year, but they never taste so good as when the leaves have turned.
5. Trawling Netflix Streaming
They can’t all be Carpenter flicks, you know? So sometimes, it’s fun to watch the ones that don’t hardly try. Maybe it’s my lifelong love of Mystery Science Theater 3000, or maybe I’m just a glutton for punishment, but when October rolls around, Netflix is flooded with shitty horror movies, and I consider it my mission to watch as many of them as I can manage before they slink back to from whence they came. Seriously, it’s embarrassing, but I cannot get enough. Slumber parties? Ouija boards? Camping trips? Ancient evils? Hazings gone awry? Yes yes yes yes yes.
About Chris F. Holm (via his website):
Hmmm. The dreaded bio. What to say? Well, first off, I think we can dispense with the whole third-person thing. Much as I’d like to pull a Chris F. Holm was born in a cabin he fashioned with his own two hands sort of deal, I’m pretty sure no one’s buying. So with that in mind, here goes:
I was born in Syracuse, New York, the grandson of a cop with a penchant for crime fiction. It was the year of punk rock and Star Wars, two influences that to this day hold more sway over me than perhaps my wife would like. But it was books that defined my childhood, from my grandfather’s Wambaugh and Sanders to the timeworn pulps picked up secondhand from the library.
I wrote my first story at the age of six. It got me sent to the principal’s office. I’d like to think that right then is when I decided to become a writer.
Since then, I’ve fared a little better. My stories have appeared in a slew of publications, including Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Beat to a Pulp, and Thuglit. My novella “The Hitter” was selected to appear in THE BEST AMERICAN MYSTERY STORIES 2011, edited by Harlan Coben and Otto Penzler. I’ve been an Anthony Award nominee, a Derringer Award finalist, and a Spinetingler Award winner. My Collector novels, DEAD HARVEST and THE WRONG GOODBYE, recast the battle between heaven and hell as Golden Era crime pulp.
I live on the coast of Maine with my lovely wife and a noisy, noisy cat. When I’m not writing, you can find me on my porch, annoying the crap out of the neighbors with my guitar.
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