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Take the horror out of Halloween

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Of course, a macabre spirit was never far from Halloween. To our medieval forebears, it was Allhallows’ Eve, “the night of the traveling dead,” when witches and demons cavorted with the dead.

Still, you have to wonder what some modern parents are thinking when they indulge their children with whatever is commercially available without reflecting on the grisly ideas they are imparting. Why do we serve children a diet of death and call it “fun”?

I suspect that American parents who buy some truly frightening Halloween paraphernalia for children simply have not seen enough dead people (Hollywood murders don’t count). As a reporter, I covered too many murders and too many wars to find anything funny in death fetes.

At the very least, in the name of fun, may we not be dumbing-down children’s inherent sensitivity? Gazing at one store’s grisly “skull with hair” masks, I wondered if some child might emerge from behind a mask and launch his own private Frankensteinesque experiments to torture a cat.

Reality and history

One store sold a bayonet-sized plastic knife with a hollow translucent blade that sloshed around crimson faux blood. I have seen real blood-encrusted bayonets discarded after the massacre of Palestinian innocents in the Lebanese refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila in 1982. Now, as then, I shuddered. I quickly laid down the morbid Halloween dagger and walked away.

The retail rows of decorative faux skulls I saw reminded me of “Wartime: Understanding and Behavior in the Second World War,” Paul Fussell’s graphic account of US soldiers in the Pacific who mailed skulls of Japanese soldiers to their stateside sweethearts, to be used as ashtrays.

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