Friday, August 7, 2009

Mummies, Magic, and Halloween

Yesterday, while taking Trudaloo on her evening walk, one of the neighborhood kids said something that rather disturbed me. It was, in fact, the second time I’d heard her say it. The girl was playing in her front yard with her younger brothers when she turned suddenly and saw the beagle and I strolling on the sidewalk.

“Trudaloo!” she ran over excitedly, surprised to see us. “Where did you come from?”

I smiled and responded that it was magic.

“There’s no such thing as magic,” she duly corrected me.

“Sure about that?” I snatched a quarter from behind her ear, just to make my point.

The girl gawked at me for a few seconds in utter perplexity, then grinned shyly, and romped away to join her brothers in a front yard free-for-all.

As the beagle and I ambled away, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for that girl and her brothers. Their parents are the types who staunchly believe that The Wizard of Oz and Harry Potter are the minions of Satan. Obviously, I’ve never given the kids any of my books of Fairy Tales featuring wizards and gnomes and talking animals. I suspect I’d be burned in effigy in the middle of the street.

It’s really none of my business how people decide to raise their children, but I can’t help feeling rather sad at all the fun they’re missing.

For example, they don’t “believe” in celebrating Halloween. When I was a kid I lived for October 31st the way most of my friends anticipated Christmas or summer vacation. It’s still the most magical time of the year for me. Oh, yes, magic is real. I can feel it in every autumn breeze that makes the orange and yellow leaves appear to follow me.

I’ve felt like this for a very long time, even before I started school. Already I was collecting comic books, model kits, and monster magazines. I'd learned to read rather early just so I could check the TV movie listings in the newspaper for the next science fiction movie that might be lurking around the weekend corner.

In those days my family lived just down the block from a couple older girl cousins (all of 19 and 20) who had just struck out to be on their own. I can still remember how excited they were to rent their own place. My mom made certain that they had dinner with us at least two or three times a week. I'm sure she suspected that they were starving. My dad just acted really amused by it all.

Shortly after they first moved in, their apartment was burglarized. I distinctly remember that this was my first experience with the concept of real crime. I listened very intently as my cousins related the situation to my parents. The mere idea that someone we didn't know could also break into our house and steal things from us absolutely terrified me.

I loved my cousins, and I thought that they had a really fun new place, but I absolutely dreaded visiting them from that moment on. In fact, there were times that I stubbornly refused to even cross over the threshold. What if the bad guys came back while I was there? It was too creepy to even consider.

A while later, a few days before Halloween, one of the girls, Mary Jean, noticed my newly built and painted Aurora model of The Mummy monstrously displayed on my shelf. She said that she thought he was really cool. She had a costume party coming up for the weekend and she'd just decided what she wanted to be. You guessed it—The Mummy!

I must've pondered the possibilities of girl cousins posing as mummies for a day or two, then I saw her again and she told me that she'd bought a "Mummy Costume Kit" at the store and invited me to drop by her apartment on Saturday evening to watch her be wrapped up with the bandages. That really sounded neat, but this was the same scary apartment where bad people had broken in and stole stuff. I still had the creeps about that.

I fretted all week long, wondering just what kind of mummy costume it was. Was it like the kind I saw in ten cent stores, cloth one-piece suits with a really cool picture of The Mummy across the chest part, including a spooky plastic mask with a rubber string over your ears, painted moldy green and a dripping bloody eye? Or could it be something even cooler? A monster suit for grown-ups! That's just gotta be really amazing. Maybe it will look just like the one in the movies! I had to see it!

Ultimately, I faced and conquered my fears and that Saturday afternoon my mom and I watched as Mary Jean was slowly transformed by her sister Joyce into a living bandaged Mummy right before my eyes. It was an awesome sight to behold. The image of that day has never left me and I was so thrilled that I doubt I gave much consideration at all to thoughts of burglars and bad guys.

To this day I still wonder exactly what that "Mummy Costume Kit" actually was. Best that I can recollect, it came in a very nifty illustrated cardboard box. The kit seemed to consist not only of various yellow-white and grey cloth wrappings but also included plastic bags of fake blood, too! Once Joyce spattered all that bright red stuff on the moldy-looking bandages I thought I was looking at the greatest thing I'd ever seen.

(A few years later I tried duplicating the effect for my own Halloween costume, supplemented with that greenish grey Ben Cooper plastic Mummy mask with the bleeding eye. I looked great for about a block from my house. Then I began to rapidly unravel. It was as if I was actually rotting and falling apart from the imagined weight of the centuries beneath the glow of the modern street lamps, my unfettered bandages dragging a raspy trail across the front yards of crunchy leaves.)

So, in my case, The Mummy helped me deal with my five year old burglar phobia. My love of monsters actually made a very real fear fade harmlessly away.

Just like magic.


  1. Ha, neat story. It brought back a memory of when I was in Junior High and a friend invited me and some friends to a costumed birthday party for him on Halloween. At the time I was also making models, and used one of the spines (the framework that holds the parts to the actual model) as a pair of vampire teeth. It just so happened that it came down like two fangs, and it would fit into my mouth just so. So I painted them white with red tips. I found a black cape, and greased back my hair. All went well with the party, and I won best costume. We later went out and went trick or treating. I guess without realizing it that was my first foray into special effects/makeup.

    I agree about the children missing out on magic and maybe that aspect of fiction. Too bad. I have a friend that was all down on the Harry Potter phenomemon. One day I'd mentioned reading one of the books, and he made a remark about it being witchcraft or something he'd heard off the Pat Robertson 700 Club or wherever. And I asked: So you've read the books then? He went on to say no. So I invited him to see the first Potter movie when it came out, and he loved it. He started reading the books, and still does when they come out from the library. He even went as far to write his own Harry Potter book! No kidding, and he wanted to send it to the publishing company that publishes Potter, but I told him, there's no way they'd publish it due to copywrites--it just doesn't happen that way (by the way, this guy was my age around 50, so should have known better, but I guess some people don't). At any rate, he quickly changed his opinion, and hopefully won't be so closed minded in the future.

  2. Thanks for the great post. It is sad when kids miss out on magic...and adults think magic is beneath them. I do my best to find a little magic in every day~yes, sometimes even monster magic. :) cheers!

  3. Great story--thanks for sharing a slice of your life. It would have only been cooler if you turned out to be the thief.