Is it just me or does Halloween start earlier and earlier?

In Socorro you know for sure Halloween is just around the corner when the little haunted house opens inside Randy’s Ace Hardware and the huge inflatable yard decorations are displayed in front of the store. It’s a California Street tradition.

I guess Halloween traditions have changed over the years, and while we still have trick-or-treating and parties, customs such as the kids starting a bonfire in the middle of the street in the movie Meet Me in St. Louis are generally frowned upon today. Of course, this is not the Gay 90s and I realize traditions evolve over time, but I hope I never see the day when kids will do their trick-or-treating by GPS on their cell phones.

When I was little the scariest Halloween tale was the Legend of Sleepy Hollow, where a headless horseman flung his pumpkin head at the hapless Ichabod Crane who made the mistake of riding home alone on a moonless autumn night. Ichabod was never seen again, but the aroma of pumpkin spice still lingers on that stretch of road.

OK, that last part wasn’t in the story, but if Washington Irving wrote it today, who knows?

Considering that Halloween is a throwback to Celtic pagan ceremonies, when the Celts believed the gall things scary. Like vampires, witches, and of course, zombies.

My first introduction to zombies was on our staticky black and white television watching a 1932 movie called White Zombie starring an alarmingly evil Bela Lugosi. It was based on the one-time voodoo practice in Haiti, where plantation owners would slip a poor unsuspecting soul a zombie-mickey which made the recipient give all signs of being dead, but he wasn’t. Then all those zombie-fied gentlemen were put to work in a sugar cane mill.

That movie gave me the heebee-jeebies when I was a kid, right from the first scene where the main characters’ carriage had to stop for a funeral — in the middle of the road. It was so the deceased would not be dug up and turned into a zombie.

After that there weren’t very many zombie movies for awhile, unless you count The Mummy, where a long dead Boris Karloff steps out of a sarcophagus in his mummy wrapping and somehow transforms himself into a living person.

This week I’ve been revisiting all those old movies that gave me my first chills, like Frankenstein, The Wolf Man, Dracula, The Mummy and all their sequels. Those are the kind of horror movies I grew up with, way before cable and there were only three or four television channels, all of which signed off at midnight with the Star Spangled Banner (in Kentucky it was My Old Kentucky Home). We’d stay up late on Friday night to be scared watching movies with Frankenstein’s monster, the mummy and the werewolf on Shock Theater. Those were all what I call fun-scary.

Thinking about all this gets me wanting to take Halloween week off and do nothing but watch all the best scary movies. You know, what kids today would dismiss as old school and boring. But if you ask me many still hold up well. Watch Carnival of Souls or the original The Haunting and see what I mean.

Fun-scary is not real life scary. Real life scared is like just missing an oncoming car while trying to pass another, or like when your wife says “we have to talk.”

Worse yet, when your bank’s website tells you they might have been hacked and you have to change your password. Talk about nervous tension. Oh, they say, there’s nothing wrong with my old password but Just for security and for my own good I have to come up with a new one. And it should be eight characters long. And a combination of upper and lower case letters. And include numbers and a symbol. But not to use a password I have used before and use my birthdate or name of a pet or my first car.

I saw a post where somebody said they were changing their password to “incorrect,” so if they forgot it, it would say “your password is incorrect.”

But I digress.

More recently, I was watching an episode of the new series The Haunting of Hill House, where one of the leads doesn’t want to be bothered by trick-or-treaters on Halloween night. Right after she turns off the porch light the doorbell dings, then a knock-knock-knock on the front door. She opens the door all mad, but guess what? No one there.

Makes me think we’d better have enough treats for all the monsters, super heroes and even fairy princesses when they come knocking on our door, lest we be visited by that headless horseman.

They just have to give the correct password, or in this case, passwords.