What Really Scares Us

Posted: October 29, 2008 in Culture

Halloween is two days away. Like most U.S. holidays, we’ve lost our sense of what it represents and are only too enthusiastic to celebrate the lighter, more enjoyable aspects. For kids, it’s nearly all about the candy. For adults, it’s usually about costume parties — license to look and act the fool for a night at least. Dozens of websites offer a historical view of Halloween, though most suffer from the tendency to tell the history from the perspective of those traditions familiar to us now. Here’s an example.

Wired has an interesting article with a link to historical photographs of people dressed for Halloween. What struck me upon viewing them is how the costumes reveal what presumably really scared the people in the pictures, namely, disfigurement:

Or maybe I’m reading too much into it and the pics merely reflect poor mask making. Still, how much scarier is a homemade mask suggestive of the real-life Elephant Man than a mask and cape of some bogus supervillain from a Batman movie bought at a drug store?

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