Stretching Out on a Death Bed: The 2012 OTIS Halloween Season

September 12, 2012 — There are places on this planet where it’s always winter. Other, more equatorial regions where it’s summer or spring all year round. There is no spot anywhere on this flattened blue sphere that is always Fall. Fall is less a climate, less a section of calendar, than it is a short dip into another dimension, a nebulous time that is almost more of a feeling, something that tingles an unacknowledged sense not in the canon of five. Fall is ineffable and mysterious and brief—even its name suggests something tending quickly to end—so we have to make the most of it when it comes.

Of course, Fall means two things, harvest and Halloween, the death of our crops and the death of our fear of death. And while Halloween is only technically one day out of all that, its spirit permeates throughout to the point that I only feel right celebrating both simultaneously. The first day of Fall (which I also play loose with, obviously) is always the first day of Halloween for me.

And doing so has precedent. A big one. The Aztecs celebrated their festival of death, the one that has morphed into the modern El Dia de Los Muertos, for an entire month. And that seems right.

Also, Fall without Halloween just lacks resonance. Perversely, the season lasts until late December, when Fall should always end on October 31. Halloween is, after all, a celebration of the ultimate end and so it should be an ending itself. And, because I want my death bed as long as possible before it becomes a coffin bottom, I shift the calendar and start celebrating Halloween and Fall on the first cool day of September, or at least when I can’t take the anticipation anymore, instead of waiting for the official starting line on September 22.

And that day is today. Welcome to the OTIS Halloween Season.

This is the third year for the Halloween Blog. The previous two I separated out onto my author site,, but I’ve stopped updating that site and have ported all its content here to OTIS, broadening the titular “odd things” to encompass both physical sites across the country and moments in my own life.

As to the content of the Halloween Blog, I used a phrase in my introduction to the 2011 one that I’d like to use again, “mild adventure and comfortable minutia.” That’s what this Halloween Blog is all about. Last year, those mild adventures included visiting a werewolf’s grave in Massachusetts, attempting to communicate with the dead in a town of spiritualists in New York, and trekking to the Tim Burton Exhibit in Los Angeles. The comfortable minutia was Jack o’ lantern cocktails, Buffy the Vampire Slayer Halloween episodes, and seasonal book displays.

This year, I have a lot of new things planned to celebrate the season, trips, movies, strange sites, random ideas, and whatever shenanigans I can get up to within the walls of my own house. And, of course, I look forward to the surprises the season itself always brings to the party.

I’m going to try to post daily for the next month and a half, and always with original content. In between, I will be posting on the OTIS Facebook Page and on Twitter (@JWOcker). Feel free to jump over those velvet ropes and hang out with me there.

This year, that goal of daily posts will be easier to reach because Halloween 2012 is also the Halloween of The New York Grimpendium.

It’s my newest book, and it chronicles my visits to some 250 death-related sites and artifacts in the state of New York. To celebrate its debut (sometime within the next two weeks), I’ll be posting photo essays based on suitably spooky entries from the book. Those posts will kind of be like DVD extras since I took thousands of photos, and could only fit about 150 into the book.

And if that’s still not enough Halloween for you, feel free to peruse the previous two Halloween blogs (tabbed at the top of this site). The Halloween stories and activities there are still relevant, still valid, still something I peruse myself went I’m looking to incite that tenuous and unique Fall mood.

So do what you have to in order to make the most of this season, catch on with both hands to the robe of the banshee, the cape of the vampire, the linen strips of the mummy, the broom bristles of the witch and hold fast. This is arguably the best time of the year…although I’m not arguing.