Happy (???) Halloween 2023

So. Did Halloween save J.W. Ocker?

Of course not.

But you knew it wouldn’t. I knew it wouldn’t. Carapace Clavical Moundshroud knew it wouldn’t. That spooky old pirate guy from Garfield’s Halloween Adventure knew it wouldn’t. Even Ernest knew it…and he’s scared stupid (please pray for him).

Looking back on my adventures this season, they was some high-tier Halloween: An overnight in Sleepy Hollow, a paranormal convention with Annabelle, an Edgar Allan Poe memorial unveiling, Salem multiple times, a road trip, pumpkin carving, corn-mazing, horror movie watching, popcorn ball making, caramel apples, spooky cereals, candy corn, the PEZ factory, an October birthday. Haunted Overload. Friday the 13th. A horror convention. And we decorated like we were being held hostage by the Great Pumpkin.

It was, by most metrics, great, especially the last weekend, which really goes down as one of the best fall weekends I’ve ever had from the beginning of time, as far as what we did, at least.

However, honestly, I only celebrated the season when the girls were around, so about 30% of the time. Otherwise, I mostly watched Moonlighting and held all the strings together that keep this life going even minimally, like I was in a Saw trap. Strangely, my current situation maintains all the massive responsibilities of the previous situation, plus a ton more. 

But, I want to make sure the girls get Halloween. That they love it. Because it has been so good to me over the years. I don’t want them to miss out on any of that just because everything fractured—life, our family, their past, my brain. I mean, one day they might find themselves at the whim of a destructive force that can hurt their lives badly, especially if the girls turn out to be the kind, open, vulnerable individuals that they are now. And they probably will encounter that at some point (although I take comfort in knowing that few forces are as destructive as the one I experienced). But, hopefully, they get a good run and some nice continuity. That a jack-o smile will always make them smile. Even if everyone’s smashed in the road on November 1.

Halloween night found me by myself for the first time in at least 20 years. Maybe longer. And I, probably foolishly, decided to keep it solo. I wanted to watch something spooky and give candy to trick-or-treaters. You know, get back to the basics.


I was going to choose a horror movie that I’ve never seen before, but I knew I’d be jumping up and down from the couch every time the doorbell rang and that my mind would probably wander, so I stuck to the trinity of Halloween specials: The Halloween Tree, Garfield’s Halloween Adventure, and It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, the total run times fitting perfectly in our 6-8 trick-or-treating window.

Also, I think I might have chosen those because I was doing the Halloween equivalent of grounding. Instead of bare feet on grass, it was Binky the Clown and a ghost Pipkin in my eyeballs.

And then it was just me and Big Face the scarecrow and the jack-o-lanterns that the girls carved to keep company.

I started with The Halloween Tree. I was worried about this one. I purposefully didn’t read any Ray this year because I didn’t want the taint of the situation to bleed across his pages. But I had to do something Ray-ish this season. And that first scene of the town and Ray's narration got me a little. Took me back to my jaunts in the Illinois town and the ravine that inspired the original book. My ear yearned for a doorbell ring to distract me, and I got up once or twice hoping to see small shadows sneaking across my yard to the porch.

I actually didn’t get my first trick-or-treater until 6:40, about the time the Halloween Tree kids were preparing to rebuild Notre Dame. But then I got 23 in the next twenty minutes.

During one break in the treaters, I went outside, to both experience the real Halloween night and to see how my set up looked through new eyes. It was daunting. The Black House is set back from the road a bit, and my decorations glow ominously. Next year, I need to full-size candy bar everybody. I just wasn’t sure how many trick-or-treaters I’d get this year. In the past, I spent the first half of Halloween trick-or-treating with my girls, and the second half giving out candy, so I never knew exactly how many approach my door on any given year.

Still, I loved hearing the “Happy Halloween!” and “Trick-or-Treat!” and “Nice decorations!” from all the little movie serial killers and werewolves and pirates and fairies and hockey players (for some reason). I ended up with around 60 trick-or-treaters by the end of the night. Enough that I started getting candy anxiety. I bought 200 pieces, but I can never just give out one. It’s gotta be handfuls most of the time.  

But there was some downtime in between hearing people exclaim about the giant skeleton before pushing the doorbell. And in those in-between times (and also the post-trick-or-treat time), the mood was melancholy. I kept hoping the next trick-or-treaters would be my kids, even though that was impossible. I kept out-of-bodying and seeing the scene as one of those ending moments in a movie, the ones that show the fates of the characters while the ending narration tries to put it all in perspective. For my character, it was sitting in the dark, the orange and purple lights playing across my face and reflecting in the wetness of my eyeballs. Sometimes it felt like I saw every Halloween I’d ever experienced crash together in my head all at once. It was difficult. I’d need three times the trick-or-treaters to distract me.


It feels like I’m missing skin. All of it. Like the line from that song in Disney’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, “And some don’t even wear their skin.” That’s me. Skinless. Skinned. That’s the Halloween costume I should have worn. Frank Cotton from Hellraiser. Everything that happens, both tiny and large, mundane and important, hurts. I don’t even have the thinnest armor, an epidermis, protecting me. Conversely, I also have trouble feeling anything. I just don’t have the skin for it.

But Halloween is over now, other than taking down the decorations. And I don’t know what’s next. This blog has been good for me, I think. Maybe I’ll keep writing it here. Do an “In Defense of Scrooge” blog this Christmas.

Fuck. Christmas is next.