Today, I welcome author Jim McDonald as a guest to talk a little Halloween, and to give a couple of quick shout outs to some charitable projects he’s involved in. Take it away Jim…
Over the last few weeks, the leaves have exposed their hidden colors and many have taken their quick trip to the ground to be blown to the wind. Others fight to hold onto their green color to soak up just a few more of the fleeting hours of sunlight.
I walk into the stores, and much like the trees, the shelves are shedding their aisles of horrors abound for ones laden in cheerful faces, colorful bobbles, and blinking lights. Which is the real nightmare?
Please, can’t we get through Halloween first?
Yes, I resist the urge to put devil horns on Santa, or a bloody dagger in the hand of an elf on the shelf. Mostly.
And what am I hearing the most about?
Nothing less than that beast of nightmares.
Am I speaking of vampires? Werewolves? Political pollsters?
And no, no the variety running for office either.
I’ve never been a real big fan of clowns, but I’ve never been scared of them either. But I do know a lot of people who are. And I don’t just mean they don’t like clowns. A pure visceral reaction, worse than to spiders.
Being that I’m fascinated by people and behavior, I’ve often wondered about this. Granted, I’m the sick kind of person that will put up a picture of Pennywise from Stephen King’s IT with a note that says Happy Humpday.
Our culture often shows clowns as people to be feared. The Joker is a prime example.
We have a rash of clown sightings, not only in the US, but worldwide. Clowns hiding in the woods, allegedly attempting to kidnap people.
Is it a cultural meme whose time has taken hold? A PR stunt gone wrong?
No one seems to know, but now, many schools and localities have gone so far as to ban the clown costume.
So now we have taken to banning those things that scare us. Pass an ordinance, or a law.
Yep, that’s effective. How do we even really define “Clown?” Must we also ban the Joker?
But I digress.
Why do clowns scare us? Why is an image of something seemingly innocent so easily turned into something so terrifying, it should be banned?
Psychologists suggest it’s the twisting of the visual and verbal queues we rely on to communicate. A fixed and unchanging smile (or grimace). Oversized eyes. Bright and startling colors. It takes us back to our childhood, to a time when everything had the ability to scare us.
It’s also the power of having a mask. The clown makeup not only obscures the details of the person’s face, it allows the clown to step into a new identity, a new persona. We as people depend on understanding the people around us, especially the ones we don’t know. Instinctively, we see a person in a mask as someone having something to hide.
Clowns, under the guise of many names and many identities are one of the oldest and many ways most important functions in society. In tribal cultures, many of them have a clown-like figure who wears a mask to embody the fears of the tribe. Court Jesters and harlequins served much the same purpose, but had even more power. They had the ability to mock and jeer the ruling elite, using humor and barbs to relieve the stress of the people and yet communicate with the ruling class in a mostly safe way. The comedians and political pundits of the day.
Even today, we have seen people don the guise for nefarious purposes (I’m looking at you, John Wayne Gacy).
I think it’s all of the above.
Which is why it’s important.
Every culture of the world has a person or group that serves this purpose. We need to have that embodiment of our doubts and fears we can see and confront. That we can take out of the shadows. That wears a mask.
Halloween is the time of year every one of us is called to face our fears, and laugh at them. It’s why we dress up like the characters that frighten us. It gives us power.
So this Halloween, when you are debating between dressing like a princess, a politician, or a clown, pick the one that terrifies you.
But this year, I’d probably put some body armor underneath the clown costume while you hunt for the Great Pumpkin.
Or just go with a werewolf. Clowns will always be in vogue.
For others, this can be too much to handle. For those who have survived real horrors. I’ve been honored to contribute to the #HoldOnToTheLight campaign with over a hundred other authors writing about #MentalHealth, #PTSD, and #Depression. Please check out the web page
I want to thank Jim for appearing in my Halloween Week, and be sure to check out the website and his charity anthology. You can also find out more about him and his books at his website. And come back tomorrow for a chat with Lizzie Borden.