|Halloween has its tame, fun side, as with festive pumpkins, and|
silly characters, but also a more sinister side.
Halloween is an interesting holiday of many faces – literally. On one hand, it’s a time for little kids to don silly costumes, go door to door visiting neighbors and collect a stash of candies and other treats. We see everything from fuzzy animals to cartoon characters to celebrities to the traditional ghosts and witches. Adults sometimes get into the act, attending their own grown-up, Halloween-themed costume parties.
It’s a time when we can revisit Washington Irving’s classic, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” with its “headless horseman.” (Spoiler alert: He wasn’t a very cerebral thinker.) Or watch Charlie Brown conduct his annual search for the Great Pumpkin.
Then there’s the other side of Halloween, featuring elements of the occult and macabre. Popular TV shows devote episodes to things that go bump in the night, replete with ghosts, goblins, and even darker aspects of the supernatural. Theaters often schedule releases of the latest, most gruesome movies for this frightful season. There was even a series of “Halloween” horror films – not to be confused with non-Halloween horror films.
As an avid reader growing up, I became well-acquainted with scary stories. Fittingly, since I grew up on Poe Avenue, I loved reading Edgar Allan Poe’s work, including tales like “The Pit and the Pendulum” and “The Telltale Heart.” Even into my early adult years, I maintained a great affinity for novels in the horror and occult genre. I embraced authors like H.P. Lovecraft, Ray Bradbury, and Stephen King. Imagine converting blood and gore into multimillion-dollar incomes.
Then in the late ‘70s my fascination with the occult was challenged. My pastor gave a message on the subject, explaining how even dabbling with the so-called paranormal could result in bad spiritual consequences.
Convicted about that, I met with him soon after to explain my interest was solely for entertainment. He didn’t preach to me, but left me with a simple observation: “When you read those books, are they pointing you toward the Lord – or away from Him?”
I didn’t have to think deeply about the question, because I knew the answer. They certainly weren’t serving to enhance my spiritual growth, and I realized that even though I was reading fiction, I had already learned far more about the occult and its practices than anyone needed to know.
That moment I resolved to put aside my “fun” reading and slam the door on influences, some very subtle, that could draw me away from my faith, still in its infancy. In Romans 12:2 we’re told, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Even though the surrounding culture was telling me – and still proclaims today – that there’s nothing wrong with a little scare now and then, I knew it could be an obstacle to the transforming work God wanted to do in my life.
Another passage elaborates: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things” (Philippians 4:8). It’s been decades since I gave up reading a scary book or viewed any horror movies that Hollywood is so fond of pumping out. But I still remember they contained little, if anything that was true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy.