This holiday is the dark aesthetic blended with romance, myth, and rebellion. When the leaves change and the evenings go chilly, I’m transported back to running the neighborhood with my pals in Zorro capes, witch’s hats, and black cat costumes complete with swishing tail. I recall a knot of children screaming on a front porch when the homeowner, a normally mild-mannered adult, opens the door in full wolf’s garb and growls, “Do you dare ask for candy?”
On this one extraordinary night, we willingly run toward the dark, rather than away from it. We grope in through cornstalks, brittle and bleached white like bones in the light of a crescent moon. We pay to scream with strangers in dark haunted houses, stuffy with billowing fog.
Wait! Listen: I think I hear something scratching outside. Halloween awaits. Let’s have some fun. You coming?
Go right now and do this. I’ll wait…Be sure to display it somewhere you’ll see it every day. Include photographs and mementos of loved ones and pets. Add a skull or bones and some soft candlelight. It doesn't have to be elaborate...it's the sentiment that counts.
Read One Book about Witchcraft or your particular brand of paganism. Listening to an audiobook totally counts.
If you go on November 2, you may get to witness a family’s Dia de los Muertos graveside celebration (see below).
While you're there, have a conversation with a resident. If you don't have a family member there, pick someone with the same last name, and ask them about their lineage. Or, talk to a stranger.
It's polite to leave a silver coin at the graveside as thanks.
Many Arizona towns have places reputed to be haunted: Bisbee, Jerome, Prescott, Tucson, Flagstaff, Phoenix, Tombstone, and the Grand Canyon are just a few. I’m sure your state does too. Sign up for a tour and try your hand at paranormal investigation. The tours often provide you with detection equipment, and bring your digital camera to capture orbs, shadows, apparitions and other phenomena.
Stay at a Haunted Hotel.
Lots of hauntings are reported at this popular ghost location, including former patients when the building was a hospital, and the hospital’s former maintenance man, Claude Harvey, who was killed by the building’s faulty elevator. That old elevator, now repaired, is still running people up to their rooms today.
used to be an asylum.
One of the most famous in Arizona is Bisbee’s Copper Queen Hotel. Julia Lowell was a prostitute in Bisbee in the early 1900s; she favored Room 315 at The Queen when plying her trade. Sadly, after being rejected by the man she loved, she took her life. Today, her restless spirit lingers, appearing in 315, now dubbed the Julia Lowell Room, most often to male guests. She smiles and whispers, even dances seductively at the foot of the bed.
Google your area and make an October reservation.
My all-time favorite is Practical Magic. But you may be partial to It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. Or House on Haunted Hill, The Shining, or Sleepy Hollow. And yes, I’d highly recommend binge-watching all eight Harry Potter movies this month.
Go Outside and Bathe in the Moonlight.
Howl at our beautiful orange Hunter’s moon!
In Mexico, death is to be celebrated, and November 1 is Dia de Los Muertos, a national holiday. Every home has an offrenda, or offering altar.
Pictures of the deceased are displayed along with personal belongings and toys for children. Candles help light the way for the spirits: pink for love, white for hope, and yellow for celebration. Favorite foods are also placed on the altar to help nourish the traveling souls. While the dead may not actually eat the food, it’s believed they feast on the smells.
Try to have the offerings also double as the four main elements of nature — earth, wind, water, and fire. Use bells or movable or light-weight items such as tissue paper cut-outs (wind,) a bowl of water, candles and copal incense (fire) and food (crops, earth). Finally, add a calacas, a whimsical skeleton, and a sugar skull, so the living have something tangible to represent their loved ones’ spirit.
Dress a Black Candle
with your favorite oils and herbs, and light it on Samhain night.
Samhain is also considered the perfect time for divination. Here’s a fun reading called “Haunted House.” In dreams, a house often represents you, the chambers and passages symbolizing your own inner dwelling place. So light your candle, open your mind’s creaky door, and peer into the darkened corner of your own Halloween haunted house!
Shuffle your favorite tarot deck in your usual way. Lay out seven cards as follows:
1 The Forbidding Foyer: What has been trying to enter your life (for good or ill) that you have been warding off?
2 The Perilous Parlor: What aspect of yourself do you need to spend more time getting to know?
3 The Lurid Library: What lore or study is calling to expand your esoteric knowledge?
4 The Atrocious Attic: What neglected treasure should you dust off and use now?
5 The Chilling Cellar: What should be stored away and allowed to ripen for future use?
6 The Ghostly Garden: What needs to be weeded out?
7 The Twisted Oak Tree: What needs to sink roots and deepen?
Now, draw one more card for a message from an otherworldly visitor to your Haunted House. Boo!
The corn maze is the epitome of Halloween and Samhain, the last harvest season.
Mazes have become popular tourist attractions and a way for farms to create additional income. Many are based on artistic designs such as movie characters or current events, and some are even created to tell stories or to portray a particular theme. Most have a path, which goes all around the whole pattern, either to end in the middle or to come back out again.
In Arizona, my annual go-to spot is the 10-acre maze at Schnepf Farms. Last year, my son resorted to GPS on his phone to get us out. If you’d like a real challenge, navigate by moonlight instead of flashlights. Or combine the maze with a really scary haunted house and visit a really scary haunted house or other attraction.
Play Some Tricks.
Do something extra for trick or treaters.
Over the years, I’ve set up a Severus Snape Potions Lab in our garage, complete with Veritaserum (hot cider in a carafe surrounded by fog). The whole family has dressed up and posed in the front-yard cemetery display, rising up to greet trick or treaters as they come up the driveway. I’ve done tarot card readings at the local Halloween carnival; thrown chicken bones for divination around a neighborhood fire pit after we put the kids to bed; read palms by candlelight.
You have a latent talent buried within. Unearth it this Halloween.
This is the ability to sense or “read” the history of an object by touching it. Impressions may be images, sounds, smells, tastes, even emotions.
A practiced psychometrist can hold an object—an antique glove, for example-- and be able to tell something about the history of that glove, what the owner was like, what they did and even how they died. Perhaps most importantly, the psychic can sense how the person felt - the emotions of the person at a particular time. Emotions especially, it seems, are most strongly "recorded" in the object.
Don’t believe me? Try it at your Halloween party. Have each guest bring one or two items that have a strong history and sentimental value. Take turns exchanging tokens. Hold one in your hand and relax. Share the impressions you get, and let the owner tell you how close your information was at the end. If you’re having trouble picking up information, silently ask yourself questions to help trigger information such as, “how many owners has this object had?” “Where was this object purchased?” “Was it given as a gift?” “Did a male or female give you this object?” And so on. You may be surprised at the accuracy.
If you don’t have a will or living trust, do one this month. Why is this activity in my Halloween list? Our society spends most of its time trying not to think about death. Halloween, on the other hand, celebrates death. It fills our imaginations like no other day. Take advantage of that openness. Get it done. Then make a point to review and update if needed on future Halloweens.