Death Makes a Holiday : A Cultural History of Halloween


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All Hallows Eve, to use one of its many aliases, is a night when usual distinctions between fun and fear, children and adults, the living and the dead are magically blurred, argues Skal, author of V Is for Vampire and co-editor of the Norton Critical Edition of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Mixing historical fact (“witch-hunts were aided and abetted by European texts like Malleus Maleficarum, and reinforced the misogynistic, witch-as-crone stereotype for the New World”) with folklore and urban legends, Skal makes his study much more treat than trick. He recounts the holiday’s evolution from the pagan new year of Samhain to a night that has brought the likes of the Miami child murders of the early 1980s and the “Perfectly Under Control” Halloween of Martha Stewart. Skal interviews people who have a particular affinity for the darker side, like horror maven Clive Barker and the mother-and-son duo who run a Horror Hotel Monster Museum, and ends with Halloween 2001, when “never before had so much genuine human feeling and civic solidarity been expended on a holiday previously notorious for its antisocial aspects.”


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