Thursday, October 27, 2005

Would You Approach This Character on a Dark Night?

Weekend Assignment #83: Tell us a scary Halloween story... that happened to you. What I'm looking for here is a story where you were spooked or scared by someone or... something... in or around Halloween (or, alternately, a story where you spooked the heck out of someone else). Please note I don't want stories in which you or others were genuinely in danger -- I'm talk about you getting one big BOO! moment, which, after you were able to get your heart back into your chest, resulted in you saying something along the lines of "Don't do that!" to whomever was giving you a spook. A fun frightening, in other words.

Extra Credit:
The song "Monster Mash": Fun or lame?

If this journal seems to be turning into all Halloween, all the time, that's only because it pretty much is.  Don't worry; it's temporary.  Heck, this is nothing.  Last year I gave the mostly-oblivious public two weeks of graveyards and coffins, costumes and treats, toys and decor.  This year, we're talking about just over a week, interrupted from time to time with other stuff.

First off, let's dispose of the being "spooked" part of John Scalzi's assignment.  I honestly don't remember ever being particularly scared on Halloween.  Being shy, I probably didn't like to approach a house alone, but since I always went trick-or-treating with one friend of another, that usually wasn't a problem.  We admired the artists' skull and Hamlet record next door, stuck to familiar neighborhoods, skipped the houses that weren't lit, and never got as far as the haunted house at the fork in the road between F-M Road and High Street.  (We often peeked in the windows of this dilapidated, abandoned but still-furnished old house by daylight, but we never broke in or anything.  We were good kids.  At least, I was.)
Not Rani--but kind of similar.
So I have to turn instead to more recent times, with me doing the scaring.  "Not Rani" plays a major role in this little story, so I'd better explain about him.

You probably recognize this picture.  I used it as my sidebar photo for much of 2004, and it's back again this month for Halloween. A different version of it is one of my LiveJournal icons.

This is probably my favorite of my recent Halloween costumes.  I call it "Not Rani" because it's about as close as I can come to impersonating a tengrem, short of modifying a pantomime horse costume or gluing a horn on my head.  If you don't know what I'm talking about, that probably means you haven't been reading Mall of Mâvarin, or browsing  How can you vote for me in the VIVIs if you haven't read any of my fiction, hmm?

Okay, for the sake of expedience, here's the short version. In my first novel, Heirs of MâvarinRani Fost is a 15-year-old apprentice tanner who is suddenly transformed into a monster, and then hunted as his own presumed murderer.  He seeks help from his best friend, who is the Prince of Mâvarin but doesn't know it yet.

A tengrem.  Art by Sherlock.
A tengrem looks like a nightmare combination of several other mythological creatures.  It has four legs, a somewhat bear-like upper torso, a horn on its wolfish head and dragon-like breath, the latter only when it's really angry. That's not important right now.  The point is that this mask looks a lot like a tengrem head (but without the dirty yellow horn), which is why I bought it.

The photo of me in my Not Rani costume dates to October 31st, 2002, six weeks before my mom died.  I remember this because I stopped at her adult care home on my way from Walgreen's, where I'd bought fake black nails as claws.  They didn't work well, and I ended up mostly doing without them. By the time this picture was taken, after the hundred or so trick-or-treaters had been and gone, I'd long since given up on the claws, but the fur was still hanging in here, and the black makeup was still giving my fingers pretty much the effect I wanted. And after all that, I watched a tv special about coffins and cemeteries, even though it made me feel a little creepy.  This was a few weeks after I chose my still-living mom's grave marker style, and designed the text for it.

Would you approach this door to face this creature?I don't get to Halloween parties since the Doctor Who club drifted into oblivion, but I dress up anyway, often for work and always to hand out the treats.  In 2002, the year of Not Rani, I affected a growly voice, but dropped it in a hurry when I noticed that the kids were genuinely scared of me.  The little children wouldn't even approach without a lot of encouragement from me and from their parents or older siblings.  More than once, I pulled off the mask to reassure them.

Okay, little kids are one thing, but what about the older ones?  I did the growly voice thing for kids in their teens, and even they were scared, some of them!  About 9:30 that night, a couple of teenagers got out of a car, started up our driveway, and stopped when they saw me standing there, watching for stragglers and trying to cool off in the night air.

"Hello," one of them called out, a little tentatively.

"Hello!" I growled.

"Are you really a monster?" asked one of the nervous teens.

"No," I said loudly, in a more normal voice.

"Are you going to eat us?"

"Nooo," I said, in the tone one uses when faced with a  really stupid question.

Now, I would have assumed that this was all a joke, just a couple of teenagers from another neighborhood cruising around, mooching for candy and having fun.  I don't think they were even wearing costumes, or else they were in lame "we're too cool and grown-up to do it right" costumes.  But even after all that, these kids - I can't remember whether there were two or three of them - were extremely reluctant to approach me for their bags o' toys and candy.

Karen as Queen Cathma, 2001.
The ghoul's self-portrait, 2004.
Left: The ghoul's self-portrait.

Right: Queen Cathma, later in life. (Why, yes, I am obsessed with my Mâvarin characters.  Why do you ask?)

The next year I bought this ghoul mask at Walgreen's on the night of October 30th, because it was only $8 and I liked it a lot.  Remembering the way the kids had reacted to Not Rani, I dressed in my 2001 Queen Cathma costume for the early arrivals, and switched to the ghoul at about 8 PM.  Normally I like to change costumes every year, but for 2004 I ended up doing the same thing as in 2003, except that I switched to the ghoul a little earlier.  (The reason is a long, uninteresting story, so I'll spare you.) 

And yes, the kids were scared of the ghoul, too.  I can't really blame them!

And this year? Well, if you're playing along at home, you already know that it involves a skull, and that I'll be wearing boots. Your third clue is that it's not a rerun from 2001-2004, but it is a rerun of...something else.

Extra Credit: The song "Monster Mash": Fun or lame?
Hey, I like the Monster Mash.  I like pretty much all Halloween songs, andwish there were more of them.  The one that stick in my had this year is one I learned in elementary school, The Wobblin' Goblin:

The wobblin' goblin with the broken broom
Could never fly too high
'Cause right after take-off,
Another piece would break off,
And soon he would be dangling in the sky....

I've never known where this song came from, whether a teacher wrote it or it was published somewhere.  Other than myself, I haven't heard anyone sing it in about 40 years now.  Maybe I'll Google it tonight, and see if anything turns up.

Tomorrow night:  a Halloween poem - I hope!  How do you feel about AABB rhyme schemes?  Yeah, I hate them, too, but we may be stuck with one this time.


From last year: The Wolf at the Door and Ghoulish Fun

Update: The Wobblin' Goblin was the B-side to a 78 RPM record by Rosemary Clooney in 1950. (Some kind of aircraft also got that nickname.)  The full lyrics to the song can be seen on a rather interesting thread about Halloween songs at


coelha said...

I like your queen look a lot better :)  Julie :)

ondinemonet said...


This is perfection! An excellent entry. I love, love, love the Queen Cathma costume. Your hairstyle is goegeous there, and blue is perfect on you. It would make a very cute sidebar photo! Lovely darlin.

Always, Carly :)

ryanagi said...

I've got a new costume this year too! But sadly, I don't know if I'll have time to run out to get pasty whitish/greenish makeup and deep purple eye shadow. Can you guess who I will be? Think evil fairy. Think Disney. Never forget to invite her to a party. She can be a real bitch when she feels left out. LOL