The harvest season has always been seen as a time when the already thin veil between the land of the living and the ethereal realm of the deceased grows thinner. And just as the legends of ghostly anniversaries are spoken of in hushed tones during afternoon gatherings around campfires, so too do these ghostly apparitions steal glimpses into our world. But while we can’t trace the source of some stories, the tales told when the leaves start to fall are some of the most chilling and certainly some of the best – like the story of the Phantom Hitchhiker.
And over time stories became a bit different for nights like Halloween. Rather than focusing on a single entity like the stories of the past, contemporary ghost stories are often about a phenomenon – sometimes one that could affect any person at any time like the deadly phone number, Bloody Mary, or even the most recent Slenderman. And it seems as ghost stories progress they become more terrifying not only for the elaborateness of the paranormal entity itself, but in the new ways in which we interact with them.
The harvest season has always been a powerul time of year for change, but also for the supernatural. Though we may not have quite the same level of interpersonal interconnectedness as the earliest settlers who first looked into the darkness at the edge of their community with fear and apprehension we are in some other ways even more connected. And the edge of our community appears no longer to be the woods where the candlelight no longer falls, but rather every darkened corner within our own sprawling metropolises. We seem to be almost biologically programmed to seek out the macabre and the mysterious when the autumn leaves begin to fall.
Most well known of Halloween are the most famous urban legends. Bloody Mary, the man with the hooked hand, and the phantom hitchhiker are all stories told during this time of year. But there are also a number of creepy campfire stories that turn out to be truer than we’d like, such as the tale of the macabre deceased Halloween decorations that turned out to be a real person. Of course these area broken up with the more humorous and less terrifying stories or ones of questionable origin. A good example of the latter is the story of Carmen Winstead who was pushed into a sewer and returned later to unleash her reign of terror on all those who didn’t forward her chain letter styled story after receiving it.
Why do we tell stories to one another around Halloween with the intention of scaring ourselves? Maybe it’s because the act of telling a scary story is something that brings us closer together. Perhaps in time we are actually connecting with one another by exploring the unknown. In the end the experience can actually become less terrifying and more a comfort to those who realize even in that darkness an illuminating fire burns among them.