Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Scare therapy

It’s October again. The cold weather triggers grim memories that act as prophesies. Fall in New England has never been a happy or easy season for me, and as long as I remain far enough north for the leaves to turn orange, it will always bring incapacitating depression. The first whiff of pumpkin, corn maze and frost acts as a warning – the darkest days are yet to come.

Courtesy DangerRun/Flickr
Courtesy DangerRun/Flickr

For as long as I can remember Halloween has been my favorite holiday, and as I’ve grown older I’ve begun to understand its paradox. Halloween, and by connection the whole month of October, is a celebration of darkness. The sweaty, green, silly days of summer are done. The last few weather anomalies of 70-degree school days have passed. All the nature around us is setting in for the ultimate nap: six months of death. True New Englanders understand when the last leaf drops wintery hell will be unleashed – when we’ll shovel and complain and slip on ice and curse every last composer who ever thought up a Christmas carol as we claw and pull hair through the crowd at the mall. Logically, Halloween should not be a holiday but a day of mourning, or perhaps even a massive southern migration.

I’ve always had a kind of darkness inside me. I know how it sounds, and it’s probably a sentiment left over from my 13-year-old goth phase, but it still feels honest. It’s most likely related to the imbalance of chemicals in my brain that cripples my ability to do anything but stare at the ceiling and cry. Maybe that goth kid never left me. But I discovered early on my desire to play with this darkness. I turned a disease that makes me constantly think about death into a curiosity with ghosts and goblins and things that go bump in the night. As young as five years old I loved spooky things. My favorite book was Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” which led to my creation of a prominent headless imaginary friend. No other little goth kids could ever call me a poser, because I have photos of me at five or six dressed up as Jack Skellington for Halloween. There were moments between discovering horror films and becoming obsessed with horror films. In middle school I taught myself to do zombie makeup and fake wounds. Every October, I would giddily go to the grocery store to buy Karo corn syrup, cocoa powder, and lots and lots of red food coloring. The liters of fake blood in the refrigerator became a fall mainstay in my house. There was great delight in dumping it all over myself and anyone else that could stand being that sticky.

Through this play I could pretend the darkness inside didn’t scare me. If I could face death by turning it into a game, I could laugh at it. I was the master of the macabre and neither demon nor disease could mess with me. I could embody what wanted to destroy me, draw on its power to declare myself invincible.

But November always comes. After one joyous night of sugar rush, suddenly my meticulously hung cobwebs don’t look so classic on the front porch. The giant rubber spider, which once dropped on the heads of trick-or-treaters, must go back in its box in the attic. My plastic butcher’s knife went from cool to slightly off-putting overnight. And I am left with a big dark pit inside me that is tired of being mocked.

Everything about fall in New England is one last hurrah before the grueling winter months. The trees make fire without any flame before they turn charred and barren. The pumpkins and gourds and squashes abound before all fresh produce vanishes to warmer climates. If Facebook statues are any indication, pumpkin spiced foods and drinks are the highlight of many a UMass student’s fall, and I agree. But what a shame it is to descend into December where the eggnog latte is never as good as you want it to be. Maybe it’s all a sign that we’re clinging to remnant summer happiness.  More likely, it’s a big “screw off” to the winter. We’re going to drink our pumpkin beers, carve our jack-o-lanterns, and run around in costumes on the 31st just to show the darkness we are not a force to be reckoned with.

November is October’s hangover. It’s finally heavy coat season, but there’s no snow to play in. There’s a moment in the semester where it feels like classes might actually go on forever. Thanksgiving, as far as I can tell, is universally eating too much, drinking too much and having strained political discussions with extended family members. I don’t know about anyone else, but November is prime mental breakdown season for me. In some ways, it’s an excuse to get the big emotions out so I can coast on numbness through January and February, where things are often equally stark and dreary. We’ll see how good I am at looking on the bright side in a few weeks.

I don’t have many solutions for those of you who are afflicted with similar seasonal mental atrocities. It is my hope that this is the last fall I will ever spend in New England, but life often makes its own plans, so we’ll see. The only trick I cling to is the one acceptable outlet for a little bit of dark fun. When I can’t move my legs, and I can’t stop crying and everything seems like it’s just not worth it, I put in a scary movie. It’s not much, but for two hours I am engrossed in the world of ghosts, goblins, and things that go bump in the night. I’m not worried about my problems when I’m worried about animated corpses and blood flooding out of elevators.  It takes me to a world where all darkness is play darkness, a world where I sort of feel I belong. It is a world without November.

Victoria Knobloch is a Collegian columnist. She can be reached at [email protected].


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    Carol BandOct 6, 2011 at 10:20 am

    Hey Tori-
    Spooky Walk hasn’t been the same without you. Oct. 29th. Nice piece – good writing.
    Creepy Carol