Marian Carcache: Halloween mood

The long-awaited rain and the cooler mornings and evenings have finally set the proper mood for Halloween – and that, for me, means classic horror movies.

In the late 1950s and early 60s, we had access to only two television stations out in Jernigan: Columbus channels 3 and 9. Some of my best memories include staying up on weekends long after my parents were asleep to watch a black-and- white “scary movie.” Sometimes Lynne or Joan spent the night, but other times my dog and I braved the films alone.

If we were lucky, the chaplain from Ft. Benning and “The Star-Spangled Banner” would not interrupt “Dracula Has Risen from the Grave” or “Son of Frankenstein” in the last few minutes of the movie to signal the “sign off” of the station, leaving us frustrated and angry that we’d never know how the story we’d stayed up to watch ended. Maybe that’s why, years later, I bought more VHS tapes than I had shelves for.

Late show movies usually involved vampires and other creatures, but Saturday and Sunday afternoon fare was my favorite. It often offered psychological horror, “haunted” stories, such as “The Haunting of Hill House” (1959, adapted from Shirley Jackson’s novel) and “The Innocents” (1961, adapted from Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw). I was too young to use terms like “gothic horror” or “atmospheric” — or to even know that “psychological ghost stories” were a thing — but I was bright enough to recognize that there was more to these movies than plot.

During those simpler years, we turned to The World Book Encyclopedia for information and to Reader’s Digest Condensed Books for pleasure reading. I could not have been happier than I was to find Jackson’s “The Haunting of Hill House” included in one of our Reader’s Digest anthologies.  Years later, in college, I read more of Jackson’s work, including “The Lottery,” and realized that many of her works are a social commentary, wrapped in a cloak of fiction, on how people who misunderstand social and religious constructs can be the cruelest and most judgmental among us — and cast the largest stones at those who are different from themselves.

One of this October’s finest gifts to me is that Netflix is streaming the movie version of Jackson’s last and, perhaps, best novel, “We Have Always Lived in the Castle” (1962). Embrace this lovely season: get out your flannel shirts, make soup, bake apples, boil peanuts – but, by all means, treat yourself to this excellent movie. 

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