Halloween is the busiest time of year for those of us in the field of ghost research. For a month or so we get the spotlight, the media calls us for quotes, many of us are booked solid with speaking engagements, and we’re even stopped by neighbors and friends who may ask us to pass on some haunting tale we’ve heard recently. And then there’s the religious holiday of Samhain — the Pagan holiday that Halloween draws so much of its traditions from. For Pagans and Witches, Samhain also has special meaning (and quite often, the Pagans and Witches are no less busy than the ghost investigators around this time of year).
For Ghostvillage.com’s Halloween/Samhain special, I wanted to get a quick remark from some of the many experts, authors, and teachers who have graced our pages as to what this day means to them. It’s an honor to have so many of these people as colleagues and friends. Happy Halloween, Happy Samhain, and without further ado (and in the order in which they were received), here is what this special day means to some of the biggest names in the field:
Halloween has always been special to me. As a farmer’s son, Halloween was synonymous with harvest time. I loved carving pumpkins and making jack-o-lanterns. Since I grew up in a home with periodic haunting phenomena, Halloween was not any spookier than any other time of the year, but I loved the fact that other people celebrated and recognized the ghosts and goblins with whom I had learned to practice coexistence. Since we lived in the country, I never went trick-or-treating, but we joined with our friends and neighbors to have a big pot-luck party with delicious food and games, such as dunking for apples and pin the tail on the donkey. When I was older, I converted our barn into a spook house that everyone was expected to enter and to endure the monsters lurking within. Today, Halloween remains my favorite holiday and autumn my favorite season.
-Brad Steiger, author of Real Ghosts, Restless Spirits, and Haunted Places, www.bradandsherry.com
Halloween is when the media discovers that there are ghosts about. Halloween is when the “less than mentally balanced” suddenly discover their house is "haunted." Most importantly, Halloween is when I get to play mean practical jokes on people and get away with it!
–Vince Wilson, author of Ghost Tech and Ghost Science, www.ghosttech.net
Halloween is my favorite holiday. It is a time to mock death and enjoy without all the obligations of Christmas or Thanksgiving. It is a time to remember that there is much in the universe that is strange and unknown.
–Richard Senate, author and lecturer, www.ghost-stalker.com
Halloween to me means the smell of dead leaves, winter winds coming in off Lake Michigan, Poe readings on Chicago’s Prairie Avenue, a house dripping with generations of decorations, and always, no matter how old I get, jumping a cemetery fence somewhere.
-Ursula Bielski, author of the Chicago Haunts series, www.chicagohauntings.com
Samhain, the Day of the Dead in Celtic tradition, is one of the holiest days of the Druid calendar. On this day we remember our ancestors, our predecessors in the Druid tradition, and all those dear to us who have already passed into the hidden realms of existence. We remember that death is as natural and inevitable as life, and learn to dance joyously through all the phases of the Great Wheel.
-John Michael Greer, Grand Archdruid, Ancient Order of Druids in America, www.aoda.org
Halloween is, unfortunately, “amateur night” to me. It is a time when too many people with too many fantasies and too many expectations come out to play in a place that is totally unfamiliar to them. It is, however, a good time of year to try to spread the word about the realities of the unreal.
-Charles J. Adams III, author, Exeter House Books, www.exeterhousebooks.com
For me, Halloween is a chance to relive a little bit of one of my favorite parts of my childhood. When I was still at the “trick or treating” age, I anxiously looked forward to the season for the chance to gather up candy and dress up in a costume of my own design. No store-bought costumes around our house! But as I got older, growing up on a farm, the whole month of October became my favorite time of year. There was just something about the harvest, the chill in the air, the frost on the grass and especially, the turning of the leaves that made me just feel alive. By high school, when my interests had solidly turned to ghosts, I used October as the time of year to scare my friends with late night visits to graveyards and carefully planned “ghost tours” of local haunts. So, I guess that’s what Halloween means to me — it’s a reminder of the fact that I have never grown up and that I still enjoy the same things that I did when I was a kid.
-Troy Taylor, author and Illinois Hauntings Tours Founder, www.prairieghosts.com
Do you remember the scene in the movie Meet Me in St. Louis where the kids are throwing furniture on the bonfire in the street on Halloween, and Tootie (Margaret O’Brien) approaches the door of the “evil neighbor” and throws flour on him?
For reasons having much to do, I suspect, with the Puritan foundation of the U.S., an enormous amount of mischief is associated with the hallowed evening we call Samhain. In Detroit, for example, it’s Devil’s Night. People commit acts of vandalism and set fires. Trying to fight the “devil,” city officials have recently organized an Angel’s Night wherein volunteers monitor the streets to stop the vandalism.
I’ve noticed a new mischief. I collect witches. From August through October, I shop for new ones. But you know what? I’m finding fewer and fewer witches. I find vampires and movie monsters, but there’s almost no witches. Children are being “kept safe” from Halloween. Retailers are being pressured not to sell witches. Preachers are still preaching that their devil is behind our holy day.
-Barbara Ardinger, Ph.D., from her book, Pagan Every Day, www.barbaraardinger.com
Halloween, for me, is a season of self-reflection (the “why” of haunting behavior), renewal of commitment (to ghost research), and the time for the ghosts within me to replay memories of past events and activities in an always refreshing “nostalgic” symmetry of re-engaged remembrances full of innocence, and devoid of critical analysis and decision-making, and without disruptive emotional barriers. The season is a means of “clearing” and “cleansing” for the excavations of ghostly drama that follow… and, besides, having the experience of multiple “transformations” without a costume change!
-John Sabol, Ethnoarchaeoghostologist, C.A.S.P.E.R. Research Center, mysite.verizon.net/vzeoqapc/ghostexcavator
Halloween means more to me than any other holiday. It is Samhain and my wife and I were married in a haunted restaurant on Halloween. We served mead as drink and everybody, including us, wore costumes. It was the grandest Halloween/Samhain gala ever given. There were about 175 people there. My wife Arlene and I are paranormal investigators and ghost writers but it is more than that. It is the only holiday where no one expects anything from you but a good scare and a fun story. Its history is as lavish and as mysterious as the season itself when the leaves beckon the cold air and the whistling winds send them swirling to the earth. The fields turn gray and brown beginning their slumber until next spring as those who have long slumbered arise to haunt the living, some for one night, at least.
-Thomas D’Agostino, author of Haunted Rhode Island, www.riparanormal.org
Halloween is a sacred time, a time to reflect on what has gone and what your personal role was in that year now gone. As a reflection point, it is also a time to practice tolerance and understanding. Halloween is a time of celebration and remembrance. Halloween is a moment for respite. You are what you do and you do what you are, and finally, you become what you do, and Halloween is a good time to think about that. This is what I believe. I also believe Halloween is a time for being happy in a spiritual way of expression. Halloween endures because it is open to everybody.
–Lee Prosser, book review editor, Ghostvillage.com
Halloween is not one of my favorite “celebrations” or time of year. It is so misconstrued as to why people dress in disguises. It is to simply disguise themselves so as not to be recognized by evil spirits. I don’t believe in the existence of evil or demonic spirits.
There are only evil or aggressive personalities in ghost activity. Nor do I believe in the supernatural. Supernatural stems from dogma. Dogma and the paranormal do not mix well. In my opinion, there are no unnatural or supernatural phenomena. It is our lack of understanding of what is natural. Ghost activity is quite natural. Just like death is a natural part of life.
I’m also aware of the fact that many people (respectfully) tend to magnify and sensationalize anomalous activity. Most ghosts are friendly.
-Peter James, psychic
My introduction to Samhain came years ago through my research on the dead and on pagan practices now incorporated into Wicca and new Pagan traditions. Samhain is my favorite time of year, for the afterlife and other spiritual realms feel genuinely more accessible, in accordance with ancient beliefs. The spirit worlds are much more sharply defined and active than during the lush days of summer. The time around Samhain is good for pursuing paranormal research, and also for paying special tribute to the dead.
-Rosemary Ellen Guiley, author, The Encyclopedia of Ghosts & Spirits, www.visionaryliving.com
Halloween is a fun time of year where you can be someone else for the evening and let yourself come out and play. It takes me back to my childhood where I loved Halloween parties, trick or treating, everyone has pumpkins on their front porches, crisp weather fills the air, and colorful trees and leaves line the street.
It is an escape to dress up as your favorite character or ghoul. You can transform yourself from the serious person you portray in your day-to-day life to a fantasy in a matter of minutes. I love the laughter that fills the air during this time of year. Halloween rocks!
-Kelly L. Weaver, psychic-medium, author of Whispers in the Attic-Living with the Dead, www.kellysmagicalgarden.com and www.spiritsocietyofpa.com
Halloween is a moment in time, late at night, when quiet descends and nature recognizes new life in burgeoning death. The moment, both a flash and eternity, is hearkened by a skitter of dry leaves down the midnight sidewalk and the smell of burnt pumpkins as candles gutter out. The autumnal aromas are borne by a new, yet familiar, cool breeze, an omen of winter to come. Dust-devils become cavorting elementals, the sweet scent of night-blooming jasmine hints at white ladies gliding through the garden, and the always-green leaves of the citrus trees jitter, forming a myriad of phantom faces, grinning in the darkness, knowing they are forever.
-Tamara Thorne, author of Haunted, Bad Things, Moonfall, and others, www.tamarathorne.com
What does Halloween/Samhain mean to you? Join the discussion in our message board of the month.