The Evil Thing

Photo by null xtract from Pexels

I don’t know where it came from
Somehow it’s always been there
Watching, taunting, mocking me
Blinkless eyes and empty stare

I must’ve thrown it out
A thousand times before
To find it back again
And watching me once more

I locked it in the attic
In shadows black and deep
For once I felt so peaceful
For once my fears could sleep

I went about my life
The evil thing was gone
And yet it lurked above
Its moment yet to come

And come it did one day
When feeling battered, living,
I found it waiting for me
Familiar comfort giving

Slowly I succumbed
And falling at its perch
Delivered to it offerings
With reverence besmirched

As the world outside grew colder
The evil was an ally
My confidante and succor
On whom I could rely

But it was I grown cold
My own eyes grown dim
The evil wore me down
I ushered in the grim

I’ve woke up to the truth
I know it’s not my friend
I know it wants to kill me
It wants to see my end

I want to throw it out again
Remove it from my midst
But I can feel it watching me
Its blinkless eyes affixed

I made a home for evil
And turned my back to all
Alone with the empty eyes
Of a simple kewpie doll

Bela

Elegant deceiver,
What monsters lurked inside
To turn you to the needle,
Such a wicked place to hide?

What voices in the dark
Shook your soul so fierce
As creeping fingers found
A coursing vein to pierce?

Did you draw the blood to verify
The vein you found was ripe?
Did you lick your lips as poison slipped
Beneath your skin so white?

What horrific visions
Around you madly spun?
How soft and slow your heartbeat
As you sat there, stoned and numb?

And then to find your savior
Was the beast that would destroy
How panicked and betrayed you
Must have felt, the monster’s toy

Your power once commanding
Withered, corpse-like, old and gray;
No more fear for virgin hearts,
Your instrument betrayed

No more the Count but Renfield,
Starving, raving mad
Clutching at the memories
Of the life you used to have

And by your hand ‘twas done.
The killer and the slain.
Oh, elegant deceiver,
Your loss, a mortal shame

Constant Dark Companion

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Image CC0 Public Domain, via pxhere

It follows me, a reeking shadow full of blight
I feel it as it skirts around just out of sight
Its disconcerting footfalls echo without rest
In syncopation with the pounding ‘neath my chest
Forever taunting, haunting me, close in its chase
I try to face it but I cannot see its face

When darkness comes and I retire to my room
In shadowed corners, lingering, I feel it loom
A quiv’ring fear gives way to reckless courage drawn
My eyes spring open–turn to face it–find it gone
Its shallow, rattled breathing I can still discern
And lay awake all night lamenting its return

My constant dark companion gives me no reprieve
Refusing to be seen, persistently to cleave
I cannot know its true form nor can trace its frame
I know nothing about it but its wicked name
And ‘til it leaves me terror-stricken, lying prone
What endless horror stalks me so, but the UNKNOWN

The Old Junk Room

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“Cottonmouth 1” by DMangus, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The Old Junk Room

Grandpa closed the door,
and shooing me away
said, “Stay away from there.
“That room’s no place to play.”

Musty, junk-filled room,
where dusty webs and grime
and shapeless piles loomed,
just begging to be climbed.

“There are snakes in there,”
he said, and he would know.
He smiled, roughed my hair,
“Now off to bed you go.”

Scrambling into bed,
mere feet away from it,
that room so filled with dread,
I hid ‘neath Grandma’s quilt.

No attic for the junk,
no storehouse for the heaps.
Against the room I shrunk,
fearing slithering creeps.

Yellow porchlight poured,
through curtains hanging slack,
across the thin wood door
that held the serpents back.

What evil, out of view,
with belly to the floor,
would silent slither through
the gap beneath the door?

Drowsy from the day
In bed while nightmares crawled
I slept, which is to say,
I didn’t sleep at all.

Going All-In on David Pumpkins

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I was slow to the David S. Pumpkins party. I haven’t really watched an episode of Saturday Night Live in at least a decade, finally succumbing to that stage of life where you find yourself tut-tutting, “the show isn’t as good as it used to be.” I don’t know these kids on SNL, and damn are they annoying. (I’ll be yelling at a cloud next.)

I was in a burlesque show with my wife, a tribute to the great Tom Hanks. All Tom Hanks-inspired acts. My wife and I did a little duet inspired by The ‘Burbs. This was one of the last shows we did in Los Angeles before the big move, in February, a decidedly un-Halloween time of year.

The last act of this particular show was typically an improvised striptease to a randomly chosen song. This time, they sprung David S. Pumpkins on the unsuspecting crowd. It’s difficult to put into words exactly how they pulled off a striptease version of David S. Pumpkins, and I’d hate to deny your imagination the chance to run with the concept. All I can say is, it was baffling and hilarious.

Naturally, the wife and I immediately searched out the clip of David S. Pumpkins from SNL. It was as baffling and hilarious as we could have hoped. Later that year, SNL broadcast the animated David S. Pumpkins special, and we were in stitches for days. Reviewers were not so kind to the special, but I sincerely hope it becomes a holiday staple. (Ironically, the chief complaint seemed to be that SNL went “all-in on David Pumpkins.”)

Mass-Produced Novelty

Why my devotion? Because David S. Pumpkins is the embodiment of everything wrong with Halloween. Whether intentional or not, Bobby Moynihan, Mikey Day, and Streeter Seidell created a scorching satire of the over-trendiness of Halloween. It’s always been a commercial holiday, at least as long as I’ve been alive, but sometime around the turn of the millennium, Halloween became truly manic.

Halloween became blowing out your house decorations with “Hollywood” special effects, sexy version of everything costumes, Spirit Halloween Stores popping up like toadstools after a rainstorm, and the haunted house mazes–MY GOD THE HAUNTED HOUSE MAZES!!!

And yet, with all the mania, there is a certain generic quality that has creeped in. I think it started before the 2000s. From the late 70s into the 80s, filmmakers gave us idiosyncratic icons of horror. Freddy Krueger, Jason, Michael Myers, Pinhead, Chucky, Killer Klowns. They had their own verisimilitude, and a commitment to high concept that sometimes defied any attempt at logic.

1996 rolled around, and Wes Craven, one of the great filmmakers of that movement towards whimsical horror gave us a new nightmare: Ghostface of Scream. A boogeyman born from an off-the-rack, unlicensed, generic halloween mask. Don’t get me wrong, it’s brilliant. Scream is brilliant. But, it heralded the place we find ourselves today, where the same person who begged their parents to help them make a dinosaur costume in the 80s can casually drop $60 at Walmart for an inflatable T-rex costume.

I hope this doesn’t come off as cynical. I do adore the absolute nonsense that lines the racks this time of year. I can browse a Spirit store for hours, marveling at the quality of the wares, and the assortment of costumes and props both licensed and clearly not licensed while obviously that thing from that show everyone knows. I also never get tired of sexy version of everything costumes.

As much as I adore the novelty, it’s a mass-produced novelty. Novelty in bulk. Penn Jillette once opined that “Halloween is for amateurs.” He’s not wrong. At the same time, “amateur” literally means “someone who does something for the love of it.” Love is good, and I would never look askance at those who are enjoying themselves.

The Spirit of Party City Halloween

I do reserve the right to find Halloween mania ridiculous, however, and in David S. Pumpkins, I have a new sort of idiosyncratic icon. This icon is born of the mass-produced novelty that has sanded off Halloween’s edge. He has no carefully crafted backstory. He’s his own thing, man. His motives are inscrutable. His sidekicks are “part of it.” He is the spirit of Party City Halloween.

Pumpkins and his two skeleton friends are as off-the-rack as you can get, like amateurish, postmodern descendants of Ghostface. They fully commit to the gag in a way reminiscent of the transcendent scenery-chewing you could rely on from Robert Englund. The anti-humor of Pumpkins is an echo of the absurdity of 80s comedy horror, from the Evil Dead flicks to Killer Klowns. By somehow bridging the gap between bespoke horror and mass-produced novelty, David S. Pumpkins is also the embodiment of everything right with Halloween.

He can be enjoyed ironically and unironically at the same time. It’s a joke we’re all in on– that might not actually be a joke. It’s ephemera of substance. A straightforward paradox. I’ve gone all-in on David Pumpkins.

Any questions?