Do you remember what it was like to be afraid of the dark? As a kid I went to sleep every night with my entire body under the blankets, despite the stuffiness. I ran through random images I’d seen on the television, like the wolf’s head looking upside down through a window next to a dangling noose. I worried about episodes of Nickelodeon’s “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” (which I LOVED) but most of all I was terrified of “The Black Widow.”
I don’t know who the black widow was or where I heard about her. She was always just a name and an image of a pale, dark haired woman living in a marsh. I also have a distinct memory of literally watching shark fins circle around my bed at my grandmother’s house. There were dark knots in the wooden paneling that I imagined to be hundreds of evil, leering faces. (A lot like the story, The Yellow Wallpaper). I was additionally kept awake thinking about aliens, vampires, ghosts, and fire monsters.
It’s not just a cliché joke that kids are afraid of the monster under the bed. Children’s imaginations are incredibly powerful and their fears can seem very real. And then comes Halloween.
Classically scary Halloween costumes—witches, ghosts, skeletons, mummies and vampires—all give kids a chance to turn the tables on their fears. It’s empowering to be a version of the thing that goes bump in the night. Whether the costume takes a fun or a scary approach, becoming the scary thing is a way for kids to dull their fears through play.
I’ll be doing a post about the top 10 unusual Halloween costumes next week, but the old standbys are an important part of the American Halloween tradition and central to the holiday.
Aside from the classically scary costumes, Halloween is about transformation and fantasy. Kids love dressing up as beautiful or magical beings like wizards, knights, princesses and fairies—all of which are connected to European folklore. And then there are the costumes from the magical American past like Cowboy and Indian costumes.
If you were counting, that makes 11 top classic Halloween costumes. Oops. But here’s one more that I can’t figure out—the popularity of “nerd” costumes. You know…taped glasses, pocket protector, high-waisted skirt or pants with the shirt tucked. I think that one is just fun because it gives you an excuse to pick your nose in public!