As a mirror-sensory synaesthete, my aversion to Halloween is visceral.
I can’t pinpoint the precise year my discomfort with Halloween took hold, but it feels inextricably tied to my Gen-X childhood, the rise of pop culture, and a shift in the aesthetics of fright.
Whatever, the reason, October 31 — once my favorite day — is now a day I dread.
In the early 1970s, eerie and creepy seemed quite enough to provoke a sense of fear; the amorphous drapings and dayglo acetate masks that transformed me into a witch and my older sister into a scarlet devil were plenty terrifying. But costume technologies were rapidly advancing at that time; the thin and brittle painted plastic masks that had long been a staple of Halloween revelry were quickly being replaced by foam latex. These new masks moved with the wearer and had a realistic, sculptural quality, a hallmark of their origin in the Hollywood film industry and make-up artists such as John Chambers and Rick Baker.
The same special effects that fostered the menacing simians in Planet of the Apes and the otherworldly aliens in Star Wars lent an accessible and anthropomorphic aspect of the grotesque to dime-store disguises. Mass produced and not terribly expensive, these new life-like masks were notably realistic, and launched a horde of hideous rotten-fleshed zombies and head-wounded monsters who tromped through suburbia each All Hallows Eve.
Somewhere in between the denouement of percale sheet ghosts and the rise of the realistically scary, spooky got trumped by gruesome — and I lost my most favored holiday.
There’s a very tangible reason for my visceral aversion to Halloween. I’m a mirror-sensory synaesthete; my vision, my mirror neurons, and my dermatomes are interlinked in an unholy trinity of perception. What I see with my eyes gets translated into sensation on my skin. This is particularly true when I’m…