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The Trickster Treating

If it’s early October then we all know that Halloween is just around the proverbial corner. Speaking quite honestly, Halloween was never a big deal holiday celebration when I was a kid. Even as a child, I always thought the whole getting dressed up in a costume thingy was a tad silly but I was enough of a pragmatist to weigh the embarrassment of wearing an outlandish outfit against the windfall of sugary delights that inevitably accompanied the rounds of extortion (aka” “trick or treat”) to the houses and apartments of my neighbors. Surely there was nothing scary or frightening about the holiday.

During the late 1950s, as I grew a little older, each year during October, I found myself eschewing costumes in favor of celebrating Halloween by viewing the (now) old Universal Pictures horror movie classics (Frankenstein, Dracula, The Mummy, the Werewolf, the Creature from the Black Lagoon and of course, Abbot and Costello meet Frankenstein) on John Zacherly’s Shock Theater which was always attended by Zacherly’s wife referred to only as “My Dear” who remained unseen and not uttering a word while safely ensconced in her casket during the entire show. I always tell my beloved Grace (“she who must be obeyed”) that the Zacherlys truly had a marriage made in heaven.  Although these pictures were not actually frightening, I must admit that I found the scene in the original Frankenstein where the monster unintentionally drowns the little girl he has met by the lake rather disturbing. Yeah, the big guy’s babysitting skills were somewhat lacking.

After a period of time, Halloween once again faded from interest as a holiday of note until around 1980 when a young lady named Cassandra Peterson introduced her late night monster movie mash up of B movies flicks along with her character of Elvira. Replete with her tight-fitting, low-cut, cleavage-displaying black gown, her show was an American comedy television series that aired B-grade horror movies, occasionally interrupted by risque comments from the hostess, Elvira. In some episodes during intermission, Elvira would get an unexpected phone call from a character called “The Breather”  who would only call and tell Elvira weird jokes. In hindsight, I believe the only people who were frightened by this show were the producers who I am sure spent each show scared witless Cassandra’s Elvira dress would have an on-air wardrobe malfunction.  Much to the dismay of her younger male audience, Elvira was no Janet Jackson.  

I mention all of the above simply to point out that I have never found Halloween to be scary or otherwise frightening and I tell my family just that each and every year the holiday approaches. That all changed just recently.  My younger sister Margie, who is a classical music aficionado, toured Europe last year with her husband George and she recently told me the following story about her trip. 

Last Halloween, while in Vienna, she was passing Vienna’s Zentralfriedhof graveyard on October 31.  All of a sudden, she heard some music.  No one is around, so she started searching for the source.  Margie finally locates the origin and finds it is coming from a grave with a headstone that reads: Ludwig van Beethoven, 1770-1827. Then she realized that the music is the Ninth Symphony and it is being played backward! Puzzled, she leaves the graveyard and persuaded her husband George to return with her.

By the time they arrive back to the grave, the music has changed. This time it is the Seventh Symphony, but like the previous piece, it is being played backward. Curious, Margie and George agree to consult a music scholar. When they return with the expert, the Fifth Symphony is playing, again backward. The expert notices that the symphonies are being played in the reverse order in which they were composed, the 9th, then the 7th, then the 5th.  By the next day, the word has spread and a throng has gathered around the grave as the sun was setting and a pall was being cast across the graveyard. They are all listening to the Second Symphony being played backward. By now the hair on the back of my neck is standing up and I asked Margie what ultimately happened. 

Margie finally explained that after several hours, with the crowd surrounding the grave in silent wonderment,  the graveyard’s caretaker ambled up to the group. Margie asked him if he has an explanation for the music. “Oh, it’s nothing to worry about, he’s been dead for almost 200 years…” says the caretaker. “He’s just decomposing!”


Broad Channel, why would anyone want to live anywhere else?

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