said John Berryman, in “A Point of Age” – but perhaps he hadn’t tried walking around a Halloween town with two nine year olds.
Last week everyone in Mogliano was busy. Lorries trundled into town to unload giant figures, leaving us with two dragons staring down from the hill above the market place, and a leering face strung high above the road leading through the old town. Men on ladders shrouded the street lights with red and black fabric and the bars and restaurants filled up with decorations until it became difficult to grab a quick coffee without picking up long strands of white cobweb or the occasional small black bat. Signs appeared on the street corners, directing us to the Vampire House, the Tunnel of Horror and the way out.
Two years ago someone came up with the bright idea of advertising Mogliano’s Halloween party on the local radio. Halloween is a recent import to Italy, frowned upon by many, but the advertisement and the promise of free bus transport from nearby towns was unexpectedly successful and we were shocked to find ourselves queueing for hours for each attraction, the streets clogged with witches, wizards, and masked ghouls in search of fear and excitement. Ten thousand people came to visit Mogliano in one evening and the traffic jams spread widely around town, up until the early hours. Last year the party was rained off so the organizers have had some time to sort out the details and this year they got it just right.
My sons have their own Halloween plans these days but we borrowed Aldo’s nine year old granddaughter and met up with friends with another nine year old. The children quickly compared notes on school results and once it was clear that Andrea’s strong point is neither geography nor maths our friend’s son took charge of map reading and the overall campaign. Andrea had forgotten to pack her witch’s outfit but luckily there was make up on hand and so once she rendered unrecognizable with heavy black eye make-up we set off, both children declaring their desire to be scared, thrilled and amazed. Even we adults screamed satisfactorily as people lunged out of dark doorways, flinched as brooms swept at us from windows high in walls and inched gingerly past menacing groups of people propped up alongside the road. Mogliano’s medieval streets, darker than usual with their shrouded streetlights were the perfect setting for a Halloween spectacle and we even made it through the Tunnel of Horror unscathed.
Climbing the hill towards the top of town we heard the distant sound of chain saws. We rounded a corner and there, in a small piazza, we saw hospital beds, blood stained sheets and surgeons bearing chain saws with dismembered limbs slung over their shoulders.
All courage vanished and both children stood their ground. “We are not going THERE” they said in unison and set off in search of those useful signs pointing towards the exit.
According to Stephen King (and he should know) “Terror … often arises from a pervasive sense of destablishment; that things are in the unmaking.”