Susan Rich knows a thing or two about scary stories. She’s the editor of Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, as well as the scary story anthology Half-Minute Horrors. So, in our efforts to uncover Halloween’s secret sauce (why do we love it SO much?) we caught up with Susan and got her two cents on scary stories, haunted houses and more.
All Good Blog: Hey Susan, we’re wondering – why do folks love a little scare?
Susan Rich: Think of an empty room. Are you interested? Now think of an empty room with heavy bars on the window, broken shackles that were once bolted to the floor and a splintered door, hanging from it’s hinges. Are you MORE interested?
AGB: Eep! We are! Do you like being scared?
SR: I like vicarious scares. I ask my friends to replay the plots of scary movies in detail with great pleasure. I would NEVER see such movies myself. But after my friends tell me about them, I think about them a lot. I’m thinking of one right now….Excuse me, I have to go.
AGB: Very funny! People tend to really love Halloween, any thoughts on why?
SR: Halloween is a grand old block party, a celebration of our imaginations and our community, a suspension of all the rules – no bedtime, lots of candy, and you can totally talk to strangers. And best of all, everyone is invited.
I love my neighbours on Halloween. I love the kid wearing the brilliant costume. I love the dad who roamed the hoods last year dressed in a wildlife control outfit, wheeling his 10-month-old daughter around in a compost bin, dressed as a raccoon.
It is a chance to admire the creativity that breaks out of the ordinary. There’s evidence of it in the decorated yards, the costumes, and the treats our kids bring home – which neighbours did something cool with their giveaway? Is that a toothbrush dressed as a ghost?
AGB: Why do we love scary stories?
SR: Why do we read? What does a good yarn offer us? If there’s nothing exciting, no villain, no high stakes, nothing at risk, we might as well do something else.
Because the story about the happy kid who wins the prize rides the pony and eats the candy isn’t all that interesting. Is the pony possessed? Now that’s interesting.
AGB: What are the hallmarks of a truly excellent scary story?
SR: You are never totally sure what it is exactly that you are worried about. Until it’s too late.
AGB: Disguise is a big part of Halloween. People of all ages love dressing up as someone or something else. What do you think the draw is?
SR: I am always interested in the creative expression of a costume – whom have we chosen to be when given the chance. There’s something about the kid that dresses like no one else. Nothing store-bought. It’s not just a disguise. It’s about projecting a chosen identity that provides a window to the soul.
AGB: Earlier, we were chatting with a “haunter” about why we love haunted houses. What do you think? Why is the haunted house such an enduring source of narrative?
SR: A haunted house is theatre. Who doesn’t love something meticulously staged to give us a thrill?
AGB: How about you? What’s your Halloween look like?
SR: I always jockey to be the one who gives the candy out rather than the one who chaperones children on their rounds. I set up on the front porch, enlist a friends, we wear costumes, and we are surrounded by lit pumpkins. I make a big pot of soup and anyone can stop for a mug. As the night wears on and the adults get chilled and the kids get sugar-addled, we all end up together on the porch, sorting through loot, and rolling our eyes at the kids who come too late – often on the edge of being too old to trick or treat, and often in lame costumes. But we give them candy anyway. Because maybe this is their last year.
AGB: Thanks for the chat Susan, and Happy Halloween!
So after talking with Susan we want to know, what’s your favourite scary story? Tell us in the comments!