C. Derick Miller – Head Writer
Your Stories on Video
Happy Halloween to all of my loyal readers here at Your Stories on Video or, as we called it in the old country aka Ireland, Samhain! As with everything cool from ancient times, we’ve Americanized the heck out of it until the holiday lost its meaning. Do you know the origins of Samhain? No, it has nothing to do with “evil” like the media would like you to believe (although, if anyone in this country is well versed in evil, it’s probably the media). Allow me to explain.
Directly from Wikipedia, Samhain (pronounced Sauin) is a Gaelic festival marking the end of the harvest season and beginning of winter or “darker-half” of the year. In the northern hemisphere it is held on 1 November but with celebrations beginning on the evening of 31 October, since the Celtic day began and ended at sunset. This is about halfway between the autumn equinox and winter solstice. It is one of the four quarter days associated with Gaelic seasonal festivals along with Imbolc, Beltane and Lughnasa. Historically it was widely observed throughout Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man (where it is called ‘Sauin’). A similar festival was held by the Brittonic Celtic people, called Calan Gaeaf in Wales, Kalan Gwav in Cornwall and Kalan Goañv in Brittany.
Samhain is believed to have Celtic pagan origins and some Neolithic passage tombs in Ireland are aligned with the sunrise at the time of Samhain. It is first mentioned in the earliest Irish literature, from the 9th century, and is associated with many important events in Irish mythology. The early literature says Samhain was marked by great gatherings and feasts and was when the ancient burial mounds, which were seen as portals to the Otherworld, were opened. Some of the literature also associates Samhain with bonfires and sacrifices.
The festival was not recorded in detail until the early modern era. It was when cattle were brought down from the summer pastures and when livestock were slaughtered. As at Beltane, special bonfires were lit. These were deemed to have protective and cleansing powers and there were rituals involving them. Like Beltane, Samhain was a liminal or threshold festival, when the boundary between this world and the Otherworld thinned, meaning the Aos Sí (the ‘spirits’ or ‘fairies’) could more easily come into our world. Most scholars see the Aos Sí as remnants of pagan gods. At Samhain, they were appeased with offerings of food and drink, to ensure the people and their livestock survived the winter. The souls of dead kin were also thought to revisit their homes seeking hospitality, and a place was set at the table for them during a Samhain meal. Mumming and guising were part of the festival from at least the early modern era, whereby people went door-to-door in costume reciting verses in exchange for food. The costumes may have been a way of imitating, and disguising oneself from, the Aos Sí. Divination was also a big part of the festival and often involved nuts and apples. In the late 19th century John Rhys and James Frazer suggested it was the “Celtic New Year” but that is disputed.
You see? Nothing evil going on there! It was just a tradition. When I was a child, my preachers tried their best to convince me that this was a horrible holiday to celebrate and was an abomination toward our Christian beliefs. Honestly, how can that be? The ancient Celtic people knew nothing of Christianity so what are they using as a basis of comparison? Inquiring minds need to know! Of course, Irish immigrants brought this tradition to the new world but, in true American style, we adopted it, watered it down, and molded it to fit our own needs! Now, we stuff our mouths with candy while dressed up as whatever is most popular this particular year. In all honesty, I’m not complaining. Who, other than dentists, doesn’t love candy?
I hope this little tidbit of information may have educated some of you who didn’t know Halloween’s true origin. As someone with Irish roots, I find it fascinating. By all means, jump on Google and read more about it! After all, it’s free and in our pockets!
Now, for a change of subject: What spooky activity do you want to do this Halloween? No worries, I did a lot this weekend, so YOU don’t have to!
Theme Park Halloween attractions? Stay away! My wife and I went to Six Flags Over Texas yesterday afternoon to partake in some high dollar haunted house goodness. We didn’t even get out of the car. All available parking was in the very back of the park and we knew it was going to be a crowded nightmare. We saved ourselves the trouble and drove away. We went to the movies instead. Remember going to the movies? I’ve missed it! (For the record, if you live near an Alamo Drafthouse, their theaters take vaccinations, social distancing, and masks very seriously).
First off, we watched Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin. It’s a found footage supernatural horror film directed by William Eubank, written by Christopher Landon, and produced by Jason Blum and Oren Peli. Serving as the seventh installment of the Paranormal Activity series, the film stars Emily Bader, Roland Buck III, Dan Lippert, Henry Ayres-Brown, and Tom Nowicki.
My thoughts? If you’ve seen the others, know this one has the best story of all! No longer are we trapped in a house with family drama and invisible ghosts. We are on an Amish farm in the middle of nowhere! In my opinion, this is the best of all the Paranormal activity movies and a must see if you’re a fan of the found footage genre. I don’t believe it’s necessary to see on a big screen and would probably be more enjoyed in a cramped space with few people in total darkness. Luckily, it’s streaming on Paramount Plus!
Finally, my recommendation for some Halloween goodness, would be to go to a theater and see the creature film Antlers! I was totally blown away by this film and glad I viewed it on a big screen. It’s not for the faint of heart.
It’s a supernatural horror film directed by Scott Cooper. It follows a schoolteacher and her police officer brother in a small Oregon town, where they become convinced one of her students is harboring a supernatural creature. The film stars Keri Russell, Jesse Plemons, Jeremy T. Thomas, Graham Greene, Scott Haze, Rory Cochrane, and Amy Madigan. The screenplay, written by C. Henry Chaisson, Nick Antosca, and Cooper, was adapted from Antosca’s short story “The Quiet Boy”, originally published in Guernica magazine in January 2019.
All you need to know is that Guillermo del Toro produced this film! The man is a total genius. The cinematography is beautiful and begs you to witness it on a large screen! The creature effects are traditional with little to no CGI. It is bleak, depressing, gore filled, and coldly atmospheric. I can’t wait to obtain this movie at home so I can pick it apart scene by scene!
Have I ever mentioned that I’m an amateur filmmaker who is beginning their first major project on January 1st?
In the end, if you’re not a thrill seeker with iron nerves and a solid stomach for horror films, you could always just end your day the same way I’m planning to do as well. I’m getting together with some family to take my grandson, a Ninja Turtle, trick or treating in our Bishop Arts neighborhood. It’s his first Halloween and grandpa needs to make sure he scares the daylights out of him nice and proper! My stepson, a black cat, will be joining us for the first time since I’ve come into his life. I need to make sure I set the Halloween boundaries for him as well! It’s going to be a wonderful night!
So, Happy Halloween (or a momentous Samhain) to you all! What do you plan on doing tonight to add to the scary goodness of this, my favorite of all holidays? Do you plan on staying home with a bowl of popcorn to rewatch one of the many classic films (I recommend Halloween III Season of the Witch) or will you be blowing it all off, turning off your porch light, and going to bed early? Here at Your Stories on Video, we want to know! What are some of your favorite Halloween traditions? Do you have any wonderful Halloween memories from childhood? Feel free to share the in the comments below! Being a horror author and a horror film buff, I’d love to hear them! Who knows, perhaps YOUR story could influence one of my next works? Don’t worry, I’d totally give you credit…
PS: it’s not Halloween unless you watch this video a dozen times. Enjoy!