The next important Samhain in my life was Samhain 1994. I was in the sixth grade, and it was my first year of junior high school. I was going to General Wayne Middle School in Malvern, Pennsylvania, though unfortunately the school no longer exists today. I soon found that I enjoyed junior high school much better than elementary school; I loved having a locker (which I was quick to decorate with pictures of Batman), I loved having several different teachers (as opposed to just one), and I loved going to the school dances that we would have every couple of months. While I had never gone through a “girl-hating” phase like most of the other boys I knew, this was also the time when I really started noticing the opposite sex. I developed a pretty serious crush on one girl in particular; her name was Katie, and she was pretty much my dream girl at the time.
I don’t know what it’s like for kids these days, but back then, it was customary for a dude to get his friends to ask a girl out for him. (“Hey, I heard a rumor that my friend over there might ‘like’ you. What do you think about that?”) I could never settle for that sort of thing; I’ve always insisted on asking ladies out myself (though I admit that I only ever got one “Yes”). So I called Katie up one day and asked her myself if she’d like to catch a movie with me sometime. She shot me down pretty fierce, but the nice thing was that she called me back after we got off the phone just to assure me that she didn’t hate my guts. This encouraged me to think that maybe there was hope after all and that I should keep after her for the next couple of years. I never did convince Katie to go out with me, but we ended up becoming good friends a few years later, when we were in the high school marching band together. (I played clarinet and she was in the color guard; man, sitting next to her on the bleachers during football games was the greatest thing.)
But I’m getting way ahead of myself; here I am fast-forwarding to 1997 when I should be discussing 1994. So I was in the sixth grade during Samhain 1994, and I was having a blast with it. This was also the time when I discovered the music of Danny Elfman, which I started collecting. I was especially crazy about the score for Sam Raimi’s Darkman (1990), which continues to be my all-time favorite superhero movie today (despite the fact that it isn’t based on a comic book). My mother ordered me a copy of Elfman’s Music For A Darkened Theatre Volume 1, which includes suites from each of Elfman’s film scores up to 1990. I tell you, I listened to that damn thing every single day when I came home from school. Back then, both of my parents worked, and they took my brother to day care every day; so it was just me and my little sister at home in the afternoons. That sort of freedom had been unheard of for us up to that point, and it was pretty awesome. We’d just hang out and blast Danny Elfman on the speakers every day.
Danny Elfman’s Music For A Darkened Theatre Volume 1 (1990).
But the most important thing that happened that year was on Saturday, October 29, 1994. That was when I first saw John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978) and its 1981 sequel. I’ve already described the circumstances of this in my Halloween review, and I encourage anyone who’s interested to check out that post for the full story. But suffice it to say that seeing those two movies on that particular night changed my life forever. Up to that point, I’d mostly been interested in Universal Monster movies, Japanese kaiju films, and comic book superheroes; this was my very first exposure to post-1968 horror, and I fell in love with the genre immediately. The brief references to Pagan ideas and traditions in these movies were also what jump-started my fascination with studying contemporary Paganism, which helped prepare me for becoming a Pagan myself in 1997. So even though I wouldn’t fully realize that Seth-Typhon is my God and my Higher Self for another three years, I consider seeing Halloween and Halloween II on 10-29-1994 to be the night when that transition process was first initiated.
Title card for PHL-17 Philadelphia from 1994; this was the TV channel where I first saw Halloween (1978).
Unfortunately, Halloween night itself was nothing special that year. It was on a Monday, which is never good news for trick-or-treating. The best part was wearing my costume at school that day. I was dressed up as Darkman, with toilet paper wrapped around my face. My good friend Mike wore a T-shirt that had one of H.R. Giger’s xenomorphs bursting out of the chest, complete with fake blood splattered all over it. Mike and I shared a fascination with the old E.C. horror comics (e.g., Tales from the Crypt, The Vault of Horror, and The Haunt of Fear), which were being re-published at the time. That Halloween was the day when we first learned that we shared this common interest. It was also interesting because Mike had caught Halloween and Halloween II on TV the previous weekend as well, and he was the first person I got to discuss those films with. We made a pact together that we would both see as many of John Carpenter’s movies as we possibly could before the school year ended. (We did pretty well on that pact.)
Promo for USA’s Saturday Up All Night with Gilbert Gottfried, which showed Halloween II (1981) right after Halloween ended on PHL-17.
My last vivid memory of Samhain 1994 is from the first or second weekend of November (I can’t remember which exactly). There was this Chinese restaurant that my family and I really loved to go to, but which was about an hour away from our home. My Dad would often order takeout, and then he would take me along to go pick it up. Usually the food would be ready by the time we got there, but sometimes it wasn’t. Luckily, there was a Blockbuster Video right next door, and me and my Dad would loiter around in there whenever we needed to wait. On this particular Sunday in November 1994, I went to the horror section to investigate what the rest of the Halloween movies looked like. (At the time, there were only five of them.) That was when I first saw the beautiful box art for Halloween III (1982), which I learned was a totally different story from the rest of the series. I remember seeing that box and noticing how it looked almost exactly like the burnt orange sky outside the video store’s windows at that very same moment. Seeing that mysterious convergence made my skin break out in gooseflesh. I wouldn’t see Halloween III for a while yet, but I knew even then that its existence would become really important to me somehow.
The original VHS box art for Halloween III (1982), which I thought was just about the most beautiful box art I’d ever seen.
(It was also on that same night that I first saw the box for Pumpkinhead (1988), which would later become one of my favorite flicks as well.)
The original VHS box art for Pumpkinhead (1988).