It’s healthy to laugh at our fears. Maybe that’s why I’ve always been so drawn to Halloween.
Listen, the world is a scary place. Politicians are using us as political pawns (again) and anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric is at an all-time high, thanks to large swaths of citizens of a certain political persuasion who just also happen to be delusional.
It’s especially frightening here in Florida. Who needs a witch- and zombie-filled holiday like Halloween when you have wickedly creepy politicians running our state?
But we do need Halloween. In fact, we need it now more than ever.
Gay Christmas, as so many of us lovingly call Oct. 31, is a time when we can be not only whoever or whatever we want to be for a few hours, but it also gives us all — celebrants of all ages — a chance to stand up to our fears and literally laugh in their collective faces.
Scared of spiders? Get a good scare from one of those animatronics from Spirit Halloween! Hate clowns? Watch “IT” and laugh yourself silly at each jump scare. Even better, stream the classic “Killer Klowns From Outer Space” and revel in its creepy ridiculousness.
The first scary movie I ever saw, at least that I can remember, was the 1962 film “Premature Burial.” The film, based on a short story by none other than Edgar Allen Poe, tells the story of a man who is so afraid of being buried alive that he builds an elaborate mausoleum with several clever ways to escape, just in case he, like his father, gets buried alive.
It freaked me out, and I wanted more! The “Halloween” and “Poltergeist” films were regular viewing for me and so were “Friday the 13th” and “Candyman.” Each one scared me more than the last, but it gave me a chance to laugh, along with my friends, at how ridiculous fear can be.
In college, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” became a staple, and not just because I was figuring out my sexuality. It was the one time of year that everyone on campus seemed to be on the same page, celebrating the same insane thing in one location.
Admittedly, the chances of encountering a maniacal killer with a slow, menacing walk and a butcher knife is obviously insanely low. And accidentally buying a house with a portal in the bedroom closet taking you to “the other side” is probably never going to appear on a land survey.
But the adrenaline rush of a good scare kept bringing me back to scary movies.
When I discovered haunted attractions, I was 100% hooked. I’d stand in line for hours to walk through a dark maze or traverse a wooded trail somewhere in rural Missouri, just waiting for a stranger to pop out and make me jump out of my skin.
Today I anxiously await my seasonal gig as a VIP Tour guide at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay’s Howl-O-Scream event, where I gladly laugh as guests get scared at every turn for five to seven hours a night.
None of those experiences have messed me up. In fact, I think they each helped prepare myself for the unexpected life into which adulthood evolves.
Real fears like rent and mortgage payments, doctors’ bills, illnesses and employment stress seem more manageable than, say, an unpredictable puzzle box or a child with Satanic tendencies.
Scarier, of course, are the very real threats coming at us from politicians. There is a lot of weight to the saying “it’s so scary it’s almost comical.”
Let’s be real, 100% of the anti-LGBTQ+ laws and opinions being spewed by these elected officials are so obviously either A) projection or B) deflection. They aren’t made to accomplish anything.
Are these laws and opinions a laughing matter? Absolutely not. Are the politicians laughable? Absolutely.
Fear is a good motivator to get things done. Rallies have sprouted up across the state, students are protesting their colleges or leaving the state to pursue education elsewhere, and grassroots groups and lawyers are working hard to push back against the outrageous changes we’ve seen in our state these past two years.
But fear is also a good way to escape, and as we get closer to the best time of the year — Halloween — I encourage you to embrace it.
Steve Blanchard is the former editor of Watermark. He currently works in public relations, runs the B&B Phantom History House and hosts the paranormal podcast “Phantom History.” Learn more at PhantomHistory.com.