A Very American Halloween: Exactly What You’d Expect
Peel back the cobwebs and get your skeletons out of the cupboard as Callum Ashley covers his experiences of a particularly ghoulish American Halloween.
It was when I went to grab a quick breakfast from the Deece (the student-named dining hall), that I suddenly remembered, and felt more so than ever, that I was an exchange student. Virtually everyone was in costume. Four days before Halloween. And its barely time for breakfast. A cluster of smurf’s here, several minions there, and so many Waldo’s the game became “Where isn’t Waldo?” (on finding a ‘Wally’ my friends promptly reminded me I was British, laughing at the “strangely childish” way British-English can apparently sound).
Virtually everyone was in costume. Four days before Halloween. And its barely time for breakfast
It’s a common assumption for Americans to “go big“. Although maybe a little sceptical of how the movies painted the other side of the Atlantic, I didn’t expect Halloween to dominate campus from the Deece to class assignments, not only in ghostly spirit but in decoration too.
About three weeks before the celebration, campus started to show signs of the dead. Windows suddenly became sprawled with spider-webs, skeletons were employed to guard doors, Deece food embellished flavours with a little pumpkin spice and, of course, Jack-o’-lanterns phased into existence, lighting the roads into the swiftly darkening fall nights. When I commented that I thought it was a little early, one friend -once again commenting on my Britishness- quickly replied, “I like to start getting stuff in the middle of September.” However, even other Americans thought this was a little extreme. The larger group came to the consensus that the right time was late September to early October, or when the first leaves begin to fall from New England’s famous changing forests.
Things started to get busy in the run-up to the weekend. Pumpkin pie, pumpkin curry, pumpkin-infused cupcakes, pumpkin veggie burgers, so much pumpkin that eventually the meaning of pumpkin became an inside joke with the other international students, meaning ‘an American who’s soul belongs to Halloweek‘ (only to be used 26th-31st October). However, by the 29th we gave in and became happily converted pumpkins.
Luckily for me and a few others who don’t have classes on a Friday, the revamped campus (pun intended) was free to explore. Out of each accommodation block or ‘house’, five of the nine had their basements converted into haunted houses (only one of which was actually scary, mainly because during a stark silent moment before a scare, the fire alarms went off). Pumpkin carving stalls had also been set up in several places (there were a lot of squid game guards), and the college president’s house was open for trick or treating.
We internationals were late to the costume shops and so we had to make do with whatever we could find
Whilst the college hadn’t organised anything officially for the Thursday or Friday night (28th/29th), there were ghoulish gatherings that developed off-campus into the classic American party with red cups, ‘jungle juice’ (a culmination of fridge finds and probably vodka) and people sprawling from inside to the pavement. Of course, everyone had an excellent outfit. Ranging from horrifically detailed costumes to the classic group dressed as characters from a franchise, to stranger themes, like ‘the forest’. Being embarrassingly unorganised and not expecting everything to sell out so fast, we internationals were late to the costume shops and so we had to make do with whatever we could find. Decorative leaves, discarded clothes and random makeup to become trees, weird anthro-animal creatures and, using fairy lights, a constellation. I was a fox.
It might just be something specific to my college, but whilst several parties would break out, people would usually gravitate towards the largest one. So eventually, there’d be a hundred people trying to fit shoulder to shoulder in a tiny living room, with another hundred outside waiting for space to jump in. Though on the eve of Saturday (the 30th), a huge tent was erected as part of a Halloween tradition and most of the two-thousand students of the campus flooded to the live DJ set to become one with the strobe lights and the heart shaking bass, in their third or fourth outfit.
The big day, Sunday, was mainly spent recovering from the long Halloweekend and most houses organised a horror film with popcorn and the last of the pumpkin cupcakes vanished from the Deece. Whilst the weekend was a fantastic fright-fest, the scariest thought was that of classes on Monday. I can’t imagine that very many people had done the reading. No rest for the wicked…
Editor: Ryan Gerrett