Thursday, October 31, 2013

Our Halloween Tradition: “The Palmstone” Radio Play

By Lars Trodson

In recent years, the internet has provided us an opportunity to see pictures that showed us how Halloween was celebrated years ago. We have these treasures, black and white photos of kids in homemade costumes, and they have proved to be genuinely unsettling. The costumes were borne out of the fears and crude materials of nightmares. I think of Scout and Jem running home after the Halloween party through the woods.

I am old enough to remember that kind of Halloween — especially some of the ones we spent in Vermont when we were kids and we walked those dark country streets on our way to pick up some candy. When we were young there were always rumors that someone had slipped a razor blade into a candied apple. There was nothing creepier then seeing a big kid, some kind of punk, in a bloodied tee shirt carrying a pillowcase sagging under the weight of the candy he had collected. It looked more like extortion than anything else. It was a nightmare and not much fun. I’m told that on one of my first Halloweens I went walking with my friend Linda who was wearing a mask and I kept turning toward her and asking, “Linda? Linda? Linda?” and it’s true to this day that I don’t like masks. I can’t stand them.

But Halloween seemed to have been the one day when you could whistle past the graveyard, when the world (or at least your neighborhood) collectively embraced its fears. It was something that we would get through together. Despite the fact that candy involved, it was really odd to see a collection of disfigured people staggering down the street all at the same time.

Now Halloween looks like a movie premier. Today’s Halloween has been co-opted by movie studios and graphic novels. Costumes aren't hand made, they are walking branded advertisements. They’re expensive. What does this mean? Maybe kids don’t have nightmares any more because they’re on too much medication. Or perhaps the real world is so frightening that Halloween has become an opportunity to escape from it, rather than to walk into its bowels. Perhaps that’s why we see young and old alike dressed up as Spider-Man or one of the Avengers. Today’s costume perhaps offers the wearer an opportunity to believe they can keep the effects of the Fukushima nuclear power plant at bay. Maybe they’ll be the one that saves their girlfriend from the green meanie.

Could be, but that seems a far cry from what Halloween was — and should be. Any dimestore psychologist, including the ones that long ago created this misbegotten celebration, would tell you that our fears should be embraced.

That is, in the end, the theme of our little radio play, “The Palmstone.” It’s tense, it’s psychologically unnerving and it’s riveting. It’s also old school. “The Palmstone” is the analog version of what has become a digital event.

Listen with your ears and your heart. You won’t forget this family, the Block family, as real fear enters their home.

Start with Part 1 here: