I vividly remember a Halloween when I was a really young kid growing up in Roland Park in Baltimore, Maryland. The sidewalk in front of our house seemed to stretch on forever in those days and for all intents and purposes it did. Trick or treating started with walking down to the sidewalk and turning right and going south. We would swing back towards the north end of our neighborhood later in the evening before we got too whiny and frustrated. I don’t remember what I was dressed as. In those days my mother made every Halloween costume I wore and they were usually superheroes. So imagine I was Batman, Superman or a Ninja Turtle (Donatello 4 Life) or something or other. Yes, I did say this was a vivid memory and yes I do know what that word means.
This particular Halloween, we walked to the end of our walk and through the iron gate and hung a right. I think my brother took off running and for some reason I wanted him to wait up for our group. It was Halloween and I had heard all the legends behind the night and I knew that it was not just Candy Night. This was All Hallow’s Eve the day before All Saint’s Day and it was a night to be wary of. Evil spirits prowled from the shadows and looked for victims but they would leave anyone wearing a costume alone. Of course, this was a kid who believed in leprechauns when he attended Pre-K at Boys Latin.
The point is that if evil spirits prowled the night, then they had to be ruled by Satan. In my tiny little world, there were only three forces: Heaven, Hell and Humanity. As progressive as it was, Grace Methodist Church had kind of drummed that into me. So I figured that if I was going to fool the evil spirits then “Stop in the name of the Lord!” was not going to work out. So I yelled out “Stop in the name of the Devil!”. To this day, I can’t remember who yelled at me but I don’t think it was either my mom or my dad. It could have been a neighbor or my grandmother but I can’t say for sure. Regardless of who it is, I got scolded for taking the Devil’s name in vain.
The scolding terrified me, I remember that much. I was not scared of being in trouble with whoever scolded me or being in trouble in general. I was suddenly afraid that I had invoked Satan and that he could be coming for me. After that day, the Devil became He Who Shall Not Be Named for a long, long time. I became very superstitious about somehow invoking demons and the Devil which somehow also figured into the placement of my arms while I was sleeping. I was terrified by bullshit for way too long because somebody else actually believed that you can summon an extra-dimensional, evil-alligned creature with mere words. This altered my world view for a long time and led to a lot of anxiety.
These days I don’t believe in any of it. I’ll gladly sing along to any Satanic Death Metal song that catches my fancy and I love reading all types of mythology about demons. I’m not stuck in the box that Christian Mythology put me in anymore. It allowed me to embrace even more facets of Halloween and spooky mythology. Although I carry all of the minor scars of that one event and the subsequent anxiety, I think it’s made me happier in the long run.