Spooky and Scary: Halloween is for Everyone

Deputy arts editor Xavier Barrios explores the nuances of spooky vs scary

Growing up, Halloween was a bit of a controversial topic in my house. My mom has never liked the holiday but it was always one of my favorite times of year — second to Christmas. 

As a kid I hated slasher films and the thought of trekking through a haunted house kept me up at night. The costume section at Walmart was always a point of avoidance. Everything was scary to me around Halloween time, and certain family members used that to their advantage — jumping at me in the dark while trying to walk to the bathroom at night made me scared then but mad now. There wasn’t a reason to scare 5-year-old me. 

To partake in Halloween festivities, my mom and I would bake Pillsbury Pumpkin Sugar Cookies and put on the newest Disney Channel Monstober movie. I always somehow managed to miss the beginning of “Twitches” starring twins Tia and Tamera Mowry, but picked up the plot.

Don’t pay too much attention to me now or you’ll see me walking around in my “Scream” shirt.

McDonald’s bucket happy meals and a pillowcase filled with candy were the epitome of Halloween as a kid. I got to dress up as whatever I wanted and compete in my elementary school’s costume contest. In fifth grade I had the best werewolf costume, and I’m still upset I didn’t win. 

These were the years of spooky Halloween. 

As I got older — about two years ago — I started to take interest in horror movies. The “Scream” franchise has become a yearly rewatch. Then, my friends convinced me to venture through a haunted house I almost didn’t make it through. I had to hold my friend’s hand while she walked me past a clown. 

There are two sides to Halloween. My definitions of spooky and scary might not be completely accurate, but they’re truthful to me.

The Target pumpkin man, Lewis, has taken over ​​TikTok. Lewis seems to be a scary eight-foot-tall animatronic, but upon activation, passersby are greeted with a goofy voice.

“I am not a jack-o’-lantern,” Lewis says. “My name is Lewis.”

The ingredients for a spooky Halloween call for a cute drawing of a ghost with a cowboy hat. Add in Snoopy on a pumpkin and a rotating selection of “Hocus Pocus,” “Halloweentown” and “Girl vs. Monster.” Mix them together, it’s the witches brew of a spooky Halloween. 

Imagine the decor of a HomeGoods in autumn. Or a child carving a toothy smiley face into a pumpkin. The sound associated with spookiness should be an “aww.” 

Spooky might offer a slight scare but doesn’t get the heart racing — a light gasp at most.

As opposed to a specific type of Halloween, spooky and scary can fluctuate and bleed into one another. 

I do argue the end of “Halloweentown” is spooky, entering scary territory. In the movie, whimsical music as the main characters explore Halloweentown for the first time is spooky. 

Towards the end, the run-down movie theater housing the frozen townspeople was terrifying.

A rush of adrenaline comes with a scary Halloween. It’s supposed to invoke fear, perhaps a scream. Scary is watching a masked killer wreaking havoc in a horror film with a blanket pulled up just below your eyes. 

A decoration outside a haunted house in Rogers Park. Allison Treanor / The Phoenix

Scary feeds on what people already feel. One of my hometown’s haunted houses is in the middle of a cornfield. The cornfield is a street off Riverdale Road, which, in Denver lore, is the city’s most haunted road. The opening scare is a tractor ride to the “Gates of Hell,” which is where the road supposedly leads people.

Walking through a haunted house or attending a theme park’s horror night are scary. Scary leans into the unsettling parts of humanity, often turning to the supernatural. They induce fear upon the participant for the sake of a scream. 

There is nothing wrong just with enjoying cat-shaped gummy snacks from Trader Joes. It’s okay to walk through a haunted house clinging to your best friend’s arm. Spooky and scary can coexist to create an enjoyable holiday. 

Halloween is for everyone.

Feature image by Allison Treanor / The Phoenix

Xavier Barrios

Xavier Barrios