- The Landlady | Roald Dahl
Multi-media or no, we must begin with the written word and with a writer who is fearless when it comes to writing about – and for – children. Follow with Matilda or The Witches.
Did you know The Raven was written in rhyming trochaic octameter? (Me neither – let’s not kid ourselves.) Literary proficiency aside, what a fab way of combining classic literature with classic contemporary culture. Follow with W.W. Jacobs The Monkey’s Paw and The Simpsonesque retelling in another Treehouse of Horror sketch: S.03, Ep.7
- “Ghost Hunt” – Suspense– June 23, 1949
Classic old-time radio? Yes, please. Suspense was on the air for twenty years. Twenty years – and 947 episodes. That’s whole lots of listening. I know. I started listening to old Suspense episodes twelve years ago, and I’m nowhere close to having heard them all. Since we’re coming to one spooky episode of Doctor Who, I will recommend Our Miss Brooks, another show from the golden age of radio, as a follow-up OR as a replacement for the Suspense episode. Played by the fabulously funny and sardonic Eve Arden, check out “Halloween Party,” ep. 64.
- “Blink” – Doctor Who
Where to begin. Statement and question. Let’s start at the beginning. I knew two things when I started this list: 1) I wanted to choose a Doctor Who episode; and 2) I wanted it to feature Weeping Angels. If you’re not a Whofanatic, you might need to gain some baseline Who knowledge. (Again, “Where to begin?”) But I think – I think – those not deeply familiar with the Whoniverse could follow this Doctor Who-lite episode. And, for those unfamiliar with Weeping Angels (shiver down the spine), why not start at the beginning? Follow with “The Time of Angels;” “Flesh and Stone;” “The God Complex;” and “The Angels Take Manhattan.”
Time for a visual palette cleanser. Fifty-one years later, and it’s still a lovely, cozy teddy bear of a Halloween special. And, depending on how fast you’ve gone through this list, maybe it’s time for a ghastly and ghoulish gnashing of lunchtime victuals? Follow with Arthur and the Haunted Treehouse.
- “Poltergeist” – Lights Out!– October 20, 1942
Are you done with your palette cleansing? Oh good. Because this one’s creepy. Light’s Out! is another golden age radio star that ran from 1934 through 1947. If you think I’ve lobbed too many scary softballs at you – and you and your pre-teen are prepared to take it up a notch – listen to “Valse Triste” – Lights Out! – December 29, 1942. I would advise the grown-up in question to listen to it first. It’s definitely one of the creepiest things on this list.
- “Mirror Image” – Twilight Zone – 1960
If your child has not seen a single episode of The Twilight Zone, well, clearly we need to rectify this oversight at once! (Finger waggle. Shame, shame.) I would say this is really “chooser’s choice.” Do you have a favorite? Watch it. Want to start at the beginning? That’s cool, too. (“Where is Everybody?” is a great episode.) The Twilight Zone works on so many levels. It’s just plain fun – and you can leave it at that. Or, you can use it as an educational tool. The episode I’m recommending? I would place it in the “fun/spooky” category. But if you’re looking for the latter, try “Eye of the Beholder” or “The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street”
- Miriam | Truman Capote
Let’s return to the classics and have the kids get their read on. Maybe even follow with a little Q&A because what is Halloween without reading assignments and discussion questions? For example, let’s start with: “Is the little girl really there?” (That should keep them interested.) Follow with Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.
- “Things that Go Nyuk in the Night: Halloween with the Three Stooges” – The Three Stooges
Okay, brain break! Another palette cleanser before evening sets in. Perhaps, it’s time to order pizza or make some dinner? If so, the Stooges are perfect background to a kitchen hustle. Here, I’m not even going to choose an episode. The Three Stooges website did a wonderful job of compiling all Halloween-related Stooge episodes. Pick one. Or two.
- Arsenic and Old Lace – 1944
Very much a dark comedy. With performances by Peter Lorre and Raymond Massey, “creepy” is definitely covered. And Cary Grant’s increasingly (and hilariously) frantic performance as his family devolves before his very eyes is pretty funny. After a day spent in the upside-down world of spooky reading, viewing, and listening, this should give no one nightmares.