I love fall. The colors of the leaves, hot chocolate (I resist the Pumpkin Spice temptations), warm sweaters, and of course, Halloween, the best holiday of the year. Sure, Christmas and Thanksgiving and Easter are great because we spend time with families, and I’m sure that other would argue novelty holidays like Valentines or St. Patrick’s Day deserve recognition. But I’ll pick Halloween every time. Not just because I love all the detailed costumes, the mountains of chocolate, the creepily decorated haunted houses, or the marathons of blood-soaked horror movies, but because I love the tradition of Halloween, and the superstitions that come with it.
Black cats, the story of Jack for Jack-O’-Lanterns, Samhain, crossroads, bats, you name it, there’s a superstition or tradition for it. All of it is inspiration gold. Especially since writers like me love having our characters come across those superstitions, and making them go horribly, fantastically wrong.
I used superstitions and bad omens in two of my Mocha Memoirs short stories. In Call From The Grave, I worked with the belief that if you raised an aggressive spirit from the dead, the spirit would turn on the person/people who tried to control it. And you better believe that it did. In Hotel Hell, my character Milo learned the hard way that you should never, ever, ever enter a creepy looking hotel in the middle of the night, when you are positive it has never been there before.
Recently, I finished the basic plot line for my upcoming full length novel, Resurrection Roulette. A good portion of the novel focuses on the main character being a gambler, and gamblers are among the most superstitious people in the world. Counting your money as you gamble, singing or whistling, crossing your legs, even fifty dollar bills are considered to be unlucky. Seriously.
What I find most interesting about superstitions, and Halloween superstitions in particular, is that everyone knows how ridiculous they can be. Walking around a ghost nine times to make it disappear? Yeah, because people are going to be comfortable around a ghost long enough to do that. Hearing a sigh on the wind that signals you’ll die within a year? How do you tell a sigh from the wind simply passing through trees, and what kind of sigh are we talking about? Turning your clothes inside out to meet a witch? I don’t even think I need to comment on that. But the ideas that writers can draw from them are unlimited. Why walk around a ghost nine times? Maybe this ghost is contained in a ceremonial circle and you need to get information from it, but to do so you must walk a full circle around it to keep it contained before finishing the ninth pass and returning it to rest. Hearing a sigh on the wind as a sign that your death is on the way? That’s the perfect chance for a demon with a grudge to mess with the mind of a character. Turning your clothes inside out upon greeting a witch? Seems pretty standard to me if the witch wants to make sure that the person meeting them doesn’t have any herbs or hex bags or charm or other weapons that could do them harm.
Superstitions are silly. but, there’s no denying that they’re cemented into our society, traditions carried on through generations even if the meanings were lost. And I know plenty of writers who can create a story from a superstition, and give us a reason to be scared of it again.
Amy Braun is a Canadian urban fantasy and horror author. Her work revolves around monsters, magic, mythology, and mayhem. She started writing in her early teens, and never stopped. She loves building unique worlds filled with fun characters and intense action. She has been featured on various author blogs and publishing websites, is an active member of the Writing GIAM community, and is the recipient of April Moon Books Editor Award for “author voice, world-building and general bad-assery.” When she isn’t writing, she’s reading, watching movies, taking photos, gaming, and struggling with chocoholism and ice cream addiction.
Amy’s current work includes various short stories such as Hotel Hell, Call From The Grave, the full length novels Cursed: Demon’s Daughter and Path of the Horseman, and the novella Needfire. She has short stories in various anthologies such as Survivalism in The Dead Walk: Volume 2, Dismantle in The Steam Chronicles, Lost Sky in Avast, Ye Airships!, Secret Suicide in That Hoodoo, Voodoo, That You Do, Bring Back The Hound in Stomping Grounds, Charlatan Charade in Lost in the Witching Hour, and her award winning short Dark Intentions And Blood in AMOK! Amy can be found online through her frequently updated blog, Literary Braun (literarybraun.blogspot.ca), as well as on Twitter (@amybraunauthor) and Facebook (facebook.com/amybraunauthor).