My earliest memory of Halloween is really a memory of my first real costume — an old-school, all-plastic jumper-and-mask set that turned me into a quasi-Scooby Doo. I wore it to kindergarten that day, and later that night for trick-or-treating, and I never wanted to take it off (at least until my face got sweaty and the rubber band started hurting my head). The smell of vinyl and cellophane still makes me dreamy-eyed.
Maybe the less said about that the better.
Instead, fast-forward a few years to 2nd grade (maybe 3rd — the memory machine is less precise these days). I’m sitting in the beloved school library; the lights have been turned off so only dim, October afternoon sun is filtering through the curtains. In the shadowed corner a record player is humming a low, churning rhythm out of its single speaker. The librarian, whose name I wish I remembered, slips the needle into the record’s groove and a voice starts reading Edgar Allan Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart.
And the whole world changes.
It’s impossible to over-emphasize how important that brief moment, sitting in a darkened, whimsically decorated library with 20 other kids, was for me. In that flash of time I fell in love — with story-telling and writing and literature and scary things, and with genre and voice-acting and Poe himself. It set me on a pivot, and it’s a direction I find myself gravitating toward to this day.
Since then, that record has been the bar by which all other Tell-Tale Hearts have been measured, whether it be a reading, adaptation or one-man interpretive dance. And so far, nothing has come close to that first growing, desperate feeling of dread, or matched the maddening thump of a heartbeat that started so low you weren’t even aware of it as it got louder and louder, faster and faster, until finally a voice is shouting and you think it could be your own, screaming in terrible triumph and damnation, “HERE! HERE! IT IS THE BEATING OF HIS HIDEOUS HEART!”
Happy Halloween, everybody — and don’t think too hard about what’s under those floorboards.
While falling down a Tell-Tale Heart shaped hole last night, I came across something amazing — an animated adaptation using this very Creepy story! The audio is a little off (for which the poster apologizes), but it’s still a lot of fun and a nice way to cap this whole series off. Enjoy!