As a previously spooky goth kid who grew up into an executive goth adult, Halloween is one of my favourite times of the year. I love any excuse to dress up old school, though my day to day attire can be on the casual gothic side anyway. This look has mixed results, often leading to me being seen as spooky all the time so no friends have Halloween specific memories associated with me. There are worse things for a horror writer to hear, to be fair.
My best Halloween was in Glasgow, a city with more of a pulse than most and which is always in search of a good party. Halloween weekend is full of ghost walks, costume parties and ill-advised drinking games, with competitive student groups going round the city to outdo each other in feats of style, daring and drinking. Or, you can get creepy on the cheap and go to a house party – more booze, less door charges, hopefully, more chance of waking up without an ill-advised piercing or sharpie tattoo.
Being nineteen and still firmly willing to embrace the spooky aesthetic for my costume I was dressed to depress, as a vampire. With bloodied lips, huge khol eyes and my already anaemic skin highlighted enough to glow, I did my black hair in a messy set of curls and set out to meet a bunch of friends at such a party.
It was a mix of Scottish Halloween traditions, like dookin’ apples and ghost stories, and general party fun with a cauldron of punch and music. Thankfully we’d decided to skip the actual candles in the pumpkin and neep lanterns, so fairy lights replacing the risk of unintended arson. The party lasted well into the morning and at around three a.m. one of my friends cried off, drunk as a skunk and wanting to head home. As I lived in the city centre I said I’d walk them, and we set off into the mad night.
Glasgow city centre is well lit, generally busy and easy to make your way through as it’s built on a grid system so most things are on a straight line. This should have made taking said friend home easy, as I knew where they lived and could get there quick. Given that we were an odd pair of vampire and zombie I expected we’d get a few cat-calls on the way but the revelry was good natured and I had no concern about walking back on my own.
However, little Romero Junior decides they want to visit a graveyard because it’s Halloween night and this is the best time to see them. Not that hard in Glasgow, there is both a necropolis and a cathedral with its own graveyard. These are easily reachable by walking about a mile from where we were so, zombie in tow, I start heading for the dead people.
The walk up to Glasgow Cathedral is a nice one; the road is long but in two straight lines and the bars are interspaced with enough shops that you avoid the pavement scrum of the main streets. We stumble along our route as Thriller narrates what they expect we could find in the graveyard. There could be ghosts. Might be ghouls. There certainly could be some witches, maybe even sexy witches, up to nefarious purposes on this hallowed night. I remained firmly of the view that there will probably be graves, gravestones and if we’re unlucky more idiots like us, but it’s harmless fun and we’ll be done soon.
We arrive at Glasgow Cathedral. It is, as usual, imposingly beautiful – a large sandstone creation, stained black from the pollution of the city and well-lit by strategically placed floodlights that show off the spire and stained-glass windows. The graveyard is the old fashioned sort, with a mixture of stood and flat grave markers that you can pick your way around while circling the outside of the building. The necropolis, our very own city of the dead, is accessed over a footbridge that was blessedly locked, so to the cathedral it was.
The graveyard is on a hill, as many things in Glasgow are, and it was an easy enough job to pick our way down the grass and trees to find the gate and explore it. Past midnight, on our own, because we’re making good life choices. The floodlights for the cathedral offer us some idea of where we are going and Rob Zombie is delighted, so mission complete. We can tour the listed dead, wrangle the Walking Dead back to their flat and head home myself to sleep through the day like my costume suggests.
This is all going to plan until, as we round the corner of the far side of the south wing, we start to hear noises. Not the shouts and yells of student groups, or the noise of traffic off the roads, but rustling. Something like the tree branches moving, or someone stepping through the long grass. Re-Animator and I freeze, looking at each other. It’s Scotland in October, it could be the wind. Then it happens again.
In this part of the graveyard there are several large memorial stones, long and low like beds in the ground, sat close to the boundary wall. There’s a bit of room to the back, enough for someone to get in to clean the stone or mow the grass, but not much else, and the rustling is coming from them. Of course Dawn of the Dead feels this is a sign of contact from the other side and lunges towards it with all the enthusiasm of a St Bernard puppy. Following them and sliding along the wet grass we skid our way down to the stones, bumping in to one to bring us to a stop.
The noise was certainly louder there, and as we held our breath creeping forward there was the distinct grind of a stone moving behind the largest monument. Evil Dead grins at me, nodding their enthusiasm at this sign we are about to discover the link to the afterlife. I wondered if we were about to find someone hiding a body and got my phone out lest we need to call for actual help.
Breaching over the edge of the stones we find not just one body but two, engaged in what my mother would call the horizontal tango. I burst out laughing, Resident Evil groans in frustration and the couple look up, shrieking when they see a corpse and a vampire getting their voyeuristic kicks off of this ill-fated graveyard coupling. They fumbled, we ran, and I corralled The Serpent and The Rainbow back home with a vague sense of guilt about ruining someone’s fun. To make up for this I grabbed a bunch of Shock Wave’s Halloween sweets as I tipped them into bed and took their couch for hibernation.