Whether we like it or not, Halloween is about death. (To be more specific, it’s that day we used to believe the dead could walk among us.) Which means it’s about fear. It’s about facing these things we spend the other 364 days of the year trying to avoid.
This weekend, we’ll face them head on.
- Khoury’s Halloween Party | www.khourysfinewine.com | 9915 S Eastern Ave #110, Las Vegas, NV 89183
- Trilogy of Terror | www.freaklingbros.com | 4245 S Grand Canyon Dr, Las Vegas, NV 89147
- Ghost Towns | Nevada
- Death Valley | www.nps.gov/deva
Halloween’s all about ghosts and witches and spiders and scary stuff. Which is awesome. It’s the only holiday that naturally provokes a negative emotion. Christmas… positive. Valentine’s Day… positive. Fourth of July… positive. Way to be a black sheep, Halloween. Way to stand out from the crowd.
But no matter how much we acknowledge or recognize the true nature of this holiday, we all kid ourselves at least a little, don’t we? We make light of it. Because after all, death scares the shit out of us. And all those other little emotions that hang around this holiday? Fear… Creepiness… Anxiousness… we don’t care much for those either.
So we lie to ourselves. We turn everything on its head.
Scary spiders become fun, blow-up yard decorations.
Dressing up to scare away the dead? We make that about our children dressing up like Spider-Man.
Jack-o’-lanterns, originally carved to ward off evil spirits walking among us, and commonly associated with the Headless Horseman from Sleepy Hollow? We turn that into fun pumpkin-carving contests. So fun!
We’ll participate in traditions long after we’ve stripped them of their meaning. They become a vestige of their former selves. Just something to do now.
Here in Vegas, we lighten up Halloween by making it an excuse to party. This weekend, the nightclubs on the strip will see the second or third busiest weekend of the year (and sexiest, by far).
Meanwhile, every Halloween, Khoury’s carves their pumpkins out and puts beer in them.
You may try to avoid being scared by demons, but you have to accept that some of you have just replaced them with another kind of scary creature.
I call them Invisible Demons. We’ve updated our mythology to be in alignment with present day sentiments.
We’ve invented new, more believable, more interesting demons to keep us up at night, to fear, and to guide our behavior. And just the same as these demons’ ancestors, it tends to be hard to prove they’re not real.
Lemme give you some examples.
- GMO crops. Um, all crops are GMO crops. They’re not evil. There’s thousands of studies done all over the world on the impact of GMO foods, and not one – NOT ONE – has presented definitive evidence that a GMO crop is bad for you. If you are trying to avoid GMO crops, you have invisible demons.
- Pasteurized milk. People are actually going back to raw milk… and dying from it. Please don’t do this.
- Pharmaceutical drugs & companies. We’ve made these companies out to be the devil, and the medicines they produce out to be the demons that do their bidding. The only problem is… that doesn’t make any fucking sense. Do these companies want to make money, and thus they have marketing departments and political lobbyists? Yes. Maybe we should address that. But at the end of the day, so much of what they churn out is AMAZING for society. So maybe shelf your invisible demon, and try judging pharmaceutical drugs on a case by case basis please.
- The laziness of those on entitlement programs. The myth is that everyone on entitlement programs is lazy. I love it, because there’s no study out there that’s like, “Hey, are you lazy? 1-10. We’re trying to figure out if you’re all just lazy.” This invisible demon feeds on the fact that some people are lazy, and that laziness is hard to define.
I could go on, but I think you get the point. When you find something that you hate or fear for basically no reason, ask yourself if it’s an invisible demon. If it is, drop it like a bad habit. Abolish your invisible demons.
Trilogy of Terror (Haunted House)
I would be remiss if I didn’t go to a haunted house, so after beer-from-pumpkins, we went to a haunted house called Trilogy of Terror. That’s ‘trilogy’ as in there are three houses, and ‘terror’, insert George W. Bush or Donald Trump joke here.
Now, I’m not super into haunted houses or anything. I don’t think I’ve been in one since high school. But this one had hype. People are talking about this one.
We chose Gates of Hell, the one show at Trilogy of Terror that they boast is R-rated. We had to sign a ridiculously awesome waiver. Here, I took a picture for you (below). It was $15, where the other two were $14. That’s right; $1 more scarier.
They delivered. I won’t go into the details cuz I wouldn’t wanna ruin it for you. But yeah, it had production value.
Of course, it’s Vegas, so there was a VIP line for $10, and the douches brought their hoes for trashy date night. It never stops amazing me how many beautiful people there are in this city. Our beautiful people ratio is off the charts.
I gotta admit, it was hard for me to suspend my skepticism. I mean, maybe my skepticism is just a coping device for fear, just the way screaming and running away seemed to be a coping device for so many girls we saw at this thing. But shit, it was in the Sears parking lot. Their entrance was a souvenir photo opportunity. There was a fucking ice cream truck inside their grounds. How could we possibly be entering the Gates of Hell? “Welcome Gates of Hell, who wants ice cream?!” It seems unlikely Satan would be so focused on capitalism. Or maybe not? What do I know.
Anyway, I guess it’s only scary if you want it to be, and that’s kinda the point. It is, like other things, as you make it. If you let your mind.
Is It Really Insanity We Fear?
Have you ever watched a really scary movie at home alone at night, and then walked around your house afterwards thinking about what it might be like to look in the mirror and see a scary person behind you with a knife or something?
Maybe, secretly, we all know deep down that the idea of spirits and ghosts and demons is silly. That our sane, rational version of the world doesn’t allow them to exist. But what IS possible is our mind’s ability to take us to a version of the world where they do exist. It IS possible for us to go insane. It happens all the time.
Maybe when we’re exposing ourselves to this shit, it’s not to tempt demons or even our own fear. It’s to tempt insanity, the one thing among them that is guaranteed possible.
A weekend about death wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the only national park with ‘Death’ in its name.
A place so flat and low, it’s 300 feet below sea level. A place that breaths death. A vast expanse of nothing. Another planet.
Even the road into Death Valley looks like death.
I may not believe in the devil, but I believe in playing devil’s advocate. And so that’s what I’m gonna do on death.
(Oh, and by the way, I resent that expression. Like it’s a bad thing to use the Socratic Method to expose the other side of an issue or topic. Like, it’s so bad that we compare it to the worst guy we know, Satan. Fuck that. I’m calling it Skeptic’s Advocate for now on.)
I have digressed.
Why Are We Afraid of Death, Anyway?
Stephen Cave says that our knowledge and comprehension of death is “the price we pay for being so damn clever.”
Why are we afraid of death? Because it’s sad? Why is death depressing?
Why is death about “losing” a loved one? That’s selfish. They’re the one that doesn’t get to live anymore, or go to their favorite restaurant anymore, or have great conversation, or lose a button, or get caught in the rain, or have sex, or have children, or burn toast, or make someone laugh, or break the tip of a pencil, or love, or breath, or dream anymore.
But ironically, they don’t know that. They’re dead. So there’s nowhere for the sadness. An emotion without a home is no emotion at all.
I think the real reason we’re sad when someone dies (other than the selfish one) is because it reminds us that we’re all gonna die, including us. And this is what we’re afraid of – our own death.
But take it a step forward. Maybe death is the only reason we have fear. That makes death the mother of fear. So maybe we should never expect to overcome the fear of death. Maybe we should instead just try to embrace them both?
And just like our real mother’s maybe we should motivate ourselves to have a conversation with death on a regular basis.
But WHY are we so afraid of death? Is it really because we want the life experience to continue forever and ever? We get to live, and eat at our favorite restaurant, and burn toast, and all that. How many times, for how many years, could we really wanna do that shit? Forever?
Look at these plants out here in Death Valley. Perpetually near the end, struggling for their own life. It made me realize that humans aren’t the only ones to fight to the very last drop. We would fight to infinity if we could. We didn’t invent this idea. It lives in all of us; in all life.
Humans bucked some instinctual trends before. And we may yet learn to live forever. But when we do, we might wanna ask ourselves: should we?
So why is death sad?
How about this? Could it be possible that it’s not our experiencing self, but our remembering self that’s so afraid? Let’s face it – it’s much more important to us that we an look back on those vacation photos than it is that we experience the vacation itself. And we know that death not only means the death of experience, but more importantly, the death of remembering. That if we lived and died, well, at least the experience was there. That can never be taken away. But if we die, ALL the memories are wiped out, and there will be no more remembering. It will be as if it were all for nothing!
Can We Live Forever?
Psychologists call it a bias. A systematic way we get things wrong. We don’t want it all to end, so we let ourselves believe ANY story that comes our way. Indeed, our own mortality might be the number one and number two reason for the existence of all world religions. Heaven is the biggest bias of all.
The desire for legacy is also a residual of this bias. It’s another way to live forever. In this sense, we owe so much of the advancement of humanity and society to fact that we fear death. Maybe all of it. Death gave us reason to live on through our achievements we made when we were alive. Death brought us fire and sky scrapers and taxes and nachos.
I don’t want to live on in the hearts of my countrymen. I want to live on in my apartment.
Be skeptical of what you think your legacy will be. You’re probably biased.
Out here in the desert, where everything is on a grander scale, you’re reminded how little your death would matter to the world. The world would just go on. And maybe that’s sadder.
Most of us want to live forever. It’s plan A on the death solution list.
Every culture has searched for a way to pull this off. Magic elixirs. Fountains of youth. And today, science.
I’m definitely guilty of this. I definitely want to live forever. But since the alternatives seem so silly, I have to put my death stock elsewhere.
I’m banking on science getting me there. I’m probably gonna upload my memories and personality to the cloud, or port my brain over to a new body, or some science-y shit like that.
It’s no different than believing in that other crazy shit; it’s just more believable given what we know today. That’s my plan A.
Another Way to Think About Afterlife
But if we don’t get plan A, we’re banking on plan B. An afterlife.
Why? Because it’s not actually death we’re afraid of. We’re afraid of The Nothing.
Now, heaven and hell are a side show. C’mon, dig deep down inside yourself. You have to admit it’s all a bit silly, and believing it is even more so.
That said, for those out there willing to be honest with themselves, but still looking for plan B, maybe there is one possibility for an afterlife.
For as much as 10 minutes after your heart stops, your brain keeps going. As long as it has oxygen, it thinks. And if it knows you’re dead, it probably thinks a lot about that.
This could totally explain when people have near-death experiences. In those few minutes where they know they’re dead but they can still think, they envision whatever malarky they’ve dreamt up or been taught by their religion to believe happens after death. Walking toward bright lights and all that.
If they wake up, they remember thinking all this funny shit, and they tell people, and get interviewed on the History Channel, and it’s as real as Russia is cold.
But don’t get sad yet. You know how when you dream this amazing dream that seems to last for hours or days, you ride a horse to the queen’s castle and save the villagers from the ogre, or you’re in your grandma’s basement, but it’s somehow not your grandma’s basement, or whatever the fuck you dream, and you wake up …and it’s only been 20 minutes?
Your brain works on its own schedule. It doesn’t care much about the arbitrary, consistent nature of time and the way we perceive it in our conscious universe. So… those few minutes when your brain realizes your body is dead? You could, in theory, make those moments last forever.
There, immortality. Don’t you feel better now?
Another Way to Look at Life & Death
Maybe don’t worry about immortality and legacy so goddamn much. You don’t, after all, experience death. Once death comes, you’re no longer here! In that sense, your life has no death. In that sense, we already do live forever.
Or maybe don’t worry about what happens after your death any more than you worry about that which came before your birth. Maybe just worry about the Now. Worry about your experiencing self, not your remembering self. About writing your story. And making it a good one.
Maybe be afraid of death, but not of dying. Think and talk about how you wanna die. Embrace this truth. And most importantly, let death be your motivation for an amazing life.
The Make The Weekend 2016 project is almost over, so its death is near. But I’m not mourning it or fearing its end. I’m appreciating what it is, and eventually, everything it was.
Rhyolite (Ghost Town)
Mining has always been a major industry in Nevada – still is. But the thing about mines is, when the mine runs out, you’re done.
The result? Nevada is loaded with a patchwork of dozens of old abandoned mining towns. We’re sort of the unofficial capital of Ghost Towns, USA.
Some of these towns knew they would come and go with the mine. Others weren’t the wiser. They built fantastic businesses and train stations and sidewalks and plumbing…
All of it eventually suffering the same fate as we all will, eventually. And becoming this. A spectacle. A metaphor for mortality.
In either case, there’s nothing more creepy and eerie than these places.
Houses. Streets. Banks. All void of life. Like everyone picked up and moved at the same time. Like what Earth would look like after a nuclear apocalypse.
Amargosa Springs (Ghost Town)
Whole towns of people lived and worked and loved in these dead places. So many stories that will never get told.
And yet, there are some stories that do get told. People died here, too, and sometimes more tragic than others. It’s is the perfect recipe for ghost stories, the bitter-sweet thing that helps these towns earn their badge.
Fuck haunted houses in Sears parking lots; these towns are the real deal. And it’s Halloween and it’s Make The Weekend, so after my Haunted House™ “experience” in a Sears parking lot, I was determined for fear.
I did some research and found this little ghost town called Amargosa Springs. Supposedly back in the 1920’s, a traveler went crazy here, and walked room-to-room of his hotel stabbing and killing six people in their rooms, including his own wife.
The Inn closed soon after, but the building remains.
This is the Amargosa Springs Inn.
Since then, people say they have seen the ghost of this guy walking the halls with a knife in his hand, a slight aura beaming from his body; that they hear people screaming from their rooms.
Some people say they’ve seen the ghost of the wife in her room, room 124. She was tied down, just as her husband left her before his killing spree. Waiting for his return. Frozen forever in fear of what’s to come.
So of course, I had to go in.
I have to admit, I was scared. I almost didn’t do it.
There’s creepy feeling as you walk through the halls. Like you can feel their presence.
I told myself I have to look inside room 124, then I can leave. Of course, room 124 isn’t exactly right inside the door, dammit.
I approach the door, which is slightly opened. I peer in, nudge the door a little. I swear, tied to the radiator, I could see her. Sort of there and not there. I can’t explain it. But the image was so vivid. Blonde frazzled hair. White dress. This look of fear. My heart stopped.
Just then, I felt a hand on my shoulder. I flipped around, and nothing behind me. Holy fuck, I bolted outa there and never looked back.
Sorry I didn’t pictures of the inside. You have to understand I was seriously freaked out. I kinda went into shock a little I think.
I suppose I’m gonna have to do some rethinking about my theories on death and spirituality.
Happy Halloween, everyone!
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