Happy Halloween! It's also my anniversary. My wife and I used to do things on our wedding anniversary, including getting married, which is sort of required. On our second anniversary, in 2011, we were in Rome. We took a Catacombs and Crypts tour and our delightful guide wore skeleton earrings. After a romantic dinner, a drunk man in Piazza di Spagna sketched a portrait of us that was terrible. We're not in Rome this year. I don't think anyone is, even the Romans.

Sometime today, children will enjoy a scaled-back, socially distant trick-or-treat experience that they'll later recall fondly to their therapists. COVID-19 has given everyone a rock for Halloween.


Kids are resilient, however. Our son woke up this morning excited for Halloween, even if it'll be very different. According to the Oregon Health Authority, the least risky activities are "doing things online and staying with members of your own household. Moderate risk are pumpkin patches, outdoor haunted forests, and other things like that with social distancing and masks. Health authorities say to avoid trick-or-treating and parties."

If you're stuck in the house this Halloween, it's not so bad. Stuff yourself with your own candy — full-sized Snickers and no Butterfingers — and watch creepy stuff on TV. It's like how I spent Halloween when I was younger. It's all very safe unless you Zoom with Jeffrey Toobin.

I spend most of October rewatching "The Simpsons" Halloween episodes. The 31st installment airs Sunday. Binge a few this evening. My favorite is still 1994's with The Shining parody (1997 is a strong second place).

Danny Elfman composed the theme for “The Simpsons," and it's just not Halloween without his delightfully infectious music. I fell in love with Elfman's Beetlejuice score as soon as I heard the main titles 30 years ago. The one-time Oingo Boingo frontman also provides the moving vocals for Jack Skellington in The Nightmare Before Christmas.

A personal treat with only the best tricks was when I saw the Seattle Symphony perform Elfman's scores from Tim Burton films. The orchestra even crooned “daylight come and me wanna go home" before launching into Beetlejuice. (From what I've read, Catherine O'Hara suggested calypso music for the film’s famous dinner party possession scene, which bolsters my theory that we have her to thank for everything good and decent in the world.) On Halloween 2014, Elfman himself performed songs from The Nightmare Before Christmas at the former Nokia Theater.

Elfman was joined by Catherine O'Hara and Paul Reubens for their rendition of “Kidnap the Sandy Claws," which was on our Christmas playlist until my wife vetoed both it and "The Chipmunk Song."

Pee-Wee's Big Adventure isn't a Halloween film, but Elfman's theme for his disturbing "Clown Dream" is worth a listen today.

My friends at Cafe Nordo in Seattle opened their season last year with the eerie and fun, Violet's Attic: A Grand Ball for Wicked Dolls. Elfman's music welcomed guests as they arrived, and I could think of no better pairing.

Obviously, on this special day, I watch the greatest monster movie every made, Bride of Frankenstein, as should you. German-born composer Franz Waxman wasn't yet 29 when he produced the brilliant, operatic score. Frankenstein's monster, his not-quite Bride, and the sinister Dr. Pretorius each have their own leitmotifs — recurring musical theme — that combine in the climatic creation scene, which I shall leave you to enjoy.

It's Halloween in the age of COVID-19, but we still have Danny Elfman and the Bride of Frankenstein. Let's hope our own less fun monster movie will end next Tuesday, and next year, we'll leave our haunted houses again.

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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He's on the board of the Portland Playhouse theater and writes for the immersive theater Cafe Nordo in Seattle. Tickets are on sale now for his latest Nordo collaboration, "Curiouser and Curiouser," an adaptation of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Glass." It promises to feel like an actual evening with SER (for good or for ill).

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