It’s a grave understatement to say there’s a ghost in the machine; there are also vampires, jack-o’-lanterns, and really cool ghouls — all frolicking on monitors worldwide in the haunt-up to All Hallows’ Eve. The Web may be our youngest medium, but it celebrates the centuries-old holiday of death with frightful enthusiasm. One site alone — The Dark Side of the Net (www.gothic.net/darkside) — indexes more than 500 Halloween-oriented links.
The cyberworld has adopted the children’s candy-fest of yesteryear as a serious adult pastime: Although scads of kiddie sites feature Halloween crafts and party ideas (along with trick-or-treating safety advice), they look pretty dull beside the competition. Jaded Net kids will quickly realize that real entertainment can be found at ”gross-out” sites like Night Gallery (www. netbanner.com/nightgallery/), which showcases Java-animated spooks and skeletons.
A sizable percentage of the Halloween pages are out to scare up a buck or two from all the fright and fun. Catalogs abound, pitching everything from costumes to pumpkin-carving kits; some offerings, like the latex fright masks at The Monster Makers Online (www.monstermakers.com), even merit a visit. Still, not everybody is pushing product, and hundreds of personal Halloween pages serve up ghost stories, folklore, and ”spooky” sound files for the sheer love of it. Such sites apparently obtain their dripping orange horror fonts from a downloadable selection at The Ultimate Halloween Page (members.aol.com/msttiger/ home/hllwn1.htm), an excellent example of how the medium has digested the holiday technologically.
Also numerous, and relevant, are sites for the gothic and pagan communities. Goths — the black-lipstick set who live the Halloween lifestyle year-round — mostly fill their server space with ”dark” music and fashions but often include links to creepy cemetery and vampire pages. The morbidly inclined will find pale bliss at http://www.Gothic.net.
Meanwhile, Wiccans and other earth worshipers work the holiday from another angle. These modern witches (not the pointy-hat broomstick jockeys) defend Halloween as an earnest, legitimate religious festival. Sites like those on the Arachne’s Web pagan/Wiccan list (www. cascade.net/arachne.html) are well-intentioned, but their New Age style doesn’t cackle.
So here’s a message for all revelers: Trick or treat, or you just might find a cybercurse on your hard drive.