SF State experts' top picks for Halloween 2015

Jack-o-lanterns, bats, spider webs and barren trees in a Halloween landscape

Want to have the best fright night ever? SF State experts recommend Halloween 101, a crash course in all things creepy.

Your costume is ready, the pumpkins are carved and your candy corn stash is secure. If you're still looking for ways to invoke the Halloween spirit(s), consult this Halloween 101 syllabus, compiled by experts at San Francisco State University, as a ghoulish guide to jumpstart your holiday.

  1. Light some candles — read by flashlight

    Associate Professor of Literature Sara Hackenberg polled students in her "Vampire Tradition" class about the scariest stories they'd read this semester. One of their top picks?

    "The Oval Portrait" by Edgar Allan Poe (1850 edition)

    Plotline: An injured man seeks refuge in a Gothic mansion and is captivated by the mysterious portrait of a young woman.

    Hackenberg: "Only two pages long, it's short, eerie and you don’t really know what happened. It's unsettling in its inconclusive ending. A chiller."

  2. Pop some corn, dim the lights, download a cult horror film 

    What makes a movie scary? SF State Professor of Cinema Aaron Kerner, who teaches a course called "The Slasher Genre," says a "film that conceals, that doesn't disclose things immediately. In 'Alien,' the creature lurks in the shadows. Its form is not fully understood." 

    For Halloween viewing, Kerner recommends:

    "The Hunger," directed by Tony Scott (1982) 

    Plotline: The quest for immortality drives this lusty, sanguinary classic as a beautiful scientist searching for an anti-aging formula meets a drop-dead-gorgeous vampire and her husband who have their own agenda.

    Kerner: "David Bowie as an aging vampire ... what else is there to say?"

  3. Say so long to the "Monster Mash"  expand your musical repertoire

    Faculty pianists Victoria Neve, professor of music, and Inara Morgenstern, lecturer and accompanist, have been performing the "Scary Concert" the Friday before Halloween at SF State for more than 25 years.

    Neve begins the program with Henry Cowell's "The Banshee" and George Crumb's "Ghost Nocturne: for the Druids at Stonehenge." Both pieces are played, for the most part, inside the piano on the strings, an effect that has been said to sound like wailing spirits. Haunting. 

    Neve: "We usually dress as witches. One year we dressed as angels, and nobody bought it for a minute."

  4. Just say no to asylum-themed haunted houses

    Disability advocates have raised awareness that institutions for the developmentally disabled were horrifying places where abuse and neglect ran rampant. Check out the Paul K. Longmore Institute's Dos and Don'ts for a Freaky (but Disability Positive) Halloween written by Emily Beitiks, the Institute's associate director, to do your part in ensuring that disability justice prevails.

    Beitiks: "Don't wear costumes that appropriate the history of people of color, either."