Keeping Hal in Halloween

Over the centuries, the true meaning of Halloween (or, “Hallowe’en,” even) has become obscured, if not entirely forgotten. This year, consider enjoying the parades, festivals, parties, trick-or-treating, pumpkin carving, petty vandalism, bonfires, divination, and apple bobbing dressed as one of the following... and in that manner returning the Hal to Halloween:

Prince Hal (16 September 1386—31 August 1422, probably), later King Henry V of England. Born in a tower above a gatehouse, Henry (called Hal, maybe) wasn’t in line to succeed to the throne. That would change... but not before a sixteen-year-old Henry was almost killed by an arrow that became stuck in his face! An ordinary soldier might have died from such a wound, but Henry had the benefit of the best possible care, says Wikipedia. (“Over the following several days... the royal physician, treated the wound with honey to act as an antiseptic, crafted a special tool to screw into the broken arrow shaft and extract the arrow, and then flushed the wound with alcohol. The operation was successful, but it left Henry with permanent scars that would serve as evidence of his experience in battle.”) If you do dress as Prince Hal, though, do it with the arrow in your face, so people will know who you are.

Hal Holbrook (b. February 17, 1925). No one knows what Harold Rowe “Hal” Holbrook, Jr. really looks like, but that hardly matters. In fact, it makes things easier. Since 1954, Mr. Holbrook has been performing a one-man show as Mark Twain, so that’s what people picture when they think of him: a full head of slightly unkempt white hair, a bushy white mustache, a white suit... and maybe a mortarboard. So dress up like Mark Twain, carry a prop Tony Award, and tell people you’re Hal Holbrook. They won’t argue with you.

HAL 9000 (activated 12 January 1992). 13th-greatest film villain in the American Film Institute’s 100 Years... 100 Heroes and Villains! The primary antagonist in 2001: A Space Odyssey, HAL (Heuristically programmed ALgorithmic computer) is the artificial intelligence that controls the systems of the Discovery One spacecraft and interacts with the ship’s crew. Indeed, in the only interesting part of a movie with a runtime of 162 minutes, HAL kills the majority of that crew, then locks the remaining astronaut out in space! Being a computer, HAL has no distinct physical form, so you might just dress in all black and whenever anyone asks you to pass him a beer or help her toilet paper a house, say—in a creepily calm voice, bland mid-Atlantic accent, and conversational tone—“I'm sorry, [name of person]. I'm afraid I can't do that,” or “[Name of person], this conversation can serve no purpose anymore. Goodbye.” At the end of the night, signal your readiness to retire by singing the 1892 Harry Dacre standard “Daisy Bell (Bicycle Built for Two),” then fall asleep wherever you are.

Hal the Coyote. In March 2006, a wily, 35-pound male coyote (Media darlingus) made his way from Westchester County to Manhattan’s Central Park, where he wandered for at least two days before being captured. The coyote—called “adventurous” and “curious” by the NYC Parks Commissioner—was nicknamed Hal by some of the police officers he eluded, before eventually being shot in the rear with a tranquilizer dart. This costume practically assembles itself.

Hal Jordan (first appearance, October 1959). As any self-respecting nerd can and will tell you, Hal Jordan is the alter ego of the Silver Age “Green Lantern”... the first human shown to join the Green Lantern Corps and a founding member of the Justice League of America... who later became the supervillain “Parallax” and attempted cosmic genocide! And of course, Green Lantern was the protagonist of the absolutely dreadful 2011 eponymous film, with Ryan Reynolds in the lead role. But you won’t be donning a Green Lantern costume—you’ll be Hal Jordan before he meets the dying alien who gives him a powerful ring, etc. Hal Jordan was a test pilot with an Inuit best friend he called “Pieface.” So you can wear a flight suit and call everyone you see this Halloween by racist names! Have fun with it!

Matthew David Brozik wrote this and many other short humor pieces, which have been published in print and online by The New Yorker, Adult Swim, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Grin & Tonic, The Big Jewel, and no one.

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