The shadows gather around us once again. Take our hands and wander with us into the darkness where the monsters gather. We’re bringing you 31 horror reviews in October. Whatever you do, don’t let go of our hands lest you find out what truly goes bump in the night.

Over 50 years ago one of the greatest Halloween TV specials aired and almost immediately found a place in the hearts of children and grown-ups alike. Much like the comic strip source material, this show was melancholy and a little cynical but also demonstrated the persistence of faith and human kindness. <It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown! finally arives to the thirteenth installment of The Witching Hour.

Like many of the Peanuts animated specials, this particular cartoon was inspired by a recurring theme in the comic strip. Linus, generally considered to be the intellectual of that group of children believes in an entity known as the Great Pumpkin. Linus goes on to state that children write letters to the Great Pumpkin and tell it what they want for Halloween. On that night it will rise from a pumpkin patch with a huge sack of toys for the children. Here is the very first comic strip that mentions the Great Pumpkin:

Linus has confused Christmas symbolism with Halloween. In this cartoon he plans to spend his Halloween night in a local pumpkin patch to await this holiday icon despite the skepticism of his friend, Charlie Brown and a threat of violence from his sister, Lucy. While most of the neighborhood children are trick-or-treating, they stop by the pumpkin patch to ridicule Linus. Torn between staying with the group and getting candy or her affection for Linus, Sally decides to stay the night in the pumpkin patch with Linus and wait for the Great Pumpkin.

There is a secondary story at work. While the kids are trick-or-treating, Charlie Brown repeatedly receives nothing but rocks in his goodies bag. He feels further isolated from the community until he realizes he has been invited to a Halloween party from the snobbiest girl in town, Violet. Lucy believes the invitation is a mistake, Charlie Brown revels in feeling accepted.

I won’t spoil the ending of the episode for you but the emotional response from viewers was astounding. Charles Schulz (the creator of the Peanuts strip) reported that for years after the first airing he would receive candy sent by children. These kids explained how bad they felt for Charlie Brown who didn’t get any candy so they were sharing some of theirs.

Looking back on this cartoon as an adult, I see underlying philosophical questions that I missed when I was a child. Does Linus and his belief in the Great Pumpkin act as a metaphor for faith and religion? Or does it serve as a message to stand firm for your beliefs even if others look down on you for it? Or maybe it is merely an example of human gullibility.

Regardless of how you may interpret the show’s message, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!” is a Halloween classic that you can (and should) watch with your entire family. I highly recommend it.

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