Linus Van Pelt, Charlie Brown’s steadfast best friend, is one of my favorite cartoon characters of all time. He’s a loyal, adventurous, and sweet kid with a heart of gold--the positive beam to Charlie Brown’s sad and disappointed musings. Even when the other kids make fun of him, Linus stands tall, either brushing them off or fiercely defending his beliefs. He’s full of wonder and insists on helping his friends find that same sense of magic and mysticism. Linus believes in his friends as much as he believes in the the benevolent, mysterious, and possibly fake (don’t tell him!) Great Pumpkin.
The Great Pumpkin, according to Linus, rises on Halloween night from the most “sincere” pumpkin patch, flies through the air, and brings treats to all the good children of the world. Linus so firmly believes in the Great Pumpkin that he famously spends an entire Halloween evening waiting in a pumpkin patch, eyes peeled for a great figure to rise from amongst the gourds.
So lemme tell you: Halloween is and will forever be my favorite holiday. When I was in high school, I started listening to a band called the World/Inferno Friendship Society, a spooky, big band-style punk ensemble that sings songs about astral projection, thievery, wine, and spirits (the creepy kind, not the booze). Their music, like Linus, is full of mysticism and magic, and when I was 15 I found myself getting lost in the fantastical worlds they built--punks summoning demons to astral project and steal cars, a circus leaving town, cats that talk or sing.
As any “Infernite” will tell you, their best shows are Hallowmas, their annual Halloween concert. WIFS plays with the lore of the Great Pumpkin, celebrating the “sincerity” of the audience and the mystery surrounding the holiday being itself. Each Hallowmas I’ve been to brings something a little different--candy thrown, huge papier-mache puppets of cats and pumpkins, acrobats onstage--but there has been a common thread throughout each one: their song “Pumpkin Time”, a gospel-esque punk rager told from the point of view of the Great Pumpkin. Whenever WIFS tears into “Pumpkin Time” at the end of their set, the crowd loses it, with everyone dancing and singing with all of the joy and sincerity in the world. “There is a gourd mightier than us all!” the band cheers to a wild crowd, and it’s as if they are leading us in a rite to summon the Great Pumpkin, like we are there in the most sincere pumpkin patch in the world.
I haven’t been to a Hallowmas in several years, but World/Inferno helped me hold on to the magic feeling of Halloween, to the belief that there are mysteries out there we will never be able to explain and that can be a glorious thing, that maybe there is one night of the year when all things spooky come to light. Linus and the Great Pumpkin hold very special places in my heart (I was Linus for Halloween last year, sign and everything), and World/Inferno only solidified them. Linus is honesty, bravery, a childhood of dreaming and loving nothing more but the company of your friends, and believing anything was possible. The Great Pumpkin is adventure, sincerity, enchantment, glamour, and even a little wickedness. Together, they are the dark Mischief Nights I spent with my friends driving around suburban NJ looking for houses to TP and hoping the cops didn’t catch us; they are that feeling you get around Halloween when it’s cold at night, you smell dead leaves, and you feel like you’re stepping across the boundary to the supernatural.
So with this playlist, I hope you join Linus in the pumpkin patch. I hope you are filled with wonderment and mischief. I hope you are sincere. I hope when people ask you when you’ll stop believing in the Great Pumpkin, you’ll respond with Linus’s proud words:
“When you stop believing in that fellow with the red suit and the white beard who goes ‘Ho ho ho’!”