Opinion: Simon Clare, @Horsham_Skeptic

I have always enjoyed dressing up in fancy dress and drenching myself in fake blood at every opportunity. Halloween has therefore been a highlight of my year for as long as I can remember.

Approaching the end of October always makes me think of the time several years ago when I played drums for Auberon Phoenix and the Dirtbox Fiddlers in the final of the Horsham Battle of the Bands. The event fell on Halloween, so as well as donning my usual dress and tiara I splashed on some very realistic fake blood. Enjoying a consolatory pint in the Stout House after the show, a concerned man kindly asked if I was all right and I felt rather guilty for having worried him.

I felt a similar sense that I was unnecessarily terrifying strangers last weekend when I stood in Brighton city centre and attempted some street preaching in the name of atheism. I would not have been surprised if one of my friends had intervened after seeing me starting to speak enthusiastically about stars, atoms and life at nobody in particular.

Thankfully my friends allowed me to finish and the story was picked up by BBC Sussex, who broadcast part of my speech on its breakfast show. My little stunt, which understandably few people paid attention to at the time, was suddenly being broadcast to thousands.

Responses to this escapade were mixed, but I was just pleased I had gone through with it. I have had many bright ideas that have never quite materialised, so to have actually gone through with this one feels good. I can’t really describe how nervous I was. Unusually for me, I really don’t mind what people have to say about it now. I expected the full range of responses and that is exactly what I got.

Now that the genuinely terrifying stuff is over, I can look forward to the make-believe frights of Halloween again.

To supplement the traditional festive delights, I’m hosting a special Skeptics in the Pub night at The Tanners Arms on Thursday, November 1. We are having a visitation from Hayley Stevens, a skeptical paranormal investigator. She’ll be talking about her experiences as a ghost hunter and demonstrating some of the gadgets used by ‘real’ paranormal investigators. Everyone is welcome, including all the ghosts who are reading this.

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