Jim Heimann's 'Halloween: Vintage Holiday Graphics' (2005) offers one of the best collections of Olde Halloween images yet available. Drawing material from postcards, paper decorations, magazines, advertisements, package labels, private period photographs, sheet music, masks, costumes, party favors, and other varied sources, the book offers almost two hundred pages of visionary iconography, that, for many, will definitely represent the very nature of the holiday itself.
Among the more archetypal images: a vegetable man, three devils, and a caped witch enjoy a circular dance beneath an enormous watchful owl perched on a half moon; an androgynous child and black cat peering into a jack o' lantern as a transparent, green-skinned witch breezes by unseen overhead; and, appearing like the eternal outsider, a red-skirted witch gazes unnoticed through a window at a child's party, while a black cat, an owl, and an anthropomorphic moon observe her in turn.
Traditional images of ghosts, scarecrows, bats, fairies, pumpkins, and human tricksters in colors of orange, black, white, and green predominate, though some of the images were clearly culled from the Fifties and Sixties, and thus the occasional helmeted spaceman or antenned robot appears. There is a photograph of an adult blandly costumed as John F. Kennedy, another of a boy outlandishly dressed as television dolphin star Flipper, and, from an earlier era, bizarrely costumed manifestations of Mickey and Minnie Mouse courting one another out of doors.
The book's only flaw lies in the thankfully brief and offensively misguided preface essay by Steven Heller, whose questionable credentials for contributing such a piece are nowhere in evidence. "It is hard to image a more paradoxical day of celebration than one where ghouls, warlocks, and zombies freely haunt the populace to their cold heart's content--an entire day dedicated to torment," Heller begins, before immediately and awkwardly backtracking, though he continues to show little understanding of the nature of the holiday.
In essence, Halloween has nothing to do with ghouls or zombies, and certainly nothing to do with "torment." Readers with a broad and reaching knowledge of Halloween may also disagree with Heller's conclusion that "vampires, werewolves, and mummies" are in any way fundamental to the holiday's "liturgy."
Nor, as Heller states, is Halloween essentially about "being scared out of one's wits." Fear was merely the human byproduct incidentally produced by the supernatural agencies believed to freely walk the earth while the veil between worlds was at its weakest each All Hallows' Eve. Even the products of the American commercial haunted house industry, which manifest across the landscape during the fall, are rarely, if ever, frightening. Heller seems to have confused the contemporary vulgar corporate mindset, which panders to the increasing ignorance of the middle classes, with the genuine elements which characterize the holiday's pagan majesty and long traditions.
As his essay completely ignores the period from which virtually all of the included images were taken, 'Halloween: Vintage Holiday Graphics' would have been a better book without Heller's contribution.