Costumes, Horses and Alcohol: An Ode to Halloween


Zoe Manzanetti

Before I even decided to come to UCSB, I knew that Halloween was an almost unearthly event in Isla Vista: thousands of people roaming the street, a large majority barely clothed, police on horses and an abundance of alcohol.

During the first weeks of my freshman year, I remember getting lectured at by my RA about all of the consequences and regulations of Halloween: always use the buddy system, don’t take drinks from strangers, always take your ACCESS card, etc. But looking back on how Halloween has changed just in the past three years, I can only imagine the RAs now implanting microchips into the freshies’ arms.
My freshman and sophomore years’ Halloween fit the “Isla Vista” stereotype: there were thousands of people drunkenly dancing their way along DP, and police officers on their horses slowly hooved their ways against the stream of people. However, after an influx of people my sophomore year at Halloween, the tear-gassed Deltopia and the shooting later that year, the holiday is no longer the romanticized Isla Vistan Halloween. It has been transformed.

The most frequently asked question of the night is no longer, “Have you seen Chancellor and Mrs. Yang?” but instead “Where’s the Del Playa?” The once intimidating but unobtrusive horses now seem to have been born and bred to the service of the Dark Lord in Mordor. And the buckets of alcohol are locked behind closed doors in fear of general possession theft, assault and undercover cops.

What was once a whimsical, generally harmless weekend has now turned into a contrived, controlled and constricting three weeks. Three years ago it was a lively event, with music from every house on every street. Now, there is a sobering noise ordinance that silences the streets and erases the soundtrack of Halloween. There were little to no campus events on Halloween because the hosts knew that there would not be many attendees. Now, there are dozens of events and a massive concert that gets put on by AS in the Thunderdome — not because AS wants to do something nice for the students, but because they know they can prevent at least three hours of partying with a popular-musical-artist-distraction.

Now, we join the thousands of other universities across the nation that have simple Halloween parties within their homes, and with only able-to-be-named friends. Yet, I have to admit, this doesn’t seem too out of line. Unfortunately, through the series of events that have occurred over the years, while the new Halloween is almost a militaristic lockdown, it almost seems justified; the holiday did seem to be spinning out of control, even without considering the number of alcohol poisonings, injuries and deaths that have resulted from it.

The “Isla Vista Halloween” became so popular and iconic that people come from other cities and towns to experience it, and the influx practically doubles the population of Isla Vista in a mere number of hours. They come with this fantasy that Halloween in Isla Vista somehow means acting without regard for the consequences. Somehow, people have developed the idea that (probably intoxicated) people in costumes in the street gives everyone immunity from the real dangers that come with a celebration of this magnitude.

But the fact that people seem to have forgotten is that Isla Vista isn’t some alternate universe where massive hordes of people, alcohol and other drugs don’t come with serious risks, risks that our community has experienced which resulted in this transformed version of Halloween.

I just hope that one day the Isla Vistan Halloween will come back to remain: the Med Tents will remain in storage, the hundreds of police officers will remain in their respective cities, the hundreds of out-of-town students will remain jealous about our Halloween and its exclusivity, the fears and dangers of reckless behavior will remain in peoples’ minds and, finally, Gauchos will remain barely dressed, intoxicated and safe for years to come.