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  Wednesday  October 30  2002    02: 09 AM


Primeval terror (since 1929)
You think Halloween has pagan roots? Guess again. Two new histories of America's second favorite holiday reveal the truth.

Of all today's holidays, Halloween seems like the most primeval. Its bats, witches, spooks, skeletons and monsters surely indicate roots reaching back before the dawn of science and Christianity; the whiff of prehistoric campfires clings to its sable robes. Well, guess again.

Halloween has been creeping up on Christmas to become the second biggest annual bonanza for U.S. retailers, a Grim Reaper that harvests $6.8 billion per year in exchange for candy, costumes, cards and party supplies. That success sets it up for the kind of debunking that Christmas has endured recently, as historians have shown that what we think of as time- honored Yuletide traditions are actually only about 100 years old. Likewise, as two new books document, the seemingly ancient customs of Halloween turn out to be recent embellishments to a holiday that used to be a pretty low-key affair. And forget those Transylvanian villagers and superstitious medieval peasants -- Halloween is as American as the Fourth of July.

CEO Halloween Masks

his Halloween, Dracula and Frankenstein's monster seem positively cuddly. To inspire some real fear, try dressing up as one of these current and former chief executives.

Kenneth Lay, Former Enron CEO
During the late 1990s, Enron (otc: ENRNQ - news - people ) was synonymous with the new economy and turned itself into an energy- and electricity-trading powerhouse. But it turns out that the company's growth was largely gas and hot air. Beginning in October 2001, it was revealed that Enron used off-the-books partnerships to boost profits and hide debt. A host of other shady dealings, including accusations that Enron bribed foreign governments and manipulated the power market, emerged as well. Enron is now bankrupt--and former CEO Lay is facing dozens of civil suits and possible criminal charges down the road. Boo!