10 things that scare me: An illustrated Halloween list

Published 10/31/2023 5:30 a.m. EDT

Halloween is a time to celebrate what scares you and hope it leaves you alone the rest of the year in return.

Halloween is a day to celebrate what scares you. Dress it up, give it some candy and hope it leaves you alone for the rest of the year in return.

Today then, here is my list of personal frights.

Angry Republicans

Republicans scare me.

C’mon admit it. Even Republicans are scared of Republicans.

If it wasn’t Republicans calling their representatives in Congress to say they’d better vote the right way on the next House speaker or expect a midnight visit from some MAGA hats, it’s their ideas on governing.

Looking at you, football coach-turned-senator Tommy Tuberville.

The fact that so many are in thrall to Donald Trump, a guy suffering serious anger issues, is the stuff of nightmares.

Angry Republicans with guns

U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene's election campaign features pictures of her with a semi-automatic rifle.

Republicans are more than twice as likely as Democrats to say they own a gun.

I don’t mind conservative values, I applaud them. Wise spending, personal responsibility, faith, family, country. All good.

Sometimes it comes across as mean, but most Republicans I know are not.

In the last few years though, those values have been overcome by anger. So much anger that it gives me a stomach flip.

Add guns into the mix, and the occasional aside about a civil war coming, and it’s downright terrifying.


I'm scared that my navigation app is secretly trying to kill me.

On a recent trip to North Carolina to celebrate the wedding of a niece, me and my wife were enjoying the quiet majesty of a 25 mph drive down Interstate 95 between D.C. and Richmond. I really got to know the driver in front of me, or at least the back of her head.

“Take a left turn on Exit 92,my Subaru told me.

What? That made no sense.

“Take a left turn on Exit 92,” my Subaru insisted.

No. Why? Honey, why does the car want us to get off the highway?

I don’t know. Maybe it’s a shortcut.

“Take a left turn on Exit 92.”

OK. You win.

Ten minutes later, we were doing 40 mph down a two-lane country road, weaving through empty farm fields. Thirty minutes later, we wound back around to Interstate 95. The rear of that woman’s head was waiting for me in the car ahead.

Was there a reason for this detour? Or was it the latest evidence that my sat-nav system is trying to lure me to a deserted spot, where it kills me so it can assume my identity?

“Take a left turn on Exit 92.”


The threat of running out of time is a nightmare for me.

Time never stops, never sleeps.

I’m nearer the end of my life story than the beginning, and some days the feeling that time is running out makes my breath come short.

Is there enough time to set down all the words rolling around in my head?

I wake up in the middle of the night wondering if the extra time I’ve been given is being used well.

Is this column a wise way to spend a few hours? Or should I be writing about domestic violence victims and how the obstacle of time can keep them from getting protection from the courts?

When it is all over, I don’t want to wish for more time. I want to say, “That’s enough, thank you.”


What else could happen? About the only horror flick cliche left to come to life is alien invasion.

That Mexican journalist who claimed to have mummies of aliens? Fake.

The former government employee who claimed before Congress to have been part of a secret project to collect alien artifacts? Hmm.

Military pilots sighting unexplained unidentified aerial phenomenon? Exactly what the government wants you to think.

Just about everything else has happened on the horror movie list.

Monsters committing mass murder. Check.

Global pandemic wipes out millions. Done that.

Nature turns on us with killer storms. Yup.

What’s left? Aliens.

Let’s just hope they come for the pottery, pizza and wine, and not with a book titled “To Serve Humans.”


I've had dogs almost for my whole life. The thought of being without one is frightening.

I love dogs. I’ve had one almost my entire life. Some of my loneliest days were when I didn’t have a dog.

My wife and I have two right now. One is sitting beneath my desk as I write this, curled up and ready to tell me this column isn’t as much fun as I thought it would be.

I wonder if these are my final dogs. Both are 12. It’s going to bust me up when they go, and the little one in particular (we’ve had him 11 years longer than the other one) will be impossible to replace.

I try not to think about it. Yet there it is.


An octogenarian president. A sleepwalking electorate. Significant Maryland retirements from the Senate and the House.

Democrats in Washington should have known voting to remove Kevin McCarthy would empower the Angry Republicans. Be careful what you vote for, you might end up with a MAGA speaker of the House.

A very likable governor who is very good at making me feel good about the state of the state, but sometimes very light on the details of making it better.

Democrats scare me almost as much as Angry Republicans.


My kids’ world

My son and daughter are in their 20s. I worry about the world I'm leaving them.

My son and daughter are both in their 20s. I look at the world and fear what it will be like when they’re my age.

We’re involved in two wars, even if we’re not on the ground fighting. Both Israel-Gaza and Ukraine could combust into wider conflict in a single day.

Climate change, the cost of housing, student debt, dysfunctional politics.

Don’t even get me started about learning from my mistakes.

The only thing that keeps this from growing into a panic is them. They’re smart, kind and caring.

They’re the future.

My grandkids

Rick Hutzell's mother and her grandmother. What kids call their grandparents can be a choice.

None yet, and none on the horizon. But I think it’s likely.

I’m not so fearful about being a grandparent as about what they’ll call me.

Pop-pop is so Eastern Shore. Grandpapa is a bit too chic.

Granddad. Meh. Gaga? My father-in-law uses that.

Right now I’m torn between Sir and Mean Ol’ Man Hutzell.


Getting older means feeling a little run down sometimes.

I weigh too much. I’ve got a little high blood pressure. My hairline has suddenly started behaving suspiciously. I like bacon.

Days full of physical activity end with groaning. I make noises when I stand after sitting for a long time.

As you get a little older, you begin to worry about your health.

I asked my doctor about this on the occasion of my 60th birthday.

“You’re body doesn’t start to fall apart until you’re 80.”

Something else scary to look forward to.

Happy Halloween.

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