Times Staff Writer

Halloween has always been the anomaly of holidays--the one day of the year devoted to the dark side of the human psyche. Yet it’s only natural, since everyone is occasionally haunted by that darker side--with the possible exception of Pee-wee Herman.

Throughout the centuries, writers, artists and entertainers have been fascinated with probing personal demons, the perverse thrill of being frightened and the malevolent powers of witches, sorcerers, ghosts, goblins and IRS auditors.

What, other than a deeply rooted desire to vicariously confront evil, can explain the continuing popularity of Dante’s “Inferno,” Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven,” Robert Louis Stevenson’s “‘The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” or the “Beat the Devil” segment on TV’s “Joker’s Wild”?

The tradition has continued unabated in the 20th Century, helped along by the many film adaptations of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s horror masterpiece “Frankenstein” and other chilling film classics such as “Nosferatu the Vampyre” down through “Dracula vs. Billy the Kid” and “Teen Wolf.” (Is there a more horrifying way to spend 90 minutes?)


For those who want to indulge their fright wish without being truly terrorized--for instance, being forced to watch a “Dodgers ’86 Revisited” two-hour TV special--this weekend Universal Studios and Knott’s Berry Farm are getting all dressed up for Halloween.

Universal revives the Mummy, the Wolfman, the Creature from the Black Lagoon and other famous monsters for its “Halloween Horror Nights” tonight and Saturday beginning at 7 p.m. Anyone more interested in the boogie than the bogeyman will also find Ready for the World in concert both nights.

Meanwhile, Knott’s becomes Knott’s “Scary” Farm for the park’s annual “Halloween Haunt,” which continues through Sunday. Special entertainment includes dozens of character actors who roam the streets elaborately made up as monsters and ghouls, a musical “Shock and Rock Revue” hosted by the ubiquitous Elvira, a hypnotist show and other terrors aimed at providing a safe-and-marginally-sane Halloween. Hours are 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. today and Saturday and 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. on Sunday.