Halloween is supposed to be a special time—a treasured holiday when children of all ages gather to celebrate everything dark and macabre and to experience the frights of their lives. But unfortunately, in this day and age, it’s difficult to tell who is legitimately providing ghoulishly good fun, considering how loosely the term “spooktacular” is thrown around. It’s appalling, it’s infuriating, and it’s downright un-American.

You see, I remember when the word spooktacular actually meant something in this country.

There was a time not that long ago when a citizen of this nation could see the word spooktacular on a haunted hayride sign or a flyer for an Enchanted Forest of Fear and know right then and there that he was in for nothing less than a scream-worthy fright fest of monsterrific proportions. Spooktacular was a word that carried with it a certain weight and significance. Why, just hearing that word alone would give you the chilly willies all down your back.

But my oh my how far our country has strayed. The things that are passed off as spooktacular these days couldn’t even raise a single hair, let alone a whole neck’s worth.

Nowadays, it seems every simpleton with a fog machine and a CD of moaning and chain-rattling sound effects is promising a spooktacular night of 1,000 frights. It’s a travesty. People are slapping the word spooktacular on any run-of-the-mill costume party, corn maze, or plain old pumpkin patch without a thought as to whether their attraction is really a terrorific hell-ebration worthy of the time-honored title. Indeed, it’s as if they were entirely unaware of the actual definition of said word.

Why, I’ve even seen the cherished term used to describe charity 5k runs, farmers markets, and dozens of late-October sales events. Is that what we want as a society—to have the bar lowered to such an extent that even a bank or a supermarket circular can use the word spooktacular for an event that will never come close to terrifying (much less scare-ifying) us and certainly won’t send us running for our mummy?

I’m sorry, but that’s just not the country I want to live in.

You see, there used to be clear guidelines. The promise of a spooktacular scare-a-thon once actually represented an ironclad guarantee of goose bumps, shivers, or, at the very least, heebie-jeebies. There was accountability: If you said something was spooktacular, then you had an obligation to provide either bloodcurdling chills or hair-raising thrills. And there was no getting around it. If your event was not capable of tingling spines, then the word spooktacular was off-limits, end of story.

Where’s the self-respect? Where’s the sense of tradition? Sure, today’s Halloween party-throwers know a thing or two about candy and fancy costumes, but what happened to all those subtle nuances that once set our skin, bones, and teeth crawling, chilling, and chattering, respectively? Back in the good old days, hardworking Americans used to take pride in crafting a haunted house that was spooktacular in the truest sense of the word. I’m talking about creaky floorboards, eerie shadows, disembodied cackling, and buckets of cold squishy masses labeled “brains” and “eyeballs” that you’d plunge your trembling hands into.

And let me tell you one thing, if they promised you a spooktacular shriek-stravaganza, you were 100 percent assured of ghastly surprises so heart-stopping you would leave the premises both scared silly and spooked senseless—and most certainly screaming for more.

It’s sad to admit, but I’m beginning to think Americans don’t even care about having a frightfully good time anymore.

I may be old-fashioned, but I believe the word spooktacular should mean exactly what it says: a genuine spooktacle that fills your night with fright. I think we owe it to ourselves to return integrity and dignity to our nation’s Howl-O-Ween Balls, Shocktoberfests, and Haunted Screamatoriums. Otherwise, we’re looking at a lost generation that will never even know what it’s like to be driven utterly batty.

And that would be a monstrous future indeed.