If you are a native Angeleno, you probably associate Halloween with the Santa Ana winds—powerful, hot, dry gusts that blow trick-or-treating witches and goblins down the street, send ghost costumes madly flying, and raise the hair on your head, crackling with electricity. The air even smells ionically charged and different. While we all call them the “Santa Anas” (another localism, just like Angelenos say “San Peedro,” not the correctly pronounced “San Paydro” when referring to the city’s San Pedro Harbor) . . . they are really the “Santana” or “devil winds” and were named such by the early Spanish settlers. They can reach velocities of 50 MPH or more, and always bring dry weather conditions that increase risk of wildfires all around Los Angeles county. So it is a time when residents—whether they know it or not—find themselves a bit on edge. American (and local) mystery writer Raymond Chandler captured this feeling beautifully in this excerpt from his 1938 detective story “Red Wind”:
“There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands’ necks. Anything can happen. You can even get a full glass of beer at a cocktail lounge.”
References to the hot Santa Ana winds pepper songs and literature by many other Los Angeles-based musicians and authors (the Beach Boys, Joan Didion, Bret Easton Ellis, etc.). Blustery and powerful, the Santa Anas lend an annual and eerie atmospheric touch to Halloween that locals know (and fear) only too well. Candle-lit jack-o-lanterns will struggle to keep their flickering grins aglow when the Santa Anas begin to blow . . . wishing you all a Happy Halloween!