It’s Just a Bunch of Hocus Pocus: A Love Letter to my Favorite Witches

By Erica Richards 

Dear Sanderson Sisters,

Every year, for as long as I can remember, from September to November I look forward to the lighting of the Black Flame candle (by a virgin of course!) so you can return from the dead. As a child, my sister and I would sit down in front of the television to take note of the days on the calendar that “Hocus Pocus” would air (on ABC Family, of course) so we could plan our schedule accordingly. I could always count on 24-hours worth of you on a loop on Halloween day. How could I count on this you wonder? Well, that is because you are the best Halloween movie witches to ever exist. 

Disney has an ability, like always, in their dark and twisted way, to create extremely mature themes around their children audience focused films. The narrative is centered around three sibling witches from the height of the Salem Witch Trial era who unexpectedly return to the modern day to literally suck the lives and souls of children to extend their ability to live. The witches are literally hanged in the opening sequence. This was completely lost on me as a child. The witches are evil, but also hilarious, silly, and quick-witted–and albeit, sometimes a little dumb. I guess we have to give them the benefit of the doubt, though, because a lot has changed in the 300-years they have been dead. I was never actually scared of you as children, but as I look back on this film as an adult, I question why I was completely unafraid. A definition of a cult-classic, this spooky seasoned film was released in the summertime, July to be exact, and actually flopped at the box office. Since then, however, the film has become a staple of not only Halloween, but the fall season. It’s officially spooky season–the best time of the year–when these oddball sisters come alive on screen. 

Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy in Hocus Pocus (1993) © 1993 Walt Disney Pictures

“Disney has an ability, like always, in their dark and twisted way, to create extremely mature themes around their children audience focused films.”

Sarah–although I was probably way too young to learn about this at first, thank you for teaching me that a woman’s sex appeal is not shameful. It is okay to admit when you don’t understand something no matter how silly it makes you look, and persuasion is a skill we should all learn and use to our advantage when necessary. 

Mary–you are loyal and supportive and you let Winnie absolutely walk all over you. I get it, I can be a people pleaser, too. Your curious, hunting nature makes me giggle and your ability to improvise a vacuum as a flying device is admirable and taught me to problem solve and adapt to my surroundings. 

“The folklore and mystery around the witches fascinated me as a child, and the jokes that went over my head keeps me revisiting as an adult. Although I know the story and punch lines by heart, it absolutely never gets old.”

Bette Midler in Hocus Pocus (1993) © 1993 Walt Disney Pictures

Winnie–thank you for being unapologetically evil and giving the world one of the most recognizable Halloween jams. “I Put a Spell On You” is part of every Halloween party playlist, and makes for a spectacular singalong. Your rude, selfish, and self-centered agenda taught me to look out for myself every once in a while, although I would never want to be as mean as you, as much as I wish I could be sometimes. Your one-liners are timeless and always land. 

The folklore and mystery around the witches fascinated me as a child, and the jokes that went over my head keeps me revisiting as an adult. Although I know the story and punch lines by heart, it absolutely never gets old. This has become a year-round comfort film that maintains a spot in my regular rotation no matter what time of year. Pure nostalgia. I will always be the person that defends this film in all its glory, I will never not sit down and watch it if I come across it on live cable television, and I adopted a black cat and named him BInx because of your witchcraft. 

XOXO,

Erica 

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