By Sally Carpenter
How did Halloween change from a day of fun for kids to a time of terror?
Many mystery writers like Halloween because of its spooky nature and ghosts of the dead (murdered?). The day itself is on the eve of All Saints Day, when Christians honor the giants of the faith who have gone on to their eternal reward. Today, Nov. 2, is All Souls Day to remember all of the dearly departed, especially loved ones.
But to most people, Halloween is a time of dressing in costumes, parties, special decorations, watching scary movies and that greatest tradition of all, trick-or-treating.
Growing up in the country outside a rural Midwest town, Halloween didn’t make an impact on me. Mother brought costumes from the five and dime store and drove my brother and me to the three or four nearby neighbor houses for trick-or-treating. My haul was only a few pieces of candy. The next day on the bus to school, I saw a couple of schoolteachers’ homes that had been TP’d (the trees covered in the toilet paper) during the night. My church youth group had a Halloween party. Halloween was just a time of fun and harmless pranks
Some years later, Halloween took a dark turn. The news media reported kids finding laxatives and razor blades in apples in their t-or-t bags. Kids were urged to only stop at the homes of people they knew, trick-or-treat in groups and go out in daylight.
Concerns grew over store-bought costumes catching fire or ill-fitting plastic masks that blocked a kids’ vision. Costumes grew gorier. Motorists were hitting trick-or-treaters crossing streets. Pranks had degraded into vandalism and destruction of property.
Halloween had become a deadly holiday.
Where I live now, many cities, schools and houses of worship host their own Halloween family events, described as “safe and fun trick or treating.” These events offer supervised games, mildly scary haunted houses, costume parades and “trunk or treat,” where adults hand out candy from the trunks of their parked vehicles. Everyone stays in one area and nobody roams through the city streets.
Police issue annual warnings, telling kids to use caution when crossing streets, to carry flashlights and wear costumes that allow one to see clearly. Adults are encouraged to hand out healthy snacks to kids at their doors. The local dentists host “buy backs,” paying kids to turn in their Halloween candy for money instead of eating all of those sugary snacks. State law forbids registered sex offenders from participating trick or treating and even from putting out Halloween decorations.
While some order has been restored to an unruly tradition, it seems to say that the world at large is a scary place. People can no longer trust their neighbors-in large cities and apartment/townhouse complexes, many residents don’t even know their neighbors. What was once a kids’ holiday has become a time of fear.
Have we degraded into such a violent society that kids can no longer trust their neighbors to give them a treat and not a trick?
What are your thoughts? Is Halloween fun for you and your family or not?