Halloween and the loss of innocence

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?

11 thoughts on “Halloween and the loss of innocence

  1. I too am ambivalent. Left alone at home, I turn out all the lights, lock up the dog, and hide in my office. But our neighborhood gets over 1200 trick-or-treaters, almost uniformly polite and some adorable. I agree the emphasis on the dark side is regrettable, but we don’t hear so much about poisoned treats etc. these days. And now I enjoy going to sit on my neighbor’s porch and eat delicious beef stew, while they hand out candy. It’s reverted, sort of, to the Halloween of my childhood. Can’t believe my parents let me run free on the South Side of Chicago but we had fun and were safe.


    1. Judy; sounds like fun to me: Life was so different in those days, huh? Sad for the kids, nowadays.


    2. I read in the paper that “poisoned treats” is an urban myth. Only one case of poisoning has been found, a father in Pasadena who killed his son for the insurance money. You’re right, I think parents are so vigilant these days that nobody tries anything bad. Plus, I think more parents nowadays are taking their kids to trunk or treat events for “safe’ candy.


  2. I am ambivalent for so many reasons: life has changed. When my children were young, they enjoyed Halloween ( so did I ). Now, it has not only become dangerous, but it is terribly commercialized, and yes, it is a Holy Day.


    1. Thanks for dropping by. I lost interest in Halloween in the 1980s when the local teens who were too old to trick-or-treat did it anyway. They went in daylight, didn’t bother to put on costumes and came back to my place a second time for more candy! That’s when I quit giving out treats. The kids were too greedy.


  3. I’ve always lived far from town. When I was young my parents drove us to town but it was a small one where everyone knew each other. When my kids were young I drove them to town and hit the neighborhoods of friends. The only trick-or-treaters we’ve had are teenage neighbors who come to B.S. with my hubby. I like the idea of dressing up as an alter-ego and having fun but rarely get the chance.


  4. I used to love Halloween when my kids your young–always came up with original costumes for them to wear. Where I live now, kids were told to trick or treat early because we have so many bears roaming around.


      1. My daughter was very creative and won awards for her costumes, which she made; one year she dressed as Brandon Lee from the movie The Crow/ It was fun, but that was many years ago. Where I now live, no one even comes by. Frankly, that’s good.

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