To See Where Childhood Is Headed, Look at Halloween

Hi Readers! You’ve seen some of the facts here before — like the fact no child has EVER been poisoned by a stranger’s candy, as far as university research can tell — but if you need a little Halloween pep talk, here it is, on Huffington Post.

My main point? If you want to see where childhood is headed, look at Halloween. It’s going from a joyful, neighborhood, kid-centric day (or night!) to a parent-planned, neighbor-distrusting, often indoors and/or daytime “event,” slathered in suspicion and Purell. Why?

The “sake of the children,” of course.  And to think I used to feel bad stealing my kids’ Kit-Kats. It’s worse to steal their holiday. — Lenore

64 Responses

  1. I feel your pain…hardly any kids showed up at my house last year =o( Half of them had a parent driving them block to block in a van and honked if they took too long. Today there was a small trick or treat mall thing at the mall, I tried to hand out candy and the parents were like “Huh? Who are you from?”(expecting me to belong to some store there), I just said myself, just wanted to because hardly any kids go outside to trick or treat anymore. I think it’s also laziness as well as paranoia.

  2. I completely agree. It is so sad – those Halloween nights were so much fun when I was little … going around outside in the DARK was so exciting!! and some people were so WEIRD !! some would MAKE US SING – and others would make us turn around – and show off our costume and call their whole family to come look at us.

    It was quite heady fun — and I feel so bad that MY grandchildren – will never know that thrill …. that silly screaming exciting thrill.

    And – again … earlier tonight a friend expressed the hope that no one would poison any child’s candy. I pointed out that there is no documentation that any child has ever been poisoned or ate a razor blade in an apple … ever. Still – the myth persists….

  3. Let me give you hope. Our street has a big halloween party. We start at 4:30 with a parade down the street and a BBQ dinner. Then the kids go house to house trick or treating – just like we did when we were kids. Parents are in tow, but the older ones can lose you if they want. There have been a few times when I’ve had to ask “hey, have you seen my son?” Between my three boys, we fill the entire kitchen table with candy and the boys can actually eat it, I don’t make them throw it away. I freeze the rest — 5 gallon size bags just in the chocolate variety — for parties, pinatas, and prizes. Honestly, Halloween was what sold us when we bought our house. Several streets around us have adopted the same type of party. In our neighborhood and those around us, Halloween is celebrated the old fashion way, not at the mall.

  4. I didn’t even bother to buy Halloween candy this year. I just haven’t ever had good turnout, but this year I live in an apartment complex with no kids, so I don’t imagine anyone will show up. We are crashing another neighborhood to go trick or treating instead! 🙂

  5. “too much like real zombies!” OMG, Lenore, you crack me up, that is too excellent.

    We too hope to enjoy a real Halloween (DS, being 2, will be accompanied by a parent while trick-or-treating), except that our son seems to be coming down with an ugh, bug. But hopefully.

    That said, it’s not really Halloween unless we all go (as we did when I was a kid) meet all the other neighborhood kids in one family’s basement and engage in the first free market I ever experienced, the post-trick-or-treat-candy-swap. Never could get anyone to take the Mary Janes, but I got good loot for my Snickers, which I cannot stand. Ah, those were the days. @Sue Rodman, maybe your boys can add this institution to their evening!

  6. It’s not so bad out here. Yeah, there are a few “Harvest Festivals” and the like, but I’ll still have ~200 kids come to my door tomorrow evening for a smorgasbord of candy 🙂

    It really seems like trick or treating success depends on the neighborhood. And I live in a goldmine of handing out candy.

  7. Great article, Lenore. I shared it on Facebook to give my friends some food for thought as a lot of us are new parents now. I’ve always wanted to do the neighbourhood Hallowe’en party thing, it sounds so fun!

    Sue and Alexicographer: Those sound great! 🙂 My sister and I used to trade our candy the first night and share all the cans of pop we got. We’d go trick or treating for a couple of hours, with friends once we got older, and yeah, people would exclaim over our costumes and we were always expected to say ‘thank you!’ 😉

  8. Our new neighborhood is pretty into Halloween, and I’m proud to say people seem to trick or treat after dark. My oldest is only 22 months, so we’ll be hitting about 3 houses, then coming home to hand out candy. In the afternoon, friends invited us to a trunk or treat. I guess it takes place in a parking lot and families decorate their trunk and there’s a moonbounce and hot dogs and you trick or treat from car to car. Will let you know if it is lame and if that’s all the Halloween most of those kids will have. If so, that’s sad. We’re just adding it to the cool Halloween we’ll have after dark.

    Anyway, I really wanted to comment because, after I read your Huff Post piece, I clicked on Jamie Lee Curtis’ piece. I could not stop laughing at the juxtaposition of the two. It’s a must-read!

  9. Had to add this:
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  10. so glad to hear that other parents heist the halloween candy.

  11. This doesn’t seem to be an issue in our area. There are so many kids out on Halloween that I find it hard to believe so many kids are in my neighborhood. I love walking with my kids just so I can see the costumes and the decorations.

  12. @Alexicographer, the candy swap sounds like a great idea. My mom used to like the Mary Janes! Go figure, she got all of them b/c no one else did. My brother and I would open all the M&M packets and trade colors. Red was the prized color or maybe he was just smarter – trading four browns for a red.

  13. It is so sad to see the numbers decrease at the door every year.

    My boys are 6 and 5 and they are ready to go door to door. They have been trick or treating door to door since they were babies. No one even considered going indoors two years ago (age 4 and 3) when it was -20 C. We just bundled up and went fast.

    This year, they are even asking if they can go by themselves.

    The upside to less kids trick or treating is the neighborhood knows my boys and they get special treat bags at many houses. More candy for me to root through!

  14. I’m hoping for a good Halloween this year. My kids love trick or treating, and they’re going with a younger cousin this year. Should be lots of fun. My husband keeps the kids out as long as they have the energy. Since the oldest is 7, that’s still a reasonable time.

    I refuse to take them to one of the mall trick or treats that were popular at least for a while. I worked a few Halloweens at the mall, and those were just miserable. Nothing but standing in lines for candy in a well lit mall. Boooooring!

  15. I totally agree that it depends on the neighborhood. I remember as a kid my mom going through my candy to make sure nothing was in it. And that was 25 years ago. So that doesn’t bother me. I think parents have been doing that since trick-o-treating was around. We go door to door and have fun. We try to go earlier than the bigger kids and that is just so the big kids don’t knock over my little ones and as the kids get older we go a little later. one thing my church does that I think is fun is that they do a trunk or treat in the dark parking lot at the church. This way the kids who live in an apartment where they may not get a lot of candy can go but more importantly just so all the kids can see each other and the costumes. It’s fun but we never substitute it for the door to door. Just like when we were kids we would run around our neighborhood and then drive to the neighborhoods notorious for the best candy!

    So here is a little thing we do in our house. As the kids get older it will stop working but since they were tiny tiny to now, it works like a charm. I have this mechanical witch. I have convinced my kids that on Halloween she comes alive. So if they leave her a good portion of their candy she will leave them a little present. It is never anything big. Maybe a coloring book and new crayons or paints, or stickers or just something really cute and fun, lip gloss, ect. You get the point. This way I don’t feel like i have to ration out the candy for weeks to months. Like I said it won’t work for much longer on my oldest but for now it is a fun way to limit their candy intake without limiting the time they get to run door to door. Besides this Halloween Witch gets to eat the rest! lol

  16. No trick or treating with my children this year as my kids are spending the weekend with their dad.. They are however going trick or treating with him, and then going on to a Halloween party..
    In previous years with me though we go out trick or treating every year.. and I dress up too 🙂 I have a witches outfit, complete with wig, hat, clothes and broom stick and me and the kids would go out for a few hours round the local estates…
    I’ve noticed over the years though that fewer and fewer people get in sweets for the kids or even answer the door (much to my childrens disappointment) but even so my children come home with tons of sweets every year..
    They love doing it every year

  17. Not all daytime events are lame or designed to keep the kids off the street at night. I’m going to a halloween carnival in the part this today from 9-1. My brother-in-law is a sponsor.

    The timing was designed so the kids can get the most out of their costumes, the community can have fun, both parents can attend (without having to leave someone home to hand out candy), and the vendors (like moonwalk people) and city employees can spend Halloween night with their family/kids.

  18. Growing up Christian, I missed out on most Halloween festivities and instead went to church harvest feastivals. My mom thought Halloween was “of the devil” and the church festival was the activity created to give us a Christian activity to do. We we never allowed scary costumes either. This year, the boy is “zombie skate punk”. He was so excited about the green glow-in-the-dark face paint, the blue hair spray and I thought his costume was creative…even though he got the idea from one of those mailers. his dad is taking him trick or treating, so I’m free to go out and have fun with other grown-ups and I like it that way 🙂

  19. I’ve always been proud of my mother. Every year she hands out doughnuts to over 100 trick or treaters. For awhile she tried to just give out doughnuts to the people we knew and candy to the kids we didn’t. Those kids started asking where their doughnuts were, all disappointed in their meager fun size snickers. So she said to heck with it and gives a doughnut, homemade!, to any kid who rings her doorbell. She figures that after 25 years any parents who don’t know her house gives out unwrapped, homemade doughnuts isn’t paying attention.

    Too bad you’re all the way out there in NY, Lenore. 😉 We usually hand them out still hot with the glaze not quite set.

  20. Love the article! Glad to see you get a much wider audience.

    We normally get swamped here. My husband is actually afraid that if we *don’t* stay and hand out candy, kids will vandalize our house, which is kooky and has never happened in this neighborhood in the last 10 years we’ve lived here. There are literally hundreds of kids that come here–the first two blocks are packed with cars parked from other neighborhoods. So many people around I doubt anyone would try anything anyhow.

    Here’s a really funny song by local humor singer Heywood Banks: One of the funniest rhymes ever: “coupon for a futon”.

  21. Forgot to sign up for comments.

  22. Here’s something that might really freak out the safety nuts – this morning we went trick or treating at the firearms museum. Or is that considered childhood-joy-killing corporate sponsorship? It’s hard to tell what makes you a worse parent – not teaching your kids guns are evil or for not teaching them that corporations are evil.

    Capitalism, guns, and candy. A Libertarian’s dream. But the kids will be free range neighborhood trick-or-treating tonight as well.

  23. @Sue … thanks for posting the Jamie Lee Curtis piece. Actually I have to say I agree with (much of) her post, too.

    This is what I think … dressing up in (seeing, etc.) ritually scary costumes (ghosts, witches, zombies) is OK, even for little kids, if they want to. My 2 y.o and I have been walking every day (at his insistence) to a nearby very decorated house with all kinds of terrifying figures (the same house we probably will not trick or treat at — again, his decision — mentioned in my post above. We stand out on the sidewalk and talk about the figures and what they are. We also talk about the fact that they are not real (per Lenore’s comment about “real zombies.”) We talk about how they are “decorations” or “statues.” We do also talk about the fact that they are “scary” and that they are designed to “scare” or “startle” people.

    Many horror films (etc.), not so much. I realize we can debate which ones, but to my eye many are designed to look real and to portray actual situations, in action, that appear real (versus a figure). My gut sense is that kids have a much harder time distinguishing “fake” film (with audio!) from “fake” figures/costumes (even realistic ones).

    In the end, to me a free-range childhood is not at odds from one in which children are protected from some types of unpleasantness. For my own kid, I want this to include particularly actual violence (which, let’s not kid ourselves, plenty of children experience or are exposed to every day) but also, at this age (and for some time to come) scary representations of violence, be it actual (nightly news) or imaginary (horror movies). It’s a balance, as I’ll need to be guided by what he finds scary, not what I do or think he might. Certainly for now he’s (per his own comments) afraid to get close to physical representations of witches, goblins, skeletons, mummies, etc., or in other words, he’s pretty darned timid, not a bad thing for a two-year old to be. I respect that and believe I can both allow others to express themselves and protect my son from being over-exposed to things that frighten him, as well as talking with him about how we deal with things that do scare us when they arise (For a time he was afraid of masks, which a number of our friends have in one place or another in their houses as decorations — often masks from foreign cultures, mardi gras masks, etc. We go to those homes and, as needed, talk about what you can do when you see something that won’t hurt you but that makes you feel scared. A few friends did offer to take the masks down (and one grandmother insisted), but I actually thought my approach more useful.).

    I guess it comes down to a point that often comes up here — being a free-range parent isn’t actually easier, certainly not at my son’s age (when there’s darn little about actual free-ranging that’s really appropriate). It’s just different. But it doesn’t preclude protecting them (as appropriate).

  24. There are two things I love about Halloween hysteria:

    1. The idea that parents going through their kids’ candy will somehow protect anyone, even if you are stupid enough to believe the urban legends. Did I miss the part where you suddenly acquire special x-ray vision and poison-detecting-capabilities-by-sight-or-sniff when you give birth?

    2. The notion that children should never be scared of anything. (I’m looking at you, Jaime Lee Curtis.) What’s wrong with being scared every so often? Anthropologically and psychologically, things like realistic zombies and horror movies probably serve as useful social catharsis in a world where risk is increasingly managed away and distant from ordinary experience. Otherwise, it builds into pent up hysteria about things like vaccines and stranger danger…oh, right. Too late. Children who are genuinely scared of horror movies and eyeball grapes will avoid them in the future. Everyone else, business as usual. These people need to stop trying to manage every little experience their kids ever have. Not everything needs to come with an exhaustive commentary.

  25. Actually, most Halloween costumes are based on Jungian archetypes, and are important for young people to work through as they grow up. Fairy tales serve a similar developmental purpose. These are part of our humanity that we all share.

  26. In my experience most of the parents “sorting through candy to make sure it is ok” is really parents picking out their favorite pieces before it all gets eaten by the kiddos.

    I am SO against TorTing at the mall and especially “Trunk or Treating”. That one sends a really great message: it’s not ok to go knock on your neighbor’s door, but taking candy out of a stranger’s car is fine. WHAT?

  27. Well, I’m sorry, but this year my daughter decided to eschew the fairy princess costume and she went with the “slasher” costume complete with fake blood, hockey mask, and bloody toy machete! I asked her if she was sure, and she rolled her eyes at me (she’s 8 going on 21) and said, “Daaaaaaad! Halloween is supposed to be SCARY!”.

    From the mouths of babes…

    I hope we horrify some neighbors.

    My boy wanted to be Optimus Prime. Can’t win ’em all, I guess. C’est la guerre…

  28. Our city fathers here have proclaimed Trick or Treating time to be a 2 hour stretch before it’s dark. And I must admit, because they do this every year, it keeps the fear factor alive. You tend to think, “What might actually happen if they didn’t regulate it?” Be afraid! Be very afraid.

    I remember the good old days when Halloween was UN-regulated – when kids soaped or waxed windows, and when I actually had a raw egg thrown at me in the dark by some “older boys.”

  29. @Shannon – Thanks for reminding us that fear does have a legitimate purpose – it protects us from things that are dangerous. This reminds me of when I was wheeling my 2 year old daughter through the French Quarter in New Orleans one day, and a derelict clown got down in her face, and she screamed. He told me “They learn their fears from you, ma’am.” I thought to myself – I’m GLAD she’s scared of you!

    I do think it is good that some parents accoompany their children trick-or-treating. When I was a kid, no parents accompanied kids other than preschoolers. (I lived on a dead-end street in a relatively crime-free town.) I remember lots of vandalism and older kids knocking down younger kids for their candy. So maybe Halloween is a good time to hang a little closer to your kids than usual.

    Oh, and there’s nothing I hate more than those daytime trick-or-treating proclamations. When I lived in the midwest, several towns did that. What’s the point of daylight trick-or-treating?

  30. FOUR trick-or treaters this year- I usually get 50 or more! OUr fear-based society is driving me crazy and the kids are the ones who are losing out. Check out this alarmist link-
    Common sense is, of course, necessary, but fear is not.

  31. It’s Halloween night. We’ve had six (6) trick-or-treaters. And that is IT. I am feeling so ticked off at the world right now. When I was a kid, I used to go trick-or-treating on my own in the dark of the night. The streets were swarming with kids of all ages. I was really excited to give out a big ol’ ton of candy because we live in an area with lots of little kids. But I guess where there are lots of little kids, there is lots of paranoia.

    I’m really upset because I want my son (aged 4 months) to have the same Halloween experiences that I did, but it looks like he won’t get them. ever.

  32. I don’t see the number of trick-or-treaters decreasing – if anything, they’re going up! I didn’t keep my usual chart this year (I list kids in three groups: babies and toddlers, 3 – 12 and teens with good costumes, and teens who didn’t try at all), but I’ve seen the numbers increase in the past decade. 2001 was an anomaly, we had NO kids come… but it was a really rainy day and a Saturday. This year was another rainy Saturday, and my neighbor suggested that maybe more kids go to parties if Halloween is on a weekend. We still ran out of all our good candy and most of our sucky candy. (I buy sucky candy to give to the kids with sucky costumes, the aforementioned “teens who didn’t even try” group. ANY effort gets the good stuff.)

    Last year we had more than 120 kids total, and I bought candy with that in mind this year.

    It’s hard to extrapolate from our experiences what the nationwide trends are, though. It’s such a BIG nation.

  33. Halloween is alive and well here in the Midwest. We had a constant stream of trick-or-treaters, most running from house to house on foot for over three hours tonight. I worried I’d run out of candy for a while, but then the pace slowed down.

    My 10-year-old has gone on his own with friends for the last two years. This seems to be the norm in our area. Parents typically go with the younger kids, but even then they tend to stay at the curb while the kids come to the houses unless they are with really little ones.

    And, I clearly remember my mother checking out candy and the local hospitals offering to x-ray it for foreign objects when I was a kid. If anything, I’m less uptight than my parents were about the whole thing.

  34. Well, I spoke too soon. There weren’t nearly as many kids that either knocked on our door this year; my husband says there weren’t as many around the neighborhood, either. There were, however, a couple of large churches nearby and a cemetery (!) that did huge giveaways. One of my son’s friends said they really wanted to go to the cemetery event because the word around school was that you’d get a huge haul there, so I suspect that’s where a lot of the usual crowd went.

  35. I had 67 trick-or-treaters this year down from the usual 100 or so. I think it was mostly due to the rainy weather.

  36. We took my niece and nephew to a daytime event earlier today. A park full of of kids, mostly running around on their own. There were several different types of bouncy houses – so most of the kids went barefoot (Houston in the 70) Parents were socializing and having fun with their kids.

    I’m glad they had fun earlier – because trick or treating wasn’t fun. It wasn’t helicopter parents or paranoia about candy that ruined the fun. It was drunk/high idiots who thought chasing a Mother with both a 1 (almost 2) and 4 (almost 5) year old kids down the street screaming at the kidds while running a chainsaw with the chain was a fun Halloween thing to do that ruined their trick or treating. Sis was going to call the cops.

    Even if the cops don’t/can’t do anything – the idiots are going to find themselves ostracized. The neighbors are furious about the cruelty towards the children in the neighborhood..

  37. @Uly, I’m so glad to hear someone else uses a two-tier treat system! My husband is dead serious about the “rules” for Halloween (costume should be scary or homemade, no going out before dark), and any kid that follows those rules gets an AWESOME “sack of mystery” filled with candy, toys, trading cards, mini-comics, etc. Any kid who doesn’t gets a couple pieces of candy from the big bowl. He’s totally earned himself a rep on our block and the kids are SO delighted if they “make the grade” and get the treat bag.

  38. we live in a wonderful family friendly neighborhood in san francisco…for the last several years we’ve walked our daughter with her friends around the neighborhood for trick or treating and it has been fun and safe. this year we decided that she and her friends could go out on on their own (they are 11). tonight, one of the girls’ parents felt the need to walk around with them…what can you do/say? i totally trust my daughter, but each parent has to make their own decisions about their child. i guess i should just be thankful for the loving caring community that in live in.

  39. I caught flack from my mother-in-law this year because I sent my foster daughter (age 14), daughter (age 9) and their friends (ages 13 and 10) out to trick-or-treat without adult supervision — in a cul-de-sac neighborhood! I was amazed at how few kids came up without parents to our house.

    At least they were out, though.

  40. Here’s a retrospective link to the one known Halloween poisoning, if anyone is interested:

  41. Halloween isa still halloween here in rural Nova Scotia!

    Trick or treating starts at “half past dark” and ends at about 9:00pm. Little kids (under 7) go with parents, over that age they tend to go together in groups. The teens all still go out and have the best costumes. Everyone gets a drive “to town” so they can trick or treat. But parents stay out of it.

    I have noticed that the treats are getting more and more homogeneous though. Not a single rocket this year! All chocolate bars and bags of chips.

  42. Katie, I actually have a three-tier system. Babies and toddlers who can’t make it up my steps (or who have to be carried) don’t get candy, they get themed bags of pretzels or graham crackers, or they get juice boxes. Because I *know* they can eat these things, and there’s a very good chance their parents don’t let them at the candy yet. And while I don’t mind giving candy to the parents (more or less), I like to give a little treat to the kidlets too.

  43. The irony is that in this age of cellphones, things are safer than ever. Most people most likely hand over a cellphone to the kiddos, unless they already have one of their own…

  44. We all had fun trick or treating last night. Us parents chat on the sidewalks while the kids run up and down the stairs like madmen. It is a social event for the whole neighborhood.

    I am now (burp) inspecting their candy to remove all those dangerous twix bars and sweetarts (burp).

  45. We had a blast this halloween! My sis and I took the younger kids around. It was a hoot to watch 11 kids crowding up around the door. People really enjoyed the costumes and we got several remarks about how we were the first group to their house. Some of those people sounded lonely … obviously it was our civic duty to do this!

    The teens took off on their own. The highlight of the night occurred when we got to wondering whether the teens got lost in the unfamiliar part of town (my sis just moved there). We called the cell and discovered, indeed they were not lost … they had simply trick or treated their way 2 miles down the road, on foot! LOL Then instead of taking the hint and coming home, they kept on a going. Eventually, we chose to go pick them up in the car rather than waiting for them to climb back up the miles long hill home!!!

    The teens got a good reaction. They all had creative costumes. Once my friend’s son claimed there were more kids at the door than reality so the homeowner gave him a can of Navy Beans. Awesome!!! Glad to hear the homeowners still have a sense of humor. He’s a teen that ought to be teased like that. 😉 And those might be the most prized navy beans ever to sit on a shelf in the pantry. Another teen wore Vikings gear and either got cheered or booed depending on the affiliation of the homeowner.

    In the ensuing candy induced insanity, my mom was overseeing the inspection of the treats. I told her that there were zero cases of stranger poisoning from trick or treating. She was unimpressed. I got The Look. She kept going and man was she picky. I let her do the cousins’ bags.

    I went through my kids’ stuff, but in our case to take out the artificial food dye due to food sensitivities so they could trade out w/ cousins. I admit, I did throw away the Easter candy some enterprising soul had plopped in their bags (seriously, HOW long ago was Easter?). But worry about poison and razor blades and h1n1? Really? Sigh.

    Since I have gestational diabetes this year (soooo not fun), we did have a veggie tray, deviled eggs, meat/cheese/crackers, etc. I was surprised at how many of the kids filled their plates w/o any encouragement. Huh. When I was a kid, I would have turned up my nose, lol. Of course, they balanced it out w/ lots of sugar. But I’m thinking maybe this is a good trend to keep up even after this baby is born! Only next year, I’ll hopefully be able to dive into the candy too!

  46. […] To See Where Childhood Is Headed, Look at Halloween Hi Readers! You’ve seen some of the facts here before — like the fact no child has EVER been poisoned by a […] […]

  47. Just to cheer everyone up – we had 144 trick or treaters on Halloween (up from about 100 last year). the older (middle school) kids were going in adult-less (as far as I could tell) groups of 5-6. I do have 2 bowls – one of “regular” candy and a “nut-free’ bowl of sugary candy (ie twizzlers).

  48. Lenore,

    I had an article on Babble this week about things parents don’t have to worry about on Halloween – or any other night of the year. You might get a kick out of it:

  49. I see articles like this every year:

    So yes, no poisoning or injury occurred, but because people were being vigilant, not because the danger was not there.

    My kiddo has multiple allergies, so Halloween is an issue for other reasons.

  50. Lenore, for the sake of remaining articulate regarding what is and is not Halloween fact, this story might be worth monitoring…

  51. It’s responsible parenting to check your kids candy. There are cases every year of tainted candy. Thankfully due to careful checking, they are rarely fatal. Just this year so far I’ve seen on the news that in Fort Rapids IN there was a piece of candy eaten by the child’s father that had a sewing needle inside of it. Luckily he only sustained a minor cut in his mouth. And in Columbus, Ohio, there was a pill pushed into the center of a bullseye candy that was found when ther mother CHECKED her child’s candy. Imagine if she hadn’t? So just because there aren’t fatalities doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be responsible.

  52. One or two articles every year indicates that this is not a wide trend but one or two creeps.

    This is a nation of hundreds of millions of people. I don’t think it’s irresponsible to think that the three creeps who stuck needles in candy probably aren’t anywhere near me this year.

    Also – links, please?

  53. I know its Monday now, but I have been so busy with recovering (and trying to find my floors again) that I couldn’t share our halloween fun.

    We live in an apartment complex in a pretty nice suburb of Portland. Every year the streets get darker and darker as neighbors give up buying andy. Every year, the insanity that is my home gets bigger.

    Every inch of the railings are covered in spider webs, glittery tinsel, black tarps, gauze, what not. I build a cemetary in the corner and this year I added fake wrought iron arches and wound LED lights through the entire thing (blue on the arches, orange around the base of the railings). Then came the blood spatter shower curtain in my kitchen window, the black light and mad scientests lab in my entry way and the fog machine set on high the entire day.

    We built a coffin (with a motion detecting skull shaped candy dish and stuffed clothing inside to be the body… the skull talks) and covered it in webs. The furniture and walls were decorated and there was food every where. Hot ciders, homemade pumpkin butter, soda, popcorn in baggies for the kids (hand shaped of course), candy in the coffin (its our trick or treat bins) and this year my friend made zombie brain cupcakes (totally amazing, and red velvet cupcakes). The children had to brave the haunted stairway and lab and come in to get candy at the coffin.

    We scared the bejeebers out of the kids (the ones we know of course) and assigned “guards” to safely escort the little ones who were a little jumpy. The parents were given a brain cupcake and hot cider and invited to join us for food at any point during the evening. We’ve declared our apartment a safe shelter from downpours (this IS Oregon after all) and the parents are informed that they and their kids can feel free to seek dry shelter at our place.

    Yes, we invited strangers, CHILDREN!, into our home. Yes, we gave out candy PLUS homemade treats and invited strangers to eat freely.

    YES! The parents let their kids come in, and then came back later so they could have some treats and watch B-movies (attack of the killer tomatoes etc) with us. And YES we get more and more kids and parents every year. I love every minute of it. I really do.

  54. I don’t get the whole point of tainting Halloween candy, if it even exists (pretty limited information on the ‘net in the situations referenced above by Jennifer; the first was in Grand Rapids ND, and all articles are pretty detail-free). So I’m a “bad guy”, and I embed a pill, or a needle, or a razor blade, in a piece of soft candy. I’m not there to see the person get hurt, or even to discover the tampering…so what’s the payoff for me? Is it the thrill of media attention? I’m not sure……..anyone else?

  55. Sorry, it was Grand *Forks*, ND, not Grand Rapids. I couldn’t even get it right!

  56. We were so excited 12 years ago when we bought our house in a tiny town, after raising our own children at the end of a long mountain road in the boonies… children could come to our haunted gothic mansion! We had taken our own children to a nearby mountain town for trick or treating until they were old enough to drive themselves – and they were still welcomed, not considered too old.

    We have decorated it every year, played spooky music, dressed up, etc., and children have just loved it. Parents, too…. if you wear a costume, I will give you a treat no matter what your age. This year, I did notice less children, but more because of the aging demographics of our town.

    My husband found your Huffington article and we are glad it led us to your website… agree with your position on fear smothering childhood.

  57. In London (United Kingdom) the police handed out “No trick or treat – the Metropolitan police” posters in my mother-in-law’s street. Apparently some rowdy teenagers had thrown eggs at an old lady last year and now it’s officially discouraged. A prime example of the nanny state.

  58. To me it’s kind of like wearing your seatbelt. Chances are when you drive to where ever you’re going today you’ll be fine. But on the off chance something goes wrong, it’s good to have it on. I’m just saying looking over your kids candy only takes a few minutes of our time. That’s time I would gladly invest in my kids and I don’t think it makes me a helicopter mom.

    Here’s a few links about tainted candy from Halloween 2009 that someone wanted:

    Also, as for detail free information about the Grand Forts case, I’m not sure what you’re looking for. It says it was a needle in a piece of candy. The father sustained minor injuries on the roof of mouth when he bit into it. Police are investigating and trying to track down where it came from. I’m not sure what else would be missing unless you wanted to know the age of the child the candy was originally given to or perhaps the brand name of the candy. Either way, it IS an extremely rare thing, but what’s a few minutes of our time once a year? I just don’t see this as an issue against free range parenting. It’s just common sense safety. Check your kids candy. No big deal. 🙂

  59. I think my comment didn’t go through so I’ll try again. 🙂

    To me it’s kind of like wearing your seatbelt. Chances are when you drive to where ever you’re going today you’ll be fine. But on the off chance something goes wrong, it’s good to have it on. I’m just saying looking over your kids candy only takes a few minutes of our time. That’s time I would gladly invest in my kids and I don’t think it makes me a helicopter mom.

    Here’s a few links about tainted candy from Halloween 2009 that someone wanted:

    Also, as for detail free information about the Grand Forts case, I’m not sure what you’re looking for. It says it was a needle in a piece of candy. The father sustained minor injuries on the roof of mouth when he bit into it. Police are investigating and trying to track down where it came from. I’m not sure what else would be missing unless you wanted to know the age of the child the candy was originally given to or perhaps the brand name of the candy. Either way, it IS an extremely rare thing, but what’s a few minutes of our time once a year? I just don’t see this as an issue against free range parenting. It’s just common sense safety. Check your kids candy. No big deal.

  60. Well, Jorg, trick-or-treating is a new idea over there, it’s not really common in Britain. It’s not comprable at all.

    Beth, it’s probably just as well you don’t understand, but yeah, some people get their jollies vicariously like that. However, Snopes has another suggestion – in the past, many of these cases turned out, upon further investigation, to not be nearly as random as all that… instead, a friend or sibling (or the child themselves!) was responsible for tampering with the snack , usually to give a good scare to people they knew. Kids don’t always think these things through….

  61. My parents always checked the candy but I think it’s more for bad storage practices than tampering, honestly. I’ll check my kids’ stuff for the same reason (I know how gross some stuff can get.)(Unfortunate learning experiences. :D)

    But I shouldn’t need to steal it; I can buy candy whenever I want. I might trade, though.

    My neighborhood had an informal block party, with most of the treat bowls at the end of the food tables in the driveway. At one point, this guy in a full-head mask and leather jacket started walking down the sidewalk. He never said a word, just occasionally stopped and stared. This freaked out most of my neighbors but I just about went into hysterics— it was so over-the-top creepy without being dangerous.

    I should perhaps mention that I’m a theater person (for fun) who has also been in numerous improv situations, so I really understand the impulse. I also understand why they found it so freaky, but hey, happy Halloween.

  62. My kids used to go to a school that had a strict no costumes policy for Halloween in case other children were traumatized. They replaced Halloween with some sort of Favorite Character in a Book festival (no dressing up of course) that seemed fairly lame.

    Now they’re going to a school in which every one dresses up. The funny thing was the teachers seemed to feel that the scariest costumes involved dressing up in suits and neck ties. Thank goodness we changed schools!

  63. OK, so all my comments are about a day late and a dollar short because I just found this site a few days ago…BUT I just had to throw in this commical tale of what a gentleman up the street asked as I trick-or-treated with my 1-and 4-year old:

    “What are you folks going to do about all this candy? Aren’t you concerned that your kids could be getting candy that has the H1N1 virus?”

    What? And he wasn’t the only one. I had a couple other folks pass out candy wearing RUBBER GLOVES “So I don’t give your kids any germs”, and some lady wearing a mask! These people weren’t sick, but “you never know”.

    I told these people I wasn’t worried. I seriously doubt that if these people were carrying the H1N1 virus, that the germs on the candy wrappers they touched would still be alive by the time my kids touched the candy anyway.

    Was this really supposed to be a big concern? No being able to Trick-or-Treat for fear of swine flu?

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