Amazing Halloween Horror Story!

Hi Readers — Read it and creep:  This fantastic article from The American Spectator is about how Manchester, New Hampshire, imposed a law, on the books for decades, making Halloween officially the Sunday afternoon BEFORE Oct. 31. The law was, of course, in reaction to all the usual Halloween fears — razors, poison, torture — that over the years were discredited. And yet the restriction lived on.

Why was that such a crime? As author Andrew Cline so perfectly puts it:

Halloween is more than a massive candy-grab. Prompting kids try on grown-up personas and slip into the darkness to negotiate with total strangers, all under the watchful eyes of multitudes of parents, it involves the entire community in giving children their first chance to overcome some of the human race’s innate fears — darkness, strangers, and parental separation.

In short, Halloween is an important social ritual.

In fact, it is practice for the kind of society we want to create: One where everyone is pulling together, helping the kids grow independent, brave and optimistic. It was thwarted for 38 long years. And then —

This year, Police Chief David Mara did something completely unexpected. He announced, out of the blue, that the city’s trick-or-treating hours would be on Halloween afternoon. After some prodding from new mayor Ted Gatsas, Mara later switched the hours. They will be on Halloween night.

So this Sunday, for the first time in nearly four decades, the children of Manchester will haunt the streets of Manchester under the cold, dark sky on October 31. I suspect that a lot of their parents, who never knew the thrill, will find excuses to wear masks themselves that night. And behind them, they’ll be smiling.

Us, too! — L.

47 Responses

  1. Awesome. Let’s make it spread. And go even further – why are announced hours for trick or treating necessary?

  2. When I was a kid, my hometown (Milwaukee) switched to afternoon trick or treat. It was awful. I checked a couple of days ago, and they’re still doing it before it gets dark.

    It really took all the fun out of things, and made it all about hauling in the candy, instead of being out and about in the dark with friends.

  3. We finished ours already. Our area has halloween on Saturday if the 31st “comes on the Sabbath.”

  4. I can’t imagine living somewhere that trick or treat hours were controlled. It happens naturally most places, with little kids starting earlier, and it trickles off around 8 or 9. No scheduling needed. It’s a ridiculous thing to control.

    Trick or treating in the dark is a big part of the fun for the kids old enough to enjoy the holiday.

  5. I guess I’m just used to it. Trick or treating has been on the Sunday before Halloween for me since before I had kids. When I was a kid, it was on Halloween night. I live right by Milwaukee, and when I was a kid I got to have two Halloweens – one in Milwaukee (where my grandparents lived) on the Sunday before, and then real Halloween in Kenosha.

    The current trick or treating Sunday setup has its advantages: no conflicts with work or school. But I must admit that on years when trick or treating fell 4 or 5 days before Halloween, it really cut the season short. October 31 was just another day. So I’m glad that this year will be special.

  6. When we lived in Pennsylvania the town we were in did trick or treating the Thursday before Halloween. Long time residents said it had always been that way. It worked out okay. We didn’t go the first year we lived there because all the kids were sick and it was freezing and raining. Of course Halloween that year was beautiful and warm. The next year we went it was the opposite. The Thursday before had great weather (just needed sweatshirts) and on Halloween the temp dropped and it rained so we lucked out.
    I grew up in Chicago where we trick or treated on the 31st after dark no matter what day it fell on or the weather. You even made sure your costume could accommodate a heavy winter coat under it if you didn’t want to cover it up.

  7. The current trick or treating Sunday setup has its advantages: no conflicts with work or school.

    Except that it’s on a school night.

    So, seriously, though, check out this post on before-Halloween-was-big.

  8. In my hometown, after trick or treat (which happened early), when it got dark it was time for the older kids (say, 9 or 10 until you were too old for it to be cool) to run around the streets, spray each other with shaving cream/silly string, and teepee teachers/friends houses (the people who wouldn’t, like, call the cops on you). And to avoid our one town cop. The next morning walking to school there would be shaving cream and toilet paper everywhere (it was a small town). Unfortunately there was always some idiot who sprayed some poor little kid walking home in their princess costume with shaving cream, which ended in being chewed out by our principal the next morning in an emergency assembly. I was a bit too goody two shoes to participate thoroughly in the festivities.

    But, anyway, I figure that’s what older kids do when you take away trick or treat- they find some other way to expend their halloween energy. Sometimes it might be in a productive way, or at least in a way everyone has fun. Other times it involves a crying 7 year old in a princess costume covered in shaving cream.

  9. I’ve lived around US military bases in Germany for the past 18 years. On base there have always been set trick or treating hours, but at least they’re after dark. The military police are at the entrance to the on-base housing, where they hand out candy and chem lights from their patrol cars. Trick or treating on base is always on Halloween night and goes from 5:30-7:30 pm. In the off-base neighborhoods kids start trick or treating around 5:30 (when it gets dark). It normally tails off between 8 and 9.

    This year my son is going trick or treating with three of his German friends. My husband will drive them to the base and let the boys go off on their own (they’re all 11 and 12). He’ll hang around with the adults until the kids are finished trick or treating.

    When I was a child growing up in California, there were no set hours for trick or treating; but it started when it got dark and usually ended by 9 pm because kids had to go to school the next day.

  10. HAPPY HALLOWEEN, EVERYBODY!!! : D : D : D : D : D

  11. As the 1st November is a National Holiday here in Spain, there should be no problem with trick-or-treating on the 31st. Only we really have no such tradition (yet- who could resist a holiday that involves disguising and eating free candy?). Over here, the 1st Nov. is the All-Saints day. Families get together for lunch, and special desserts are made (cylindrical marzipan filled with chocolate, or lemon cream or whatever, called Saints’ Bones). Then everybody goes to the cemetery to visit loved ones’ tombs, and place some flowers there.
    It may sound a bit boring, but I think there’s something healthy about children playing around in a cemetery, happily searching for Granny’s tomb and sayng a couple of prayers for her. It certainly makes it a bit easier explaining when their pet dies.

  12. “Awesome. Let’s make it spread. And go even further – why are announced hours for trick or treating necessary?”

    I find it useful, because when Halloween is on weekdays, it both tells people when they should expect to be home to see most of the trick-or-treaters and it tells kids when most people are going to be home. But then again, I have a job where I’ve always been able to say “by, going home for trick-or-treaters” at 2pm on Halloween.

    Our hours are 3pm – 8pm. The littles go around early, the teens late.

  13. As a resident of Manchester, I’m THRILLED about this change! I grew up in a town 3 times the size of Manchester and it always makes me laugh that as a kid, we trick or treated on Halloween, in the dark, but here that was “too dangerous.” Plus, there’s nothing more disorienting than driving around on a random Sunday afternoon and almost running over a bunch of kids in costumes. It’s easy to remember that kids are going to be out and about on Halloween, on the other hand.

  14. I never understood the purpose of “setting hours” either. I remember one year when I was growing up, they tried that. They made it on the day before to avoid a school/work night. It was an utter failure. Half the town didn’t hear about it and went out anyway, because seriously? Trick-or-treating not on Halloween? Who does that? The other half were only semi-prepared. Many people wound up running two nights of candy instead of one. Other people lied, said “I didn’t know,” and then hit up a different neighborhood the next night. Some people ToTed on the designated night, but had their parents drive them to their grandmother’s the next town over to ToT in her neighborhood too (that would be me).

    I have my witch costume and my 6 lbs of candy ready to go. I can’t wait for tonight. Happy Halloween everyone!

  15. I don’t like the idea of Halloween being on the Sunday of the week even if the 31st is during the weekday. It takes all the meaning out of it to play with the dates like that. I like how it’s done for Christmas–it’s on the 25th & places close & people are off-work that day NO MATTER what day of the week that happens to land on & where the chips end up falling. I believe 4th of July is done that way too.

    When I was little we celebrated people’s birthdays that way also, including mine: on the ACTUAL DATE, no matter what day of the week it landed on & if school-work etc were factors. It was just understood: TODAY is so & so’s birthday, show up with a cake & gifts etc TODAY because that’s the actual date, not 3 days later when it’s Saturday.

    Heck last week a friend of ours turned 40 on a Saturday & Sunday we & others were due to gather at this person’s house for unrelated reasons anyway, only a day later. Even so, with it raining hard, we nonetheless showed up on the EXACT DATE of her birthday with gifts to wish her happy birthday.

    In like matter, my wife & I do something for our anniversary, even if it’s just eating at a nice place, on the EXACT date even if it’s midweek, even if we wait until the weekend to getaway. We do likewise for each other’s birthday too.

    The point: you don’t bless loved ones when it’s convenient & fits your schedule, just as the 4th of July is just that, and Christmas is Dec 25th period. (Plus, if you play with the dates like that, I think it loses its meaning–why not, while we’re at it, celebrate Christmas in September and aunt Flossie’s Nov 15th birthday on April when her husband’s is so we can kill two birds with one stone!)

    I think Halloween should be done the same, and yet also–do it when it’s DARK. It’s about the adventure, make it adventurous.

    LRH

  16. It takes all the meaning out of it to play with the dates like that.

    Of course, if you take this too far you lose all your three day weekends. (Then again, would it be so bad to ditch “President’s day” and start observing Washington’s birthday again?)

  17. Agreed, Uly! Observe everything on its date, at least officially. Sometimes a family needs to do things differently to accomodate unusual circumstances (example: a family I know had a Thanksgiving dinner a few days ago before the husband deployed).

    That being said, my hometown does its (BIG) 4th of July celebration on the 4th unless the 4th is a Sunday, in which case it’s done on the 5th. This is because most of the festivities are done in the a.m. and so it sould be highly disrespectful to those who are attending church to hold the celebreation then. People usually have the 5th off in that case anyhow.

  18. @Mag: If a teenager and his/her friends decided to trick or treat at my house and rang the doorbell at 11 pm, I’d be really… really… really angry. The hours are great because not everyone has good common sense, and even if they do, they don’t know if I’m awake or not. I leave lights on at night for safety in my home (not all of them, but enough). So it just makes sense.

  19. @ Rochelle – I live right down the street in Chester! I think we’ve always had it on the 31st, but we’ve only been going for 3 years, maybe 4. Can’t remember.

  20. The hell? Places have rules about when kids can go trick or treating or celebrate? That’s ridiculous! Hallowe’en and many other holidays are put where they are for a reason; the old agricultural calender. They can’t just be moved around for modern convenience.

  21. I live in one of the few areas where daylight ToT makes sense. At this time of the year, the days are damp and the nights are freezing, meaning that as soon as the sun goes down, the sidewalks become extremely slippery. So most little kids ToT before the sun goes behind the mountains at 5:30 or so. Also, at night it’s frickin’ cold so unless you have a costume that you can wear over layers, it’s no fun.

  22. Good news – while most public websites are publishing lists of fear-mongering “Halloween safety tips,” Fox News’ website has a story reporting that not one case of actual poisoning or otherwise dangerously tainting candy by strangers has been documented, ever.

    I have no idea how to post a link to a news story, but here goes . . . .

    http://www.foxnews.com/health/2010/10/29/poisoned-halloween-candy-trick-treat-myth/?test=faces

    The story does close with a statement that kids’ risk of being killed by cars on Halloween is much higher than any other day. So drive carefully, everyone!

  23. I always hated that about the place where my kid siblings grew up. Thankfully, trick-or-treat is always on Halloween in my city.

    Isn’t it kind of dangerous to have Trick-or-Treat on random dates that commuters might not even know about? People will be driving around like normal and not watching for little kids in the road. At least if it’s on the same date everywhere, people will know to be extra careful.

  24. I agree with SKL

  25. Never heard of designated times for going around, in my experience the age of kids arriving at the door progresses gradually as the sun sets.

  26. SKL, I just read that article; panic among the commenters is full-on!

  27. Yay! Happy Trick or Treating, Manchester!

    I’m in favor of making Halloween a federal holiday!!

  28. Hooray for Manchester! And let the record stand. I let my 10-year old son trick-or-treat alone with a friend for the first time today. With no phone. And guess what? They both came back in one piece. (Their candy, however, suffered multiple casualties😉

  29. I’d never heard of setting a different day with set hours for Trick or Treating until I met my husband. His parents’ town (Kenosha, WI, btw) did that. I thought there were kidding me when they told me that. Crazy. Since then, I’ve heard of it quite a bit. Fortunately, I never lived in a place that did that. Trick or treating has always been done on the 31st starting after dinner (for the little ones) or after it gets dark (for the older kids).

    What I was surprised to notice lately is the number of minivans following kids around the neighborhood. Seriously? There’s no need to drive your kid from neighborhood to neighborhood– they’re adjacent. Are you afraid that your kids will get snatched? Why not WALK with him/her? It was 40* here in Minnesota. Perfect Halloween weather. Or better yet, let your kid go it alone. Driving around makes the evening MORE dangerous, not less.

  30. So sad to see people pass my house, despite I was sitting outside with lights on and decorations, because they didn’t know me. How else do you meet your neighbors?

    Really fun night. My husband went out with the younger ones, but I let my eight year out in a group One of my children complained that every house, dad kept talking and talking.

    One home in my neighborhood actually brought their portable fire pit out in their front yard to keep warm.

  31. @Lainie

    Hooray! Our 10 year old went trick or treating tonight (in the dark) without us too! In fact, its 10:10pm and she is still at a friend’s house doing the candy swap/barter. Haven’t even seen her yet to see how the evening went. I assume she is one piece:)

  32. Well, we went trick or treating a little bit tonight, the old-fashioned way, just like this.

    We took our 2 kids, AND the 3 nieces-nephews. Where their grandparents (my wife’s parents) live is a typical city neighborhood, at least in a city of 6,000 people or so. It was about 8 pm or so when we went out & we were out for 40-odd minutes or so.

    Maybe it wasn’t totally “free-range” in that we accompanied the kids, but at least we sent them up to the doors themselves (while we stayed curbside), instructing them to say “trick or treat” and that upon receiving candy to thank the person repeatedly, in order to show appreciation.

    The kids, who had otherwise been kept inside most of the time, were thanking us profusely saying it was one of the funnest experiences they ever had. They found it MUCH funner than the typical “fall festival events” churches have–and I am NOT knocking churches, by the way, at ALL, in fact they were at one of those as well. But they found the old-fashioned trick or treat much funner, as–frankly, did I & my wife.

    So THERE! to letting fear keep the kids indoors or be relegated to largely sterile “fall festival events,” no thank you on THAT count.

    Lenore, I hope you see this, as it’s a free-range victory that left all of us happy. It was a total “yah!” (I know you get plenty of comments etc so I don’t expect you see everything that goes on here.)

    LRH

    LRH

  33. Here in New Zealand, where we have imported the whole halloween thing with no regard for our Southern hemisphere seasons, it was still light til about 8:30 anyway (its spring, and daylight saving has already started). But we had about half a dozen groups come to the door, some with parents, some not. They were a bit cautious about taking my lollies, but then I was offering them black gumballs from a blood red bowl held by a faceless hand extended from under a black shroud spangled with cobwebs, from a darkened dorrway and accompanied by an evil cackle… hee hee hee

  34. our kids weren’t able to go trick or treating this year – we had to move house.

    poor kids. they missed out.

  35. In my area, Trick or Treat is always the Sunday before, unless the 31st falls on Sunday. Trick or Treat was today. It is also always 1 hour, from 4-5 pm. I live in a small town (less than 500 people) that is part of a township that is spread over a large rural area. That 1 hour didn’t use to be really enough time to walk up and down all 7 streets in town and get treats. My sister walked my 18-mo-old around today in about 45 min, since there are a lot fewer people giving out treats than there were when I trick or treated in the same neighborhood. Then again, according to the township regs, you are no longer allowed to trick or treat after your twelfth birthday, either. Just kind of sucks all ways around, really.

  36. What amazes me, Jen, is that people apparently *follow* those rules!

  37. the first comment: why are trick or treat hours necessary?
    it helps the candy givers know when to expect the crowds. We had no clue this year and some kids came before my husband got home with candy to give out. We also had some (non costumed) teenagers at our door at 11. We (and our small children) had gone to bed!
    We did take the boys walking around the 5 or 6 streets around our house. We stayed curbside while they went up to the houses and they loved it. Of course, they are 2 and 4 so I don’t think it’s that big a deal to them yet.

  38. In Clinton Hill Brooklyn where I live the whole community turns out for Halloween. Trick or Treating begins at around 5 when the sun is setting. There are live shows outside of people’s homes. Bands play in the streets. Roads are closed to make it safe for children crossing streets. It is the high light of the year. What to make Halloween safe, get the whole neighborhood involved. Thousands of people on the streets and no incidents. A great time was had by all.

  39. Our town (typically) does a two-fer Halloween deal. We start with a street party on Main Street, where two or three blocks are cordoned off (traffic stopped by the police), the radio station sets up, and all the merchants set up little tables outside their businesses. The kids go up and down the street, trick-or-treating the business owners, while the radio station hosts a costume contest. This goes for about an hour. At the end of that, Trick-or-treating hours begin. Generally the hours for town are 5-8 PM. I like this, since it ensures the densest house occupation – like someone else mentioned… this way, people know when to be home!

    This year, though, they did the ‘town thing’ on Friday, and regular Trick-or-Treating on Sunday. It was sad, I don’t think they really advertised the Sunday hours, and there were a lot of houses that were dark. I really do like the Street Party with hours following.

  40. honestly, when it comes to trick or treating, my kids will, next year at least, start at about 5 and go till they are too tired to walk around. We’ll also probably join up with my sister in law too.

  41. We live in Milwaukee, and moved here from another city….it is the STRANGEST thing I have ever heard of that they don’t let the kids go trick or treating at night, and at time on Halloween night. Don’t totally understand why. Think there are some underlying reasons why they don’t just do it on Halloween.

  42. I’ve never lived in a place with trick-or-treat hours or alternate trick-or-treat day… Halloween comes, kids wait til it’s dark and out we/they go, unless there’s a terrible snowstorm going, then the kids bundle up for a half-hearted attempt at trick or treating our own block with snowgear under/over costumes where all candy givers give out candy by the handful to get things moving along… No one goes to doors where the lights are off – when you’re done handing out candy – you put out the porch light. It’s orderly and easy. Why complicate things?

  43. I think the problem with the actual day may be that there are occasionally problems with goth/zombie initiations involving teens and adults. All the tires were slashed in my neighborhood a few Halloweens ago, but it was not on the actual day, so I don’t buy the idea that these trouble makers really care about Samhain and won’t make trouble on TorT day.

    On another note, I spent Halloween in New Orleans once and liked their idea of having a business TorT time on the weekday closest to 10/31. The kids had their costume contests and such at school, then hit the businesses up for treats on the way home. I don’t think their parents would have wanted them running around the bars in the French Quarter at night, but it was really cute to see them hit up the bartenders and waiters at 3pm. Of course, they got to go out in their own neighborhoods the next night too.

  44. I learned from my brother who lives in Wisconsin that all the trick or treating is done in the daytime on the weekends because of a murder in…1973. A little girl was killed while trick or treating so now an entire generation of Wisconsinites has never been trick or treating in the dark because of this isolated incident. I like the spookiness that the night brings with all the houses decorated with lights. Here in Colorado, you go out on Halloween evening whether it is warm or not.

  45. Oh gez… get this: Razor Blade found in B.C. Candy bar. (link: http://www.globaltvbc.com/Razor+blade+found+candy/3767247/story.html ) The news story showed the blade – more an exacto knife than a razor blade, but still, what are the odds that the woman did it herself because she “couldn’t tell whether the blade had been inserted through the candy wrapper or if the wrapper had been partially opened and the blade stuck directly into the chocolate.”

    My bets are that she did it for attention.

    But, once again, no children were hurt.

  46. Being a former Manchester, NH resident, this always drive me nuts! I mean yeah, I loved actually getting to see the kids & their costumes, but the best part of Halloween is running around at night, isn’t it? I never realized it was an actual law on the books though…

    I grew up in a small town in central MA. In our part of town, sidewalks didn’t exist, and streetlights were far spaced. My brother & I would cut through the dark woods from our house down to the road by the lake to go trick-or-treating, because it was safer than the street with the blind curve on the hill.

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