Tomorrow is Halloween, a holiday that used to be a fun time for kids, but has been ruined by religious zealots and sick sociopaths who get their jollies putting poison and needles into candy bars and apples.

As a kid, I can remember hitting the street just as twilight began and roaming the neighborhood for hours, ringing doorbells and screaming “Trick or treat” when the homeowners opened the door. There was a ritual to be followed – they would ooh and ahh over our homemade costumes, then drop a piece of candy or two into our paper bags, we’d say thank you, and rush off to the next house for more goodies.

We’d meet our friends on the sidewalk and discuss which houses were giving away the best goodies. Snickers and Three Musketeers candy bars were much favored over apples, to the dismay of our mothers and the delight of our dentists. My favorites were those chocolate coins the size of a silver dollar, wrapped in gold foil. And there was always one house in every neighborhood that gave you a religious tract instead of a piece of candy, and you walked away feeling cheated.

We’d roam the streets until the last porch light was turned off, and then go home to dump our bags on the living room floor and stare at our plunder. We just knew we were rich! As our mom’s warned us not to eat too much candy or we’d get sick, we’d wait until they turned their heads, and cram one more sugary treat into our mouths.

In those days, we’d have been mortified if our parents took us trick or treating anytime after about age 7 or 8. And our parents didn’t feel the need to chaperone us. The bigger kids looked after their younger brothers and sisters, and pedophiles didn’t live in our world.

Yes, those really were the good old days, and I feel sorry for today’s kids, who will never know that freedom, or the magic we felt rushing around in the dark dressed up as pirates, hoboes, and cowboys.

I don’t know when Halloween changed, but the holiday I knew as a kid disappeared a long time ago. It was stolen by the freaks who poison candy, by the fear of some pervert snatching a child off the sidewalk or pulling them into their house, and by religious zealots who have turned an innocent time for children into some form of devil worship.

In my 25 plus years in the community newspaper business, at this time every year I was besieged by letters to the editor from people decrying the holiday because we were teaching our children to worship Satan if we allowed them to go trick or treating. Every newspaper editor I knew, from those on small town weeklies to big city dailies, experienced the same deluge of nonsense. These days they come in as e-mail.

I am just as supportive of the right to freedom of worship as I am to free speech and freedom of the press, but I refused to print any of the goofy letters I got condemning Halloween. I put them in the same circular file where I put the letters from white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and the folks who wrote to expose their favorite conspiracy of the week. This would bring accusations that I was denying them their freedom of the press. What most people don’t understand is that while all Americans have freedom of speech, freedom of the press is not guaranteed to everybody, it is guaranteed to those who own a press.

In a time when children are kidnapped walking home from school, or even while asleep in their own beds, a parent would have to be totally insane to allow a child to go out trick or treating without an adult along. That’s really sad. Halloween is supposed to be a time for kids. Can’t we find some way to give it back to them?

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18 Comments on Halloween Is For Kids, Not Psychos And Fanatics

  1. Jim@HiTek says:

    Urban myth: “putting poison and needles into candy bars and apples”

    Can you give a source that proves either of those things have ever happened? What I recall is that both of those fears are urban myths, repeated and kept alive by newspapers!

  2. Cindy -- Wyoming says:

    What world do you live in Jim??? Give you a source???? You think news folks on TV, firemen, or policemen make this stuff up? Why do you think police and fire departments set up places to have kids run their candy through Xray machines after trick or treating? I’ve seen razor blades displayed in apples found through these inspections and shown on TV… I’m sure you think that was a set up………

    Aside from that – I don’t know that we can ever give young kids the great free childhood that we had growing up. It is too bad. I enjoyed your description of your nights Trick or Treating. I started smiling when you said no one would want their parents along after they got so old. WELL, my mother was the one wanting me to Trick or Treat, particularly in the new “housing projects” (remember when they were called that?). She got so excited trying to see what I got at each house. We left poor dad at home to hand out candy which I’m sure wasn’t all that enjoyable for him. When we returned home, she went through my dumped out plunder grabbing popcorn balls and other sweets she so loved. I didn’t really care for sweets so it was fine with me. My mother never really grew up and sure missed Trick or Treating when I got too old to go. She wouldn’t dare eat anything homemade now days unless she knew the folks. How sad. But, thank you for making me think of those fun times with my mom watching her act like a happy, excited kid. She was always fun. I miss her.

  3. Linda Mason says:

    I know Nick. I grew up on the south side of Chicago. We had neighborhood’s and neighborhood’s to check out. The fun of it all is well remembered. Sometime’s we would have to go home and drop off a full sack and get another and go at it again. Walking and talking a laughing and hollering at other friends and other kids. It was loud and noisy and the best time all year. We all so looked forward to that evening. I think I quit when I was 13 or 14 but alway’s had a great time.

    Yes, it is a shame the kids today can’t have that kind of clean fun. Sharing the laughter and excitement is long gone. It is great the schools and fire department and police stations are doing their best to help the kid’s by providing some place for them to go, it just isn’t the same.

    I am glad we had those time’s and miss the safety and atmosphere we had back then.

    Thanks for bringing back the memories. Later

  4. SAL Bellomo says:

    Thank you for the Memories when the atmosphere to go out and Trick
    or treating was fun and you came home with all good things and some money too. Some of it was good clean fun and some we do not talk about and being with other Kid’s was great .Those were the good old day’s lost in time but not in memories .””GET-ER DONE””

    PS. GO SOUTH OLD MAN IT’S THAT TIME AGAIN HA HA HA !!!!!!!!!!!

  5. Connie Braidh says:

    Loved your Halloween remembrances. It was the same for me. Such fun. In our home base area there is now Mall-o-ween. One of our local malls has candy at each store and the kids go around and “Trick or Treat”. Also there are Halloween parties for kids where stations are set up and each kid gets a treat.
    It really is a shame between the sickos and some religious groups, Halloween has changed so much.
    I am religious but I question those people who say Halloween is of Satan. Yes, it’s origin is based on All Hallows Eve, a pagan celebration. But both Christmas and Easter are both overlapped on old Pagan celebration days. Are they evil? Of course not. It’s the intent of the holiday that is important. Halloween is for kids and having fun dressing up as Cinderella or a pirate and getting candy. How does Satan worship fit in there? It doesn’t. They are the same people who won’t have an alcoholic drink but Jesus drank wine. Go figure.

  6. Rob Nixon says:

    Somebody needs to pull Jim@HiTek back from whatever alternative reality he’s living in. The big incident of poisoned candy happened in Pasadena, TX, a suburb of Houston, where I lived then and still do today. I remember it vividly. It was Halloween 1974. Ronald Clark O’Bryan killed his 8-year old son with pixie stick candy laced with cyanide. He did it for insurance money. O’Bryan was convicted of capital murder and executed by the State of Texas in 1984. If you don’t believe it, ask the Harris County District Attorney’s office. I guarantee you they remember it.

    In our neighborhood, we still have a Halloween event for kids. For at least the last 15 years, parents get together a hayride for the kids, using a long trailer with hay bales for the kids to sit on. The ride goes down a street in the middle of the subdivision, and parents follow along and take the kids down the side streets for trick-or-treating. After the ride, there’s a safe party for the kids at the local recreation center. Not as free and easy as what Nick and I remember, but the kids have a good time in a safe environment. Parents check the candy before letting kids eat it. They remember Ronald Clark O’Bryan.

  7. Llana says:

    In response to Jim@HiTek:
    In 1974, after trick-or-treating, a Houston, TX-area child died from eating a “Pixy Stix” laced with cyanide. Years later, his dad, Ronald C. O’Bryan, was executed for poisoning his own son to collect insurance money.

    “It profoundly affected the whole community, every child of trick-or-treating age,” said Mike Hinton, then a Harris County prosecutor who sent O’Bryan to death row. “There’s no question it had a national effect on Halloween.”

    “Before Oct. 31, 1974, the idea of carefully examining children’s Halloween booty might have seemed like a paranoid waste of time. O’Bryan, a Deer Park optician, shocked the city and the nation when it was discovered he replaced some of the sugary powder inside five Giant Pixy Stix with enough cyanide to kill two or three grown men each.

    “Only Timothy Marc O’Bryan ate the deadly confection and died shortly afterward. Four other children, including Timothy’s younger sister, received the straws but did not ingest their contents…Longtime Pasadena-area resident Chris Berryhill said O’Bryan’s legacy still lingers this time of year. Worse, he blames the local murder for spawning copycats.” http://www.chron.com/CDA/archi.....99_3174629

    For me, THAT national fear of “who would harm a child?” is exactly when Halloween turned from being just a lot of harmless fun into a parent’s test to double-check gathered candies for possible tampering.

    This is not an urban legend. Never was, and never will be. Just go to http://www.snopes.com/horrors/mayhem/needles.asp for more information.

  8. Kevin says:

    Thanks for the short trip down nostalgia lane, Nick. Growing up in Cheyenne, we would have been easy prey for pedophiles or their ilk. It was so cold that we really bundled up under our costumes and were so bulky we could not have run away if we needed to. Rmemeber those horrible stamped plastic masks that we could not see out of? We would not have been able to see where to run anyway. We sure did find the candy tho!!

    I’m glad to have had those years and even more glad we did not have to worry about such things as pedophiles and all the other sickos.

    My initial reaction to your post was that I had heard the pins, needles and razor blades reports had been proven to be urban myths, as did Jim. I then did a search on Snopes and found my and Jim’s understandings to be incorrect. The stories are true: http://www.snopes.com/horrors/mayhem/needles.asp

    Sad commentary on today but my memories are still vividly fun and thrill filled.

    Happy Halloween everyone – Kevin

  9. Sid says:

    My memories are carbon copies of yours Nick and also have the same thoughts of the world today… as an adult I would not feel safe doing some the things and going some of the places I did as a kid.

  10. Nick Russell says:

    Jim wrote: “Urban myth: “putting poison and needles into candy bars and apples”

    Can you give a source that proves either of those things have ever happened? What I recall is that both of those fears are urban myths, repeated and kept alive by newspapers!”

    When I owned the weekly newspaper in Grays Harbor, Washington in 1981 I was at the fire department where they were examing kids’ Halloween candy. Two apples were found with straight pins in them. Both came from the same house. A 19 year old man was arrested and confessed that he did it as a joke. I was there, saw it, photographed the apples, and reported it in the newspaper.

  11. Tim Lawler says:

    I did a search on snopes.com for pins and needles in apples. Snopes said that it is true. Although most of the instances were either pranks or hoaxes. I think we need to be cautious but not lose all faith in human nature. A bigger danger (although much rarer) is poisoning because that can be fatal and harder to detect. Everyone be careful but have fun too!

  12. Karen says:

    Probably even more dangerous are food allergens. My nephew is terribly allergic to peanuts, and as a kid his mom allowed him to trick or treat. He ingested some candy with peanuts in it and spent two days in the hospital. I blame my sister for that, not the person who gave him the candy.

  13. Dave Bossert says:

    The area where I currently am at, is doing something neat during trick or treat hours. The authorities have scheduled a manditory meeting for all the sex offenders that happens during the exact same hours that the kids are out trick or treating. Good idea !

  14. Redbear says:

    It wasn’t entirely safe back then. While wandering the neighborhood in those stamped plastic masks, there could be a short “pffft” from the bushes somewhere out of sight, as the older boys used the trick-or-treaters as pea-shooter targets.

    We had also heard they would drop ice cubes into your paper goody bags, so they would make holes and leave a trail of your candy for scrounging. But that one may have been “suburban legend.” I checked for holes often, though.

  15. Nick, your article brought back some great memories, my Halloweens were similar to yours only 60 miles north of yours, in Detroit. They were all great but the one I remember most was the one that almost didn’t happen, 1955 and I was almost five years old, the problem was I had been bed ridden along with 3 of my brothers for the last five months with polio. It was a warm night so we had the front bedroom window open and were hanging out watching all our friends and neighbors coming to our front door for their Trick or Treats. Since this was my favorite holiday after Christmas I was really bummed out. About a half hour after the last trickster came to our door we heard a bunch of of kids running up the staircase and into the bedroom, four of the neighbor kids were standing there each with a big bag of candy, they each had carried an extra bag with them as they made their rounds with one of our names on it. All the neighbors knew that we were bed ridden and made sure that we got our fair share of the goodies.
    I really doubt that you would be able to find a neighborhood with people like that in it these days.

  16. Kathe K says:

    Nick, I think your statement that “pedophiles didn’t live in our world” is way off the mark. There is a high percentage of women who are now well beyond middle age who were sexually abused as children. It wasn’t reported nor talked about but it certainly existed. The difference today is that there is the awareness around it and it is not as likely to occur as a result.

    With you, I am saddened by the freedoms that we had as children that our grandchildren will never experience and I am glad that they will also not experience the terror of abuse by pedophiles at the same rate. There is a trade-off.

  17. Greg Schiffer says:

    Nick; You hit the nail on the head with trick or treating in most neighborhoods. The sicko’s took the casual fun aspect out of it for the kids. However, a couple of years ago we had reservations at a family friendly RV park and we happened to have our granddaughter with us. It was a couple of months till the offical halloween but it was halloween at the campground. Rigs were decorated with a prize for the best. The kids wore their costumes and went trick or treating in as a group to all the rigs with their lights on, which was most of them. Parents were with the group and along the route but the kids had a great time anyway. The relaxed atmosphere actually reminded me of the times we ran around after dark to many years ago.I guess the RV park is like a poor mans gated community, where you can go and be annoyed by poor manners at times but the sicko’s are all somewhere else.

  18. Marnin says:

    Along with what you said, let’s not forget the change in the “kids” as well. Too often they feel this is the time not for trick or treating but rather to harass the smaller children. Too often kids come home beaten up, candy stolen, or at the very least covered with eggs, shaving cream and in some cases Nair.
    Too many times people have come home to find their sidewalk, fence or house spray painted or egged.
    It is too bad a fun holiday has turned into what it is today.

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