Halloween wrapped up last night. I had about 30 trick or treaters. All very young, I think the oldest must have been 12 or so. I remember when I was young and living in St. Paul. My other younger years were spent in sparsely populated areas that were not conductive to trick or treating.
I remember fondly as the sun inched towards the western horizon the streets would fill with kids running everywhere with large bags and pillow cases. It was an amazingly happy period of complete pandemonium. Every house gladly handed out candy to enthusiastic and sugar rushed children in costume. We even had the one house with the dentist who we avoided since the toothbrushes he handed out were not prime loot.
Today it seems that streets are empty. the happy cheering and laughing of previous Oct. 31st have been replaced with…. nothing. Where did everybody go? streets are silent, homes are dark. A few scattered islands of light attract small groups of children and their adult chaperones as they scuttle through the nearly silent early fall gloom.
I think it is an expression of modern paranoia… fear of our neighbors. A fear that is greatly unfounded. For all the stories about tainted candy, razor blades and glass in apples there has not been a single verified incident of someone tampering with Halloween goodies and handing them out to random strangers. There are two incidents of Halloween treats being altered and both were committed by family members of the children stricken.
1. In a 1970 case, family members sprinkled a 5-year-old Kevin Toston’s candy with heroin to hide the fact that he’d gotten into his uncle’s drug stash.
2. in 1974, a man named Ronald Clark O’Bryan of Houston, Texas, laced his son’s candy with cyanide and the child died. The motive was a big insurance policy that O’Bryan had taken out on his son. To make the poisoning appear random, O’Bryan also poisoned his daughter’s candy and the candy of three other children. None of them ate it, however.
Snopes.com and other sites can find a handful of false alarms but no real authentic monsters out there to hurt random children. In the many years police and hospitals have offered to x-ray bags of candy not a single incident of a razor blade or needle or glass has been found.
There are other Halloween safety issues as well. Having kids running pelmel all over the neighborhood is a problem with injury. Parents now seem to travel with their children, and that is a good thing even if it does seem to cut down on the fun factor of an evening to be let loose so to speak.
Our own paranoia and suspicions of our very neighbors are keeping us inside, looking out into the dark. Halloween, if anything, is at most a trip to the mall or the church group for “safe candy” even though there has never been any authentic tampered candy.
Could it also be that Halloween is no longer a kids game? Adults now gather for costume parties and the night now belongs more to them than to their children? Is it because parents are now not only paranoid of tampered candy but of the candy itself? “I don’t let Billy eat candy, it is bad for him.”
There are some very scary things out there, but the night of scares, tricks and treats is one of the least scary.