The Halloweens of my childhood are dead.
This may not seem like a great revelation considering that I’m 31, but it is sad to me to think it, to realize that it is really gone. First off, lets begin with the costumes. As a child, it was rare for a kid to have a 100% store bought packaged costume. You never did that. You bought pieces and parts, then you took some old clothes and made the rest. A vampire costume was some fake plastic teeth, some fake blood, maybe some white face paint and a cape… the rest of the outfit was made of dressy church clothes with hidden holes or that were a half size too small and were going to be tossed out or donated anyway. My personal favorite year was a pair of jeans, a white t-shirt, and a pair of scissors… some fake blood, a little black face paint around the eyes and I was a pretty kickass zombie. Too many kids these days just go to the store and pick up a costume. Then one by one they come to door looking exactly alike, the same couple dozen or so popular costumes over and over.
Second… it’s 5pm right now, the sun is still shining quite brightly, and already I’ve seen kids out in costume. Its still daylight… trick-or-treating is supposed to happen after dark! As a kid, we never started until the sun had set. Not that there are many kids out, because most of them are going to be doing their trick-or-treating at the local mall, where its completely safe. Of course, to a degree I can’t argue… when I was young, my parents taught me pretty well about avoiding strangers and I was required to know all the local streets, how to get home, to trusted neighbor’s houses, and even to the nearest police or fire department should an emergency arrise. It was called parenting, and my parents did it. Most kids I’ve bothered to speak to these days can hardly find their front door from a half block away, let alone be trusted to actually think too much for themselves and reason out how to handle an unexpected situation. In my day, if a sicko tried to snatch a kid from a group, the other kids would run screaming, parents would be swarming the street in seconds… now, I suspect most kids would stand there and wonder if it was going to be on the news later, and it might dawn on one of them to tell a grown-up what happened if they knew they were going to be rewarded for it. Not that many of today’s parents would ask, or care, or even realize their child was gone until it came time to send them to school the next day… maybe.
Third, no one decorates anymore. I do, we put up monsters and spiderwebs and all that stuff in the front window. (Hey, I’d decorate my lawn but I live in an apartment and I don’t have one.) But one window out of a few hundred just ends up looking silly. The neighborhoods I grew up in, they had style. Frontyards became graveyards. Eerie music would poor out ever time a door opened. You actually approached each house with apprehension because you didn’t know if it was just going to be a person with a bowl of candy, or a monster to jump out at you and toss candy in your bag if you could manage not to run away. One year, when I started feeling a bit old to actually go out for candy, I worked the door at our house. I dressed up in some jeans and an old flannel shirt, I put on a mask and stuffed pine straw into my clothes so that it poked out at the ankles, wrists, neck and waist… then I sat on the front step with the bowl of candy in my lap and a little sign that said “Take One”. I stayed as motionless as I could, and some kids were scared to approach, but if they did I stayed still for them… but the ones who walked right up and tried to take a handful of candy instead of just one, them I grabbed, by the wrist, and held on as they tried to run away screaming. Once they’d wrench free and I’d get back up, these teens would stop crying and compose themselves and start laughing about who just got scared, and they’d resolved to find someone else and send them this way, and I’d assure them I’d be there.
And that leads into number Four… Haunted Houses. I love them… or I used to. The last few that I’ve been to though, they just sucked. Too crowded, we walked single file through the house, never more than five feet from the person in front or behind, and every scare was anticipated. If they jumped out at someone a few people ahead, they wouldn’t be reset to jump out at you, and if you watched seven people walk past corner or dark spot without a scare you could be pretty sure it was waiting for you. Thanks to the cry babies and sue happy idiots in our litigious world, they can’t touch you. Not that I want people in a haunted house to get man-handled, but part of what is frightening about a guy in a hockey mask coming at you is the idea that he’s going to get you! Of course, if he’s legally not allowed to come into contact with you in any way, it’s not too worrysome anymore. He may be running out you, but he’s going to stop… he has to or he’ll lose his job, and you can sue the haunted house right out of existance.
That about covers it… everything that I loved about Halloween has been eroded and what remains is this bizarre 100% safe commercial holiday that some people still oppose of religious grounds despite the fact that nearly everything one might oppose has been stripped.