The following article by David Strange was originally published on 25 Oct 2015. It is archived here for your reading enjoyment.
The coming of Halloween later this week brings to mind all sorts of memories. For me, one of my earliest recollections in life was going "trick or treating" with my brother Dale through the neighborhood. I was dressed as Bugs Bunny, complete with plastic face mask, and my brother was a skeleton. Our orange paper Halloween sacks gradually filled with candy as we went from house to house. I, being quite small, soon tired and began dragging my sack along behind me. By the time we got back home, we found a worn hole in my sack where all the candy had fallen out along the way. To Dale's consternation, Mom asked him to share his candy with me. Oh what patience is tried by a little brother!
The origins of Halloween and Trick or Treat come from a befuddlement of history. Halloween can be traced to early Christian celebrations, but really predates Christianity back to pagan orders such as the Druids. October 31st was the last day of the year on the Celtic calendar and was considered a time when the Lord of Death gathered together the souls of the dead.
Trick or Treat is much more fun. A relatively new phenomenon, this custom only dates to the 1920's as we think of it today. Going door to door for treats goes back to England, Scotland, and Ireland in the Middle Ages, but the first known use of the term "Trick or Treat" was in 1927.
Traditionally, trick or treating has involved only harmless fun, with minor tricks; though everyone knows of times when it got out of hand. One friend remembers waking to find his horse-drawn wagon sitting on his barn roof. Over the night someone had disassembled the wagon, hauled it piece by piece up on the roof, and reassembled the whole thing.
Back when outhouses were common in neighborhoods, they were somehow an irresistible target. I was told one story of how a couple of brothers went out Halloween night tipping over all the outhouses in their neighborhood; all except their own, of course. Come morning, it was pretty obvious what two boys were guilty.
My brother and I would never do damaging tricks like that, but we did enjoy doing a little minor scariness at the house. In fact, we were quite proud of it. One year, Dale dressed as a Lurch-like character and greeted trick or treaters as they came to the door; I sat at a nearby pump organ with a ghostly sheet over me and played spooky music. It was all in good fun, but one kid made it a challenge. The young teenage boy mockingly scoffed at our little show, proclaiming that it didn't scare him at all.
Then the boy turned his back and started to walk away.
To everyone's surprise, Dale suddenly burst out with his loudest, scariest scream; a scream that I wouldn't have guessed was in him. All I remember is being amazed at how the boy didn't seem to touch the ground until he was all the way back out to the road. He never came back to say he wasn't scared.
Door-to-door trick or treating seems to be fading away in many areas today, replaced by group events perceived to be safer. It used to be OK to send young kids out alone without worry. Sadly, real life is too often more frightening than anything Halloween.
I have had to adjust to this new reality. One day I saw a couple of young kids on a street corner being drenched by a rain. I pulled up and asked if they would like to sit in my van until the school bus arrived. I was surprised when they stepped back in horror, saying "No! No! We are just fine!" It wasn't until after I pulled away that I realized to my own horror how I must have appeared, a stranger in an unmarked white van, trying to get little kids to get in. My goodness, how the world has changed.
But let's close this story on a better note with a little Halloween trivia: What is the difference between a coffin and a casket? A casket is a rectangular box in which a body is buried. A coffin is a six-sided box, narrow at each end and broad at the shoulders, used for the same purpose. And for bonus points, what is "anthropoid"? Anthropoid means "in the shape of a man" and is used as another term for coffin.
In my line of work, I am often asked if I believe in ghosts. My answer is "I don't believe in them, but I don't want to make them mad, either." You all have fun this Halloween; just watch out for the little ghosts and goblins out there.
Copyright 2015 by David Strange, Shepherdsville KY. All rights are reserved. No part of the content of this page may be included in any format in any place without the written permission of the copyright holder.