I feel like I tell this story every October – how I turn my porch light off on Halloween so the Trick-or-Treaters don’t come to my door. Oh, my daughters decorate the yard and the inside of our home for the season, but for me, Halloween ends on the 30th of October, a day before the actual holiday.
Not that I owe an explanation, I want to share why I do this.
October 28, 1970, the Halloween candy scare broke via a New York Times op-ed. The world was bombarded with stories of poisoned candy being given to kids, and someone putting razors in apples and passing them out on Halloween. For a time, folks kept their kids at home on Halloween and wouldn’t allow them out to go door-to-door in search of holiday treats. Then, things eased up a bit. The story fell off to the wayside, and within days, memories were replaced with the next big breaking story; parents began to let their kids out again on Halloween, but when they returned home, cautious parents inspected the candy before the kids were allowed to eat it.
Two days after the op-ed was published, a story broke out of Detroit about a young boy who died due to eating Halloween candy that had been laced with heroin… at least that was the story told by the boy’s uncle. Investigations later concluded that the young child had in fact ingested the drug, but he found it in his uncle’s home, not in tainted Halloween candy, as investigators had first been led to believe.
On October 31, 1974, another child died in Houston; this time from eating poisoned candy. Sadly, his own father had placed cyanide in a pixie stick and given it to him.
By the 1980’s, many communities had banned trick-or-treating all together. By the early 90’s, many of us began taking our kids to area malls, where we were made to feel the treats were a bit safer, although still returning home to inspect any candy before it was eaten. My husband and I took our daughter to the mall with one pumpkin basket for the mall, and another for the treats she would collect from our family and friends that we drove her to, after mall trick-or-treating was over. As paranoid and protective as I (still) am about kids, we threw out all the candy collected from the mall stores. (Hey, devils work in malls too, you know.) We took our daughter trick-or-treating at the mall, dressed in her favorite Disney costumes, for the experience of the holiday only.
I will admit to being critical of parents who witness all the ugly there is in the world, complain about it, and even hold their kids tighter for about 15 minutes, before forgetting about the ugly, and returning to life as usual. I’m not that parent. I’ve never forgotten the 1993 kidnapping, rape, and murders of the two Texas teens, Jennifer Ertman (14) and Elizabeth Pena (16). I’ve never forgotten about the 2005 disappearance of Mississippi teen, Natalie Holloway, who went missing while on her senior high school trip to Aruba… the same child whose body has never been found. It is 2022, 17 years after Natalie’s disappearance, and I can’t stop shedding tears for her mom… for the pain she must still be going through, living in the unknown. I pray for this mom’s peace every morning, and I pray that another parent will never have to experience that pain again.
So, here we are, mere weeks away from another Halloween. Parents will open their doors and send their kids on their way, alone, to join in the door-to-door festivities with their friends or other kids who just might be walking the same route.
Some parents will take their kids door-to-door, and will allow them to eat the candy before it even hits the bottom of their pumpkin basket. Then, there will be some who decide to personally walk their kids safely to the doors of family and friends… people who they know and trust would never harm their kids. I tip my hat to this last group.
Another year, and my porch light will remain off the entire night of October 31st. Because, although we haven’t had any recent big stories about Halloween, I realize that there are still those who are lying in wait for just the right moment to make national news again, at the dire expense of our children, young and old.
I suppose I do this in defiance… defiance of a generation of parents who are just too lax with the safety of their kids. Defiance of a society that prioritizes a football game, over the importance of waiting at the school bus stop with their kids at 5:30 AM, when it’s still dark out. Maybe I do it, in hopes that a parent will knock on my door and ask, “Why don’t you ever turn your porch light on for Halloween?” and once I give the explanation, they will begin to follow suit.
Whatever happens this Halloween, be prepared to accept the consequences and the responsibility for your part – whether your kids are out alone, going door-to-door, unknowingly accepting treats from those who seek to cause harm and chaos, or safely walking hand in hand with you, as they go door-to-door collecting their treats from trusted family and friends.
Friends, I’ll see you here next time, but before you leave, do share your thoughts. How do you feel about giving out Halloween candy and treats? How do you celebrate this holiday?
~Nonnie Jules, Publisher
President & Founder