Here's today's aborted editorial for Halloween Week. I like it too much to simply delete it, but not enough to submit it for publication in the newspaper.
The first time you plunge face first into a tubful of water and bobbing apples, it can be a bit scary. But when you feel your teeth biting into a crisp apple, the payoff is instantaneous.
A lot of the ghoulish decorations are more silly than spooky. They enable you to make fun of things that really make your flesh crawl, so perhaps you can face them without showing fear.
Halloween dares, like ringing the doorbell of the scariest house in the neighborhood, can give a nice goosebumpy thrill. No one can blame you if you’re scared, but passing the test of courage can make you feel like a hero.
Now and then a Halloween prank really scares you. I don’t just mean a momentary startle, like when a hairy claw reaches from behind and grabs a shriek out of you. I mean the lingering horror of a scene that keeps replaying in your mind for hours or years afterward.
I still think about a big Victorian style house in the neighborhood where I grew up. One Halloween when I was trick-or-treating, I clambered up the steps of that house and rang the front doorbell.
Through the oval window in the door, I could see straight through the house, tidy but old-fashioned in its decoration. Sitting in the parlor, facing away from the door, was an older woman who did not stir when the bell was rung. Somehow that scene stuck in my brain with a shiver of delicious creepiness.
Often the delicious part, if you’re a child, is what tumbles out of your swag bag when you get home from your trick or treating rounds.
For parents, though, this may be the scariest part of Halloween. Besides being fattening, tooth-rotting, and unhealthy in so many ways, the treats might have been tampered with. Anything that isn’t factory-sealed inside a fully intact wrapper will go straight in the bin. You never know, these days.
This is why many parents see the wisdom of taking their kids to a safe Halloween party with people they know and trust. or escorting them on planned sugar safaris to places like the park or the nursing home.
Like sugar, spookiness can feel good, but only in moderate doses. Overdoing it can turn a night to remember into something you would rather forget.
As an adult I have watched movies that scared me when I was a child, and I wondered what the big deal was. I have also seen some films so gruesome that I wish I hadn’t seen them.
The approach to Halloween I recommend to kids of all ages is to allow yourself to be scared only enough to have fun - then just a bit more. Then let the sugar buzz make it all better.