27 Oct 2023

Halloween Horrors

The commercialisation of Halloween knows no bounds. Entire aisles in supermarkets are dedicated to costumes, decorations and themed sweets and unsurprisingly children everywhere are excited about the chance to dress up, go out on a dark night, flirt with demonic thrills and amass vast quantities of sugary treats.

If you’re a parent, you are probably already feeling sucked into the Halloween maelstrom. Costumes are being devised, trick or treating expeditions are being planned, Halloween parties and decorations are the order of the day. It’s hard to resist the excitement of your children and inevitably you are taken over by the whole orgy of spookiness.

Or you may be someone who just loves the chance to dress up, decorate the house, throw a themed party. You’ll already have your pumpkins carved and ready to advertise your willingness to participate, and you’re happy to spend hours creating costumes and experimenting with inventive make-up, so that you can transform yourself into a Halloween horror. You will undoubtedly be welcoming visitors with open arms (and a witchy cackle).

But many people find the Halloween season uncongenial. They don’t have children, they’re not interested in dressing up, they feel unmoved by the whole parade of ghouls, vampires, zombies and witches. Halloween poses a problem: can they simply ignore it, or will they be condemned as Scrooge-like party poopers?

If you live in a safe, friendly neighbourhood, populated by many families with young children, you might have to accept that not participating will be seen as un-neighbourly. Harassed parents might feel disappointed that you’re not willing to play the game and may find your lack of cooperation troubling. In these circumstances, you might have to bite the bullet and accept that trick or treaters will be ringing your doorbell on Halloween and you are going to have to make sure there is something to give them.

Accepting Visitors

•Arm yourself with a generous stock of shop-bought sweets (home-made treats are risky; you wouldn’t want to trigger a nut allergy).

•Switch on outdoor and porch lights if possible, so there won’t be any tripping on the path or trampling of flowerbeds. If you’re really prepared to enter the Halloween spirit, you could place a candlelit jack o’-lantern in a front window or in the porch to advertise your good will.

•Answer the door with a friendly smile on your face, and express admiration for the parade of costumes on display, no matter how bizarre. Never question a small child about their costume; they will find your challenge overwhelming and may become tongue-tied and upset.

•Hand out the sweets (don’t leave them in a bowl by the door, or they’ll all be gone in the first few minutes), wish your visitors a good night and firmly close the door.

•Repeat for the next couple of hours.

Refusing Visitors

In circumstances where you do not feel that refusing visitors is going to disappoint neighbours or get you a bad name as a mean-spirited grump, you might well decide that you would like to forget the whole Halloween experience. Maybe you live in a secluded spot and find the prospect of people crashing around your garden alarming; perhaps you live alone and treat winter evenings as a sacrosanct time, when you can retreat into the peace and safety of your home, with no fear of disturbance.

In these circumstances it is best to draw the curtains and switch out (or at least dim) the lights. While nobody should have to cower in their home on Halloween, it’s best not to advertise your presence too clearly or you may find yourself being harassed by importunate visitors.

If you’re worried that a steady stream of determined visitors is likely to be beating a path to your door, perhaps you should take Halloween as a good opportunity to go out for a meal or a trip to the cinema. If the house is truly empty and unoccupied, you will be beyond reproach.

In the UK most trick or treaters are primary school age, and they are only allowed out early in the evening (often with supervising parents or older siblings in tow), especially on school nights. There is no legal upper age limit, but it is undoubtedly true that teenage trick or treaters might come across as more intimidating, especially to older people, who may well be fearful of uncouth, menacing behaviour or even vandalism. If in doubt, switch off the lights and don’t answer the door.

Trick or treaters should take the hint, accept that they’re confronted by the household that is not participating in the Halloween horror show, and move on.


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