The wrong kind of fear turns All Hallows’ hollow

Christina Pellett is a Medill junior. He can be reached at [email protected].

Now that Halloween has come and gone, leaving behind a cloud of Kit-Kat dust and witch hats, I’ve taken some time to reflect on what Halloween means.

When I was younger, it was about getting dressed up and going out, carefree, never until 8 p.m. — when it was as dark as it could be — and knocking on strange people’s doors and getting candy from them. And I remember a certain element of danger, especially when I got to stay up late watching Night Gallery and picking through my candy with my mom, making sure there were no holes or slits in the wrappers. Even then, the urban legends of razor blades in candy apples and strychnine in peanut butter cups were in every parents’ mind and protection was key.

But today, it makes me a little sad how much protection there needs to be, even if it is only a tiny bit more than before. Trick-or-treating-approved hours across the nation would dare not sneak into the pre-dusk gloominess, leaving kids free to trick or treat from noon to 2 p.m. and 3 to 5 p.m. or something like that.

I ask myself, what is trick-or-treating without the dark?

It’s supposed to be scary and you’re supposed to walk around and hear voices all over in the night, other kids giggling over their goodies, or maybe a scary noise here and there. I rarely worried about murderous killers hacking me — and my clown costume — to pieces. The only things I really worried about were whether my mom was going to make me wear a coat and whether my costume was going to be appreciated for its sheer creativity, like the year I dressed up as Steve Urkel and everybody thought I was a homeless person because I had to wear a coat. The get-up was fabulous, but unfortunately nobody could see it, so they just patted my little hobo head and shoved some candy at me to get me off their doorstep. But I digress.

Maybe I’m just entrenched in fantastic notions of my Halloween years, imagining they were more carefree than they really were. I know that childhood was almost as dangerous then as it is now, although I don’t remember many school shootings, but once again that could be the product of repressed memories. I know that there were news spots back then that told you all about how to be extra safe on Halloween, including the popular reminder to “check all candy for tampering.” But I know I just don’t know how dangerous Halloween really was.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being over-cautious, but I think I’d be frightened to death if I was a child and all these precautions were swirling around my head. I think it’s sad that we have to get a little safer every year, make the hours kids spend roaming around a little shorter every year, or maybe even cut out trick-or-treating for them altogether, resorting to watered-down rec center versions of the holiday.

Our instincts are starting to tell us that maybe Halloween doesn’t need to be scary, maybe the kids just need to feel safe, and we’ll do all we can to keep them from being afraid. We’ve been forced to forget the scary ax-murderer stories and door-to-door danger in favor of more friendly activities. And while All Hallows’ Eve, for the most part, is still what it was when I was younger, eventually kids won’t know what it is at all.

They’ll only know what it means to be scared.