There are some who think that Halloween and its evil candy are tantamount to consorting with Satan. The devil, after all, is the ultimate cause of tooth decay -and you will rarely see a picture of the devil brushing, much less flossing.
When I was a whippersnapper, busily snapping whippers whenever I could, Halloween’s lure was a powerful one. For one magical night a year, a kid could score a treasure trove in Snickers and Sweet Tarts, all for simply walking door-to-door dressed like a dork. Even today, dork costumes outsell dweeb outfits, four to one.
Back to the Satan thing: Some say it all started with the ancient Druids, who believed that on Halloween, the lord of the dead called forth hosts of evil spirits. How does someone get to be the lord of the dead, anyway? Is it an elected office? If so, voter turnout couldn’t be very good. And by the way, have you ever heard of other kinds of Druids except ancient ones? Apparently, efforts to start Young Druid clubs in high schools just haven’t caught on yet.
At any rate, the story goes, all those evil spirits that the lord of the dead stirred up went door to door in search of a sugar fix. Eventually, the custom caught on with living people, too.
When an occasional homeowner resisted, someone came up with the idea of making the proposition an either-or thing: Trick or treat. It was kind of like buying protection from the Mob.
Ultimately, the treat option proved profitable for our nation’s candy industry. The trick option was good for the egg, toilet paper and lit paper bag industry. Or so I’m told.
In our neighborhood, kids learned to avoid the lousy houses – those that gave out smallish candies, single sticks of gum, fresh fruit or tubes of toothpaste. Instead, we zeroed in on the best places, where you might hope to get candy bars the size of Presto Logs.
One year, Mr. Swayzy, who lived four doors down, handed out cigarettes. Real ones. He told an angry parent that he hadn’t had time to buy candy. To Swayzy’s credit however, the cigarettes were filtered. And he also handed out matches.
We also heard a rumor about a kid in another neighborhood who used the sadly unoriginal salutation, “Trick or treat, smell my feet! Give me something good to eat!” That was music to the ears of our town’s most notorious foot fetishist, who called the kid’s bluff and sent him running.
Few of us, especially males, can remember the final time we went trick-or-treating. For some, it comes with becoming a teenager; for others, when they begin shaving; for still others, upon the receipt of their AARP card.
A few years ago, I attended an adult Halloween party dressed as Superman (imagine Superman with love handles). Granted, a Superman get-up isn’t all that original. But I went the extra step of stepping into a closet every so often and then re-entering the party as Clark Kent. I kept switching from Kent to Superman every half-hour just to see if anyone noticed. A guy dressed as Lex Luthor kept giving me dirty looks.
But a friend completely trumped my dual-characters effort: One year, he came as all of the Three Stooges, changing every 20 minutes or so out in his car. The next year, he came as all of the Beatles. He’s got big plans for next year when he shows up as Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves.
With the 2008 presidential election already in full-campaigning throttle, don’t be surprised to see youngsters in Hillary Clinton, Rudy Giuliani, Barack Obama or other candidate masks on your doorstep. If a little kid in a Dennis Kucinich outfit is standing there, look closely – that might actually be Dennis Kucinich.
The Halloween costume business has been tracking sales for many years and every election year, the mask that is the best-seller corresponds to the person who is actually elected president.
So far, indications are that in about 14 months, either Harry Potter or Hermione will be sworn in.
Pat Cashman is a writer, actor and public speaker. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org