In the Dark

We never had Halloween when I was a kid. I mean it existed. People mentioned it. There were programmes on the telly. But we never celebrated it. At least not in my house, when I was a kid. It just wasn’t thought of as a big occasion. Or, worse, it was “American” (meaning that it was tacky, synthetic and commercialised). So there were no parties, no costumes, no horror masks, no pumpkins and definitely no trick-or-treat.

Having never done trick-or-treat myself I never acquired any knowledge of what it was about. I assumed “Trick or Treat?” was a rhetorical question or merely a greeting like “How do you do?”. My first direct experience of it didn’t happen until I was in my mid-thirties and had moved to a suburban house in Beeston, just outside Nottingham. I was sitting at home one October 31st, watching the TV and – probably, though I can’t remember for sure – drinking a glass of wine, when the front door bell rang. I didn’t really want to, but I got up and answered it.

When I opened the door, I saw in front of me two small girls in witches’ costumes. Behind them, near my front gate, was an adult guardian, presumably a parent, keeping a watchful eye on them.

“Trick or Treat?” the two girls shouted. Trying my best to get into the spirit but not knowing what I was actually supposed to do, I answered “Great! I’d like a treat please”.

They stared at me as if I was mad, turned round and retreated towards their minder who was clearly making a mental note to avoid this house in future. Off they went and I, embarrassed at being exposed as a social inadequate, retired to my house in shame.

Ever since then I’ve tried to ensure that I never again have to endure such Halloween horrors. Every October 31st, when nightfall comes, I switch off the TV, radio and lights and sit soundlessly in the dark so the trick-or-treaters think there’s nobody home.

That way I can be sure I won’t be made to feel uncomfortable.

10 Responses to “In the Dark”

  1. Anton Garrett Says:

    That disconcerted them nicely! I actually made changes to the Wikipedia entry for “trick or treat” because it had been written by somebody who assumed readers understood what the question meant, which is not generally the case outside North America.

    Why should they make you change your behaviour? Just don’t answer the door.


  2. telescoper Says:

    Well then people might get the misleading impression that I’m a bit strange.

    Anyway, what is the correct answer to “Trick or Treat?”?

  3. Adrian Burd Says:

    Peter, your solution is mine as well. I think the proper response is meant to be the presentation, by the owner of the house, of a large bowl of sweets for the little darlings to choose from.

    Curiously, it turns out that people over here are so paranoid of someone spiking the sweets with something unpleasant that, for the most part, the
    trick-or-treaters only visit the houses of friends. This makes for the curious spectacle around here of minor traffic jams of SUVs and mini-vans stopped while their passengers visit the next house on the list.

  4. It’s not really a question, trick or treat. It’s more a threat.

    Really, it’s “would you like to give me a treat, or would you prefer to experience a trick?”

    If someone doesn’t give you a treat, you throw eggs at their house, or wrap their yard and trees in toilet paper.

    Little monsters out there.

  5. Anton Garrett Says:

    In these days of security precautions and timer switches, we have all experienced unresponsive front doors at houses with lights on. Nobody will think you are weird if you don’t answer the door.

    Alternatively, invite them in for a cup of tea. They will decline and retreat very quickly, and find it more difficult to vandalise your garden after you have offered them hospitality. If they accept the invitation then you are getting to know your neighbours, which is always a good thing.

    A cynic said that the fastest ways to disperse a crowd are to announce a poetry reading and to take a collection. So say you are reading some poetry and ask them to stay to listen. (If they do, choose somehing you like and then ask them what they think it means.) Or stick a money box in their faces and say they can have a treat if they make a donation to a specified charity of your choice. You can then harangue them on your favourite cause. Of course if they pay up then you should keep your word.

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