Everyone knows that the whole point of Halloween is to threaten to play tricks on your hapless neighbors unless they offer bribes in the way of treats. This is of course how the sing-song phrase “trick-or-treat” originated. Juvenile blackmail masquerading as a holiday, but all in fun. Unless you live in my neighborhood.
Several of my more creative neighbors decided a few years ago to turn the tables by arranging various surprises for the kids as they come up to their doors. There is probably a deep psychological reason for this and I’m sure it has an appropriate medical name.
No more boldly walking up to each door with the automatic expectation of an immediate handout. In my neighborhood, the kids group together for protection and approach each door cautiously, unsure of what awaits them.
Maybe it will be the graveyard sounds that suddenly blast out as they walk past the bush, like last year. Or perhaps the too-realistic rubber scorpions being tossed from the upstairs window, like the year before. And then, there’s always the chance that a big, stuffed doll on the porch will jump up and grab you just as you’re trying to reach past it to ring the doorbell.
The shrieks and screams coming from my street on Halloween are very real.
The older kids recover quickly and in fact, have taken it as a challenge to make it to the door without being tricked. They are increasingly successful at this, which is a source of considerable annoyance for my neighbor, John. He is finding they don’t fall for the stuffed doll or speaker in the bushes anymore. I recently asked him what he intends to do about it.
“I’ve got something rigged this year that’s foolproof,” he smugly replied.
“That’s what you said last year,” I reminded him, “when you decided to hide the speaker in the tree instead of in the bushes like everyone else. Remember when one of the kids tripped over the wire and pulled the speaker down on the driveway and it smashed to bits?”
“Yeah, but it sure scared them, didn’t it? They weren’t expecting that when they poked around in the bushes!”
“No, but you can only do it once.”
“Don’t worry. This year I have something they’ll never get around. I’m taking the light bulb out of the spotlight above the garage. You know, the one with the motion detector that makes the light come on whenever anyone walks in the driveway.”
“What good will that do? They aren’t afraid of the dark anymore.”
“Just wait, that’s not all. I’ll plug my old wired MP3 player into the socket where the light bulb was, with the volume turned on full blast and the speaker mounted on the roof. I just bought a new sound effects recording that makes Night of the Living Dead sound tame. Get it? It will go on as soon as they approach the house and go off after a few seconds when they jump back again. It will drive them nuts trying to figure it out!”
And this is how several of the otherwise normal adults in my neighborhood spend their time in October, trying to outwit small children. Naturally, the older kids will quickly figure it out and undoubtedly not only find a way to avoid it but will probably devise an even more ingenious method of retaliation.
This year I fully expect a preemptive strike by the twelve-year-olds, targeted specifically toward John’s house. This should not surprise him, because after the speaker incident last year, he woke up the next morning to find a very objectionable word spelled out in large letters on his front lawn. They did it by using gasoline to burn the letters into the grass. Personally, I thought this showed considerable initiative and creativity.
As this annual battle of wits wages on, my four-year-old finds it all a bit confusing, as she had been led to believe that Halloween was supposed to be easy and fun. She’s had to grow up quickly in this regard.
Fortunately, we know the houses to watch out for now. That is, except for those new people who just moved in up the street. I saw them in deep conversation with John the other day and they seemed to be looking over some sketches and chuckling in hushed tones.
I think we’ll just go visit the local haunted houses this year. It will be less stressful.