You know that thing I do every Christmas season, where I write about holiday memories but also draw them with crayons? I’ve done it for Thanksgiving, too. I am so bad at going viral.
Here’s the Halloween version, which will specifically deal with trick-or-treating. Below are five memories of my childhood candy-hunting adventures, badly drawn with a Sharpie and then colored with crayons that are still all over my office floor.
Only rarely was I determined to be any specific character for Halloween. It was Dracula in kindergarten, then ALF a few years later, and… I think that’s it?
Most of my costumes were just mixes of whatever could be found at local pharmacies on like, October 29th. That became a tradition in of itself. My old best friend lived right across the street, and just before Halloween, our mothers would take us to CVS or Rite-Aid to rummage through Aisle 7.
Pharmacies carried more costumes in the late ‘80s than they do now, but when you went that close to Halloween, there wasn’t much left. Actually, there was hardly anything left, and certainly no “complete” costumes that self-respecting kids would’ve wanted to wear.
We’d instead cobble our costumes together from various accessories. In the example illustrated above, one year I wore a Jason mask, a cheap Freddy glove and a nylon vampire cape. Add in a plastic scythe, and I gotta say, I probably liked that costume better than any “real” one I might’ve found two weeks prior.
The Haunted House!
Every neighborhood has that one house that kids stay away from. In ours, it was a dark brown monstrosity, half-obscured by overgrown bushes that perpetually reeked of pesticide. The front windows were always curtained, but they glowed ominously at night because the people who lived there adored red light bulbs.
We’d all heard stories about them. Most were untrue, but it’s still fair to say that they were eccentrics with little interest in neighborhood courtesies. One was an elderly woman who was locally infamous for starting wars over absolutely everything.
That house would become a figure of fun as the years rolled on, but as kids, we were terrified of the place. To the point where none of us dared to walk on the public sidewalk in front of the house, under any circumstances.
Only on Halloween did we ever get the notion to approach it intentionally. For a few years, it was just an endless circle of unanswered dares, but finally, me and two friends agreed to knock on the door together.
“Trick or treat,” we said in trepidatious unison, to the old lady who would only barely reveal herself through the cracked door. “NO CANDY” was her response, authoritative yet not especially cruel.
We left without any lollipops, but we still felt so accomplished. It was the first and last time any of us spoke to her.
The Roads Less Traveled!
Trick-or-treating in the late ‘80s was — I assume — much different than trick-or-treating in 2019. We were allowed to roam pretty freely, even after sunset. “Oh, you got one of those lightsticks? Good. Be back at dawn!”
Naturally, we took full advantage, even if our parents would’ve nixed our plans had they been entirely aware of them. All in the name of MORE CANDY, we trekked down distant streets that could only technically be considered parts of our neighborhood.
This was one of Halloween’s greatest unspoken thrills. Those streets weren’t much different from the ones near our houses, but they sure felt like they were. Danger was in the air! We’d walk by a group of trick-or-treaters and feel the tension, as if our being there was grounds for a turf war. The street lights seemed dimmer, the fog more opaque.
We felt like such badasses, braving those “mean streets” that were maybe 90 seconds away by car. We’d keep stepping a little more to the left, because a few additional Tootsie Pops were absolutely worth risking our lives over.
It’s weird that on the one day of the year when we all regressed into candy-obsessed nudniks and dressed like cartoon characters, we always seemed to feel the most adult.
New York Chainsaw Massacre!
Course, sometimes we had legit reasons to be scared.
One year — and I believe this was during the early ‘90s — we were chased by a guy in a Leatherface costume, who wielded a definitely-real chainsaw. We knew something was coming because we’d heard the screams of previous trick-or-treaters, but we weren’t at all prepared for that.
It was just a gag, of course, but not the kind of gag you could ever get away with today. Hell, I’m not really sure you could get away with it in the ‘90s, either, but that didn’t stop the guy.
As soon as we were in front of his house, we heard the unmistakable sound of a revving chainsaw coming from his pitch black garage. A moment later, there he was, running towards us. I don’t think I even knew who Leatherface was at that point, which just made his costume all the more frightening.
He only chased us for a moment, screaming “HAPPY HALLOWEEN” in his best psycho voice. We were old enough to recognize it as a joke, but were still pissed enough to act super indignant, as if we needed to get our parents to alert the cops. Make me shriek in a falsetto, right there in front of everybody?! You’re going to jail, pal.
The Halloween Candy Spread!
The best part of trick-or-treating happened after I was finished trick-or-treating. That’s when I assembled THE SPREAD.
I’d empty my pillowcase of candy all over the bed, and carefully organize everything into a gorgeous spread. Sometimes I’d organize and reorganize the spread, five times over. First I’d separate by size. Then I’d separate by type. Eventually, I’d land on a ragtag spread with everything mixed up but still looking pretty. Like an antipasto platter composed of chocolate and sugar. Candipasto.
I was a pirate with his plunder, and I didn’t want to “spend” any of it. Even eating a single piece of candy would, in my mind, severely diminish the effect. Instead, I’d go steal the stuff my mother bought for trick-or-treaters, and eat whatever was left. Even if it was the same fun-size Snickers that were already in my pile.
I’d sit near the spread and treat it like a sacred shrine, determined to avoid eating the candy for as long as I could. Which was, in practice, maybe 20 minutes. By midnight, all of the good stuff was in my stomach, and the spread was dead for another year.
Thanks for reading. Have any oddly specific memories of trick-or-treating? Share ‘em, in the comments!