The 5 trick-or-treaters you’ll see on Halloween (or, when to turn off the porch light)

Two cousins, the boy dressed in military camou...
Image via Wikipedia

Tonight is Halloween. As a public service, here’s a guide to the 5 kinds of trick-or-treaters you’ll see tonight and when it’s OK to turn off the porch light and stop giving out candy.

1. The demons you know.

These are your friends’ kids, or your kids’ friends. They’ll come early and probably get a special treat — a caramel popcorn ball or full-sized candy bars or a whole handful of miniature candy bars (if you didn’t think to buy something special ahead of time). You’ll stand on the porch and talk to the parents for a while and maybe take a picture.

2. The demons you kind of know.

These are little kids from around the neighborhood. If you don’t know names of the kids or their parents, you’ll probably at least recognize them. They’ll get 1 or 2 miniature candy bars, but if they’re especially nice or cute, they’ll get an extra Twix bar or something. You won’t take pictures. That would be weird.

3. The demons you don’t know.

Random older kids. Might be from the neighborhood, might not. 1 miniature candy bar each.

4. Repeat offenders.

Sure, it’s possible that 2 kids of about the same height might wear the same costume, but odds are pretty slim that there’d be 2 groups of trick-or-treaters consisting of a ninja, a pirate, Jango Fett and … maybe a hobo, maybe a scarecrow, it’s hard to tell.

5. Teenagers.

The final wave of trick-or-treaters is always a group of teenagers. Often, they’ll snicker like Beavis and Butt-head because they think they’re fooling you, but rule of thumb: If you’re old enough to shave any part of your body, you’re too old to trick-or-treat.

When the 1st wave of teenagers comes is when it’s safe to blow out the candle in the pumpkin and turn off the porch light, the international sign for “No more candy,” although, sometimes, teenagers have a hard time figuring this out. They’ll ring the bell anyway and snicker. You’ll need to decide whether it’s safe to ignore them or whether they’ll egg your car or blow up your pumpkin with an M-80 if you don’t meet their demands.

The worst Halloween ever (or, the night a girl and her mom stole my candy)

When I was 5, my parents took me trick-or-treating. It was drizzling, and I had a nasty cold, but I didn’t want to miss Halloween.

I don’t remember my costume, but I remember my bag. It was a paper, with paper-cord handles. This is important. It was a paper bag.

Trick or Treat?
This is not how I remember trick-or-treat. (Wikipedia)

I got a lot of candy, but there were a few duds. One woman was giving out pieces of popcorn — loose, not bagged, just reaching in a bowl and dropping a few into the paper bag — and there was a doctor up the street who gave out pennies.

So, there I am, sick, sniffling, coughing, with a slight fever, walking down the street in a drizzling rain, and I say, “Mom, my bag feels lighter.”

She says, “Oh, you’re just getting used to the weight.”

I stop and look at my bag and say, “No, it broke!”

The bottom had dropped out of my damp paper sack, and all my candy had fallen out.

We looked up the sidewalk and there, maybe 20 feet behind us, a girl and her mother were scooping up my candy and putting it in the girl’s bag.

I looked at Mom. She looked at the girl and mother stealing my candy and sighed. “OK,” she said. “Let’s go to a few more houses, then.”

We did, but we’d already hit most of the houses on the street, and I didn’t get enough candy to make up for the candy the girl and her mother stole.

A few years ago, my parents and I were talking about the kids’ costumes and about Halloween when I was a kid — like the time our neighbor’s big black dog chased me down the street, or the many times teenagers blew up our pumpkins with M-80s — and I asked Mom why she hadn’t tried to stop the woman from taking the candy.

Mom said she knew the woman, or knew of her. I’m from a really small town in eastern Kentucky where everybody knows everybody else, including their family histories and their family’s criminal history. “That woman was mean,” my mom said.

I understood. It would be a waste of time to get into an argument with an idiot over a couple bucks worth of chocolate. I imagine she would have claimed it was hers under the widely held legal principle of “finders keepers.”

So, this Halloween I’ll carve a pumpkin (yuck) and take the kids out trick-or-treating and, because they asked, I’ll wear a costume — Indiana Jones, because I have a jacket and a hat that would work — and if I see a kid spill some candy on the sidewalk, you can bet Things 1 and 2 and I will help him pick it up.

We’ve been ‘boo-ed’

Once upon a school night dreary, as I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a volume of my daughter’s school book chores,
While I tried, with waning patience, to help her learn, I heard the cadence
Of the doorbell gently ringing, ringing at the downstairs door
“Must be teenagers,” I muttered, “ringing at the downstairs door —
“Just some kids, and nothing more.”

I don’t know who rang the doorbell just after dark last night, because they rang and ran, but they left behind a pumpkin-shaped tin filled with Halloween candy, and a note:

“You’ve Been BOO-ed.”

Beneath that was a poem, explaining what this Halloween trick was about:

The phantom ghost has come to town
To leave some goodies… I see you’ve found.
If you wish to make this a happier fall…
Continue this greeting, this phantom call….

The note, downloaded from a website called, included a sign to put in our window, telling other potential phantom ghosts that we’d already been booed, and encouraged us to leave an anonymous treat on the front porches of 2 more neighbors.

Thing 1 and Thing 2 started speculating about which of their friends might have left the candy on the porch and deciding which of their friends to target tonight.

I don’t know who started this tradition, but it’s gone national. According to, the most popular “booing” states are California and Texas, while the least popular is South Dakota.

Our state is somewhere in the middle of the list, but Thing 1 and Thing 2 were so excited by the mystery of who left the candy on our porch and the fun of deciding which of their friends to prank that they might push our state into the Top 10 all by themselves.