The 5 stages of trick-or-treaters

Image: Toby Ord, Wikipedia

Halloween falls on Sunday, which, of course, is church night, so some communities are having trick-or-treat tonight, Saturday, although I wouldn’t be surprised to get trick-or-treaters both nights, and I wouldn’t be surprised if some trick-or-treaters double dip.

When I was a kid in eastern Kentucky, we had 5 distinct stages of trick-or-treaters:

  1. The demons we knew. These were the kids of friends of the family. Mom would make special goodie bags for them — caramel popcorn balls and full-sized candy bars.
  2. The demons we kind of knew. These were random kids in the neighborhood. They got miniature Hershey bars. The kids in our neighborhood generally wore decent costumes (or at least a mask). They always said “Trick or treat!” and usually said, “Thank you!”
  3. The demons we didn’t know. We lived in a subdivision out in the country, so these little monsters were random kids from out in the country. They didn’t live in a neighborhood, so they’d hit several subdivisions and maybe go into town. They generally didn’t wear costumes, as such. They’d wear old clothes and smear lipstick or something on their faces. They looked like psychotic clowns. They usually came in groups, and at least some of them would say, “Trick or treat,” like that. Flat, with no enthusiasm. They might or might not say, “Thank you.”
  4. The demons we suspected were collecting candy for their obese moms waiting in the car. The fourth wave of kids would come near the end of trick-or-treat. If trick-or-treat was supposed to end at 8, they’d come at a quarter of. They usually didn’t wear costumes and rarely spoke. They didn’t have a special Halloween candy bag. They’d carry pillow cases, and when you opened the door, they’d just hold it out, joylessly. This wasn’t fun for them. This was a job.
  5. Teenagers. Some might wear masks, but most didn’t. They giggled like Beavis and Butt-head, like we were stupid, like we didn’t know they were too old to trick-or-treat. After the first group of teenagers, Dad would snuff out the candle in the jack-o-lantern and turn off the porch light — the international signal for saying, “We’re not playing anymore” — but we’d still get four or five more groups of teenagers. It was around this time of night that someone would put an M-80 or a cherry bomb in our jack-o-lantern and blow it up.

Things are different where we live now. The kids all wear costumes. They’re all polite. We get some double-dippers, but not many, although near quitting time, we still get a few teenagers. That’s when we turn out the light and call it a night.

I still bring in the pumpkin, though, just in case.

14 thoughts on “The 5 stages of trick-or-treaters

  1. I think you’ve analyzed it quite well, Todd…do people really send their kids out to get candy for them? That’s horrible (plus, a lot of the candy the kids come home with now is so gross, I wouldn’t want to eat it anyway!).


  2. You know, I’d be thinking, “Todd Pack, #4 is so insensitive!!!”–If I hadn’t witnessed that kind of thing myself.

    If it were me? I’d just wait around for the 75% off candy sales on Nov. 1.

  3. “It was around this time of night that someone would put an M-80 or a cherry bomb in our jack-o-lantern and blow it up.”

    Hilarious. At least they didn’t shred the phone book on your lawn in the wee hours of the morning. My mom and dad had to deal with that a few times.

  4. The pillowcase-kids are universal?! As a strategic reader, I read the bold categories first and #4 brought to mind the image of the minivans that would pull up on the corner and a bunch of kids we didn’t know would lumber out — and the rest matches your descripton in a most uncanny way.

    1. The teenagers with the pillow cases who didn’t wear a costume and didn’t say anything were always my least favorite. When they’d show up, it was time to turn off the porch light and bring in the pumpkin (assuming it hadn’t already been blown up).

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