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.

Florida Memory/public domain

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.

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.

The absolutely true story of the ‘ghost’ that rolled my toy across the room

Let me start by saying that I don’t believe in ghosts or the supernatural, but when I was 4 or 5, my mother and I saw part of a toy rocket flip onto its side and roll across the living room floor by itself.

It was an Apollo Moon Rocket. It was probably 12 inches tall and maybe 2 inches across. It had 5 stages: the capsule, the thing the capsule sat on, 2 tubes that formed the body and a round base with 5 nozzles on the bottom but no moving parts, no springs or anything that would make it move by itself.

One afternoon, the parts of the rocket were scattered across the floor, and the base was lying flat, nozzles down. I was sitting on Mom’s lap on the couch watching TV when the base stood on edge, rolled 4 or 5 feet across the floor and fell over onto the nozzles.

It scared the crap out of me.

Mom tried to calm me down. I remember her telling me that it wasn’t a ghost, although she couldn’t explain why it stood on its side and rolled across the room.

When Dad came home from work, I remember running over to tell him what happened, and even though I had a witness, I don’t think he entirely believed me, and, frankly, I don’t blame him.

I doubted the story myself until I asked Mom about it a few years ago. She said it happened, that it wasn’t a trick, that no one touched it, no one was near it, that nothing else in the house moved, just the rocket part.

Like I said, I don’t believe in the paranormal. I’m sure there’s some logical explanation, but damned if I can think of one.

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.