My wife and I raised three beautiful daughters who have all grown up, left the nest and are now ‘adulting’, as my youngest calls being on her own. They are now 34, 31 and 24, and when I look in the mirror my 22-year-old mind asks, who the hell is that looking back at me? But I digress.

Halloween was a blast when the girls were little. We lived in the sprawling suburbs of Northern Virginia at the time, with streets lined with cookie-cutter houses and lots of families with small children. Halloween was a very big deal.

First there was the battle to choose costumes. We took the kids to the store where they tried on costume after costume for hours on end until each found just the right one. God forbid the store would be out of the popular costume of the year by the time we got there!

Then the decorating of the house began weeks in advance of Halloween, with all sorts of scary things being placed in the foyer. One year we engineered a string extending from the top of the stairs to the front door. It was my job to stand on the landing at the top of the stairs and slide a cleverly constructed ghost figure down the string to greet the costumed kids just as my wife opened the door. This was a complete fail, because the ghost wasn’t heavy enough to make it all the way down, no matter how hard I pushed.

When our two eldest daughters were 10 and 7 and the baby was actually a baby, I took the two older ones trick-or-treating. It was a beautiful, crisp fall night, and the sidewalks were filled with trick-or-treaters of all ages, so it was kind of like negotiating the Washington Beltway. My seven-year-old, who always ran full out, was carrying a plastic pumpkin full of candy when the handle broke. The thing rolled down the street, spilling her candy everywhere. She freaked out and started screaming, frantically collecting her candy as the other trick-or-treaters helped themselves to the unexpected bounty.

That was also the night of the monster monkey. At one house, I stayed in the yard while the kids went to the door. The husband answered, and while he was distributing candy to my two daughters, his wife, dressed as a very large gorilla, came running towards the door from another room, in the spirit of scaring the children to death. My seven-year-old screamed at the top of her lungs, turned and knocked her sister to the ground as she ran towards me. She ran between my legs, crouched down, attached herself to my leg and sobbed in terror. After collecting both children, I had a brief chat with the gorilla, suggesting this act should be reserved for the older kids. The gorilla didn’t give me any candy.

fOne of the most memorable nights was the tour of terror. My oldest, then 7, and I paid to walk from a farmhouse through a woodsy area and a corn field with monsters, vampires, witches and a guy with a chainsaw all jumping out at us. The monsters were very aggressive; at one point one of them grabbed my daughter’s arm and began dragging her into the corn. She screamed, I moved towards him, and he ran away. At the end of the tour I went to the ticket booth to complain. The ticket vendor pointed to a sign that read, “If you want the less scary version of the tour for your child, purchase them a glowing necklace.” I hadn’t seen the sign, my daughter told my wife what happened, and she didn’t give me any candy either.

I have never really gotten the concept of Halloween. I get the history behind the holiday and the thrill of the adrenaline rush from having the crap scared out of you. But it always seemed to me that it would have been much simpler to just buy buckets full of candy, give them to the kids and watch scary movies on the TV. We could have foregone the battle of the costumes, freezing half to death on those nights when the temperature dropped into the 30’s and coats just weren’t acceptable, weeks of putting up and taking down decorations, and the kids would still have had a sugar high, bouncing off the walls and making sleep impossible.

I think I must suffer from Halloween PTTD (post trick-or-treat disorder) from back then. Today whenever Halloween rolls around I often begin to shake uncontrollably, turn out all the lights and hide in the closet until it’s over. My wife can sometimes coax me out with a bag of candy.


    1. Hi John. Great to hear back from you. Hope you are doing well. Hope you read the book. It’s staged in the pharmaceutical industry, and the people who’ve read it have commented that it was funny.

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