And When Darkness Descended…

Halloween in my day, ahem, in suburban New York City, was I detect much less organized than now… and much more about kids actually being occasionally nasty to each other. I thought nothing of that reality at the time in the 1970s-80s. It seemed the norm then in much of the rest of the U.S., too.

Every house kept a stash of candy/sweets to pass out. The little kids (under age 9) went out early door to door trick or treating while escorted by parents or older siblings. I remember my mother taking my ballerina-costumed (or in some such outfit) sister to a few houses. It was all very “cute” until…

[Halloween pumpkin. Photo by Pixabay on]

As darkness descended, though, we older nihilists and anarchists – starting about age 11 or so – took over the streets. Suddenly the area was a Roman arena. If you were in a costume, were over about age 10, and no adult was around (and sometimes even if one was), you were no longer “safe.”

Indeed, it was like Lord of the Flies. We – almost all boys – carried eggs and shaving cream to attack other boys for whatever reason. I went out one year with comedian Steve Martin’s arrow through my head as my entire costume. Teen girls, often in their expensive ballerina or Cinderella or similar costumes, were never attacked by boys UNLESS the girl threw eggs or shaving creamed us first… in which case they were deemed “equals” and “fair game,” too. (But only up to a point. We may have “egged” her back, but we tried to do so “nicely.” Hey, we knew chivalry. Looking back on my childhood and teen years, we were also mostly what today would be derided as seriously “gender-rigid.” LOL!)

I came home more than once from trick or treating with shaving cream in my hair and eggs stains on my clothes. We stopped at houses where we had known NO ONE living there – which I gather is almost unheard of today. Some kids unfortunately were literal vandals of others’ property. If a homeowner wasn’t home, or did not answer the door (as I think back now, we must have really frightened some much older people; good grief we were morons), they could find their windows egged or shaving cream in their curb mailbox. (For a month before Halloween, authorities I remember would ban the sale of eggs and shaving cream to under 18s – so we had to get our Halloween stuff by October 1 at the latest. Shaving cream was usually easy to get; but eggs, which would naturally go disgusting if kept too long hidden in your bedroom of course, were tougher to get hold of but we normally managed to. Usually parents would be sympathetic at the last minute in what would resemble the NATO-Warsaw Pact arms race: “Mom, Dad, please, I have to have shaving cream and eggs or I will be defenseless. The other kids will have lots of eggs.”) One of my friends was, every year, a ghost; he would take just a white bedsheet, cut eye holes in it so he could see, and felt “safe” both in attack and defense because if hit with shaving cream or egged, he was largely protected by the sheet – but always somehow he went home a mess, too.

When dawn broke every November 1 the detritus of the night before was plainly visible; the streets and lawns were covered in eggs and egg stains and shaving cream. Curbside mailboxes may have gotten creamed too. (I remember my parents’ mailbox got it one year and we never found out who the bastards were who did it or why.) Sometimes even – usually by accident, if they were near the line of fire – cars got splashed a little, but we did our best to avoid cars. (Anyone who attacked a car deliberately was a real criminal because shaving cream at that time – and maybe still? – could damage car paint.)

{Halloween witch. Photo by Karolina Grabowska on]

As I recall after some early 1980s cases of criminal tampering with candy/sweets – sharp objects were found in a few – and the Tylenol painkiller poisonings, the U.S. Halloween free-for-all I think began to fade. It all became more “controlled.” Fewer kids went door to door. I remember one year (probably around 1990) my mother telling me only a handful of kids had knocked – and she knew them all.

I remember also by age 15 staying home to hand out candy to trick or treaters. My dad took over one year for a couple of door knockers after I was fed up with answering the door and needed a break. Around 9pm he opened it to see one lone older teen boy standing there. I heard Dad say to him, “Not even a costume, chief? What are you dressed as, a teenager?” The kid – who I did not know either – was just stopping at houses looking for free candy.

Adults began to join in too en masse – with fancy expensive costumes and parties of their own. Many naturally were those now in their 20s who did not want to give up on dressing up for Halloween. Suddenly it was also becoming about “rules” and “regulations” too… as anything is, of course, the moment adults take over. Adults ruin everything. LOL!

When I moved here to Britain in the late 1990s, I noticed Halloween as I had recalled in New York essentially did not exist. And I was so happy about that! Gradually, though, the day has caught on here too especially in the last decade… but fortunately just with parties and some carefully-controlled door-to-door trick or treating.

[Trick or treat. Photo by Jill Wellington on]

In our Bedfordshire town, the town board has shared in the local newsletter and on Facebook that a Jack-o’-lantern placed outside (I see one of our neighbours has one) indicates your house is participating in trick or treating. How thoroughly civilized. We are not joining in, though. I have had enough Halloween by now for one lifetime. LOL!

Hope you are having a good weekend, wherever you are. 🙂