First of all, these days there are all sorts of buckets or bags that kids can use to collect candy when trick-or-treating, and maybe that was true even when I was a kid in the 80s, maybe I even used different things from year to year, but what I remember is plastic Jack-o-Lantern pails. So I did a google search to find a pic, and what we mostly used in my day were things a lot like this. And of course you can still buy this kind of thing, but I'm in a nostalgic frame of mind, which is basically the same as saying that things now aren't so much like they were when I was a kid. So this seems sort of quaint, not as common as other options may be, nowadays. So I just wanted to get that out of the way: This is what you're supposed to use, you whipper-snappers. If you're not using this kinda thing, you're doing it wrong. There. Old person rant over. (Edit in 2015: Actually, come to think of it, the McDonalds Happy Meal Halloween pails that were released in various forms throughout the late 80s and early 90s were kinda cool, even if not really big enough. And I guess the Jack-o-Lantern pails that I favored weren't that much bigger, so if you want to use larger trick-or-treat plastic bags or even pillow cases, that's fine. Or really any of the things that kids use for trick-or-treating can be cool. I don't even know why I was ranting about this last year. I still think the classic Jack-o-Lantern pails are the best, but... it's all good.)
Anyway... I don't remember ever trick-or-treating on any night other than October 31. And I don't remember ever doing it when it wasn't dark. My memory is far from infallible, but still... these days it seems like parents prefer to take kids trick-or-treating when it is still light out, and what's worse, sometimes they'll even do it on days that aren't even Halloween. Like maybe they'll do it on whatever weekend night is closest to Halloween. Maybe Friday or Saturday, probably not Sunday, and just forget about Monday-Thursday. This, it cannot be overstressed, is doing it wrong. (And here I thought I was done ranting.) But dammit, if it is not October 31, you have no right to expect free candy. None. I can't even begin to imagine why today's parents think this is okay; the only possible explanation includes the fact that they themselves were never children. Which is a ludicrous, yet inescapable, conclusion. It's the rest of the explanation that I can't imagine.
I have no specific memories of trick or treating. I remember going to my great grandmother's house. And we must have gone to my grandparents' house. And I kind of remember going to the house of the man who would be my fourth grade teacher, probably well before I was in fourth grade. (Possibly during or after fourth grade as well, but my memory... sucks.) And we must have gone to any number of other houses, but I don't remember. I do have a vague impression of trick or treating that is too vague to be called a memory, so vague that I can't even quite remember whether it was something I liked or disliked, one particular year, though I have no idea what year or how old I was. It's just... kind of incredibly frustrating to feel like there's a specific memory of a specific night, and yet... I don't know what that memory is. And it doesn't matter, anyway. I'm sure it was just... representative of Halloween in general.
Oh, but I will say this: glow sticks were the coolest things ever. And just as, in my youth, Cadbury eggs were only available around Easter, glow sticks were only available around Halloween (at least where I lived). Like I said, in those days we actually went trick-or-treating after dark, so glow sticks were useful both as decoration and as safety devices, to make it easier for people to see kids so they wouldn't, like, run over them or something. (Of course there were other kinds of lights for that purpose, such as orange jack-o-lantern buttons that lit up. Those were also cool.) These days you can find glow sticks year-round, which kinda bugs me (and kinda doesn't, at least not as much as the Cadbury eggs do). Actually, I think when I first saw glow sticks, I only ever saw green ones, for at least a few years, but I guess I could be wrong about that. But I do seem to think that the first time I saw them in different colors, I thought it was extra cool. I dunno, though, I guess it's kind of neat that they've become more readily available, but I still can't imagine wanting to use them very often. Halloween is still the best time for them. (Then again, I might feel differently if I had both access to and interest in raves, and suchlike. But I have neither.)
Oh, my, the candy. First of all... don't be greedy. Yes, I came from a small town. There weren't a lot of houses to hit up. But still... the amount of candy you can fit in a plastic pumpkin is more than any kid needs, and to be dissatisfied with that amount is just plain greedy. I don't even care if you live in a big city with millions of people you could try to get candy from. You don't need it. Okay, if you want to use a bigger container and hit more houses/apartments, fine. But don't go overboard, okay? On another note, I look in stores today, and... the candy they put out near Halloween is mostly just the same stuff you can get at any time of year, maybe with holiday packaging. There are some things that only come out this time of year, but most of that seems lame, somehow. And honestly, I don't clearly remember what I got when I was a kid, but I have this vague sense that it was different. That it was cool stuff you could only get at Halloween. There's a good chance I'm wrong about that. I do remember getting popcorn balls, which is something I probably wouldn't even want at any other time of year. And there were candy apples (though I don't recall if I received them when trick-or-treating, or just at home, or what). And oh, I remember getting little tiny paper bags (with Halloween images on them) filled with various things. Maybe peanuts (in shell). Maybe... SweeTarts in little papers that included just two candies. Maybe candy corn. Maybe any number of things I wouldn't even remember. And I do recall getting wax vampire teeth. And I have a very vague recollection of taking little boxes to collect money for Unicef. Sure, we also got bite-size or snack-size candy bars or whatever, the same stuff you can get today, an maybe it seemed novel at the time because I was so young that everything in life seemed novel. But I can't shake the feeling that there must have been things we only got at Halloween, and I don't mean stupid candy eyeballs or junk like that (though I expect we did get such things). I just don't happen to know what I do mean. I really wish I had a better memory.
These days, there are so many costumes available, and I feel like most of them are made of better materials than the costumes we had when I was a kid. The plastic... so much plastic... oh, I'm sure it tore so easily, and it was probably the most annoying thing at the time, but in retrospect it was kind of awesome. (But I'll forgive today's children if they fail to grasp how cheap crap can be awesome.) And the masks... oh, how easily they would crack. But the smell... there is no other smell in life quite like the smell of cheap plastic Halloween masks. It is one of the most nostalgic smells ever. Most of the time I can't even call the smell to mind, but occasionally I can. And it's not even something I could describe, but if you were a kid in the 80s, you probably know what I mean. (Do they even still make such masks? I don't know.) Also there have always been rubber masks, which were more expensive. I remember my dad had a Yoda mask. Many years later I got myself like some kind of demon mask, or something, and I probably used it one year and then just kept it in a bin for a bunch of years not using it again. And it got torn, and the tear probably grew over the years without my even using it, and I'm not sure if I have it anymore or just threw it out. I should look for it. But I think I threw it out. In any event, rubber masks have a peculiar smell of their own, just like the cheap plastic masks. And I don't think any other thing made of rubber smells quite like a rubber Halloween mask, just like no other thing made of plastic smells quite like a cheap plastic Halloween mask.
Also, having a picture of a cartoon character on your chest does not make you look like that character. This is a concept that I think eluded most 1980s costume designers.
Also, plastic vampire teeth are simultaneously the coolest and lamest, most uncomfortable, and grossest (on account of salivation) costume accessory ever.
Parties & events
In grade school, there were Halloween parties at our town's community center, which was also my school's gym. I have a vague recollection of apples on like vertical strings that it was almost like bobbing for, but without the water. Also I remember actual bobbing for apples in basins of water, and at some point when I was a kid, I decided it would be best just to plunge my head in fully, use my mouth to pin an apple against the bottom of the basin so my teeth could get a good grip, and pull them out like that. I suppose really you're supposed to, like, not get your whole head and hair wet. My way was like cheating. But I liked it anyway. And now it has been so very many years since I've bobbed for apples, and I kind of miss it.
One of the main things I have long wanted to say, one of the main reasons to start this page at all, is to say that there was one Halloween (I have no idea what year) that my church had a ghost walk, in the woods just beyond the church. I can't really remember anything specific about it, but I'm sure it was fun. And for probably a few years thereafter, I would occasionally walk just a little ways into the woods, on Sundays, and find remnants of that ghost walk. Kind of different, in the daylight. But even if I can't remember anything about it, it's still one of my most nostalgic memories. Funny how that works. (If you don't know what a ghost walk is, I'm not sure what to tell you. But I'm pretty sure there are places that have professionally organized ghost walks that would put this one to shame... but which nevertheless wouldn't mean as much to me.) Of course, whatever remnants were there have long since disappeared.
Over the years there have been several Monster cereals, but I only really remember three: Count Chocula, FrankenBerry, and Boo Berry. And of these, Boo Berry was always my favorite. Although I do vaguely recall one year thinking it didn't taste quite as I remembered it. I'm not sure if there was a reason for that, or if it was just my imagination. In any event, I don't suppose I got any of these cereals every year, when I was a kid, but I did probably have at least one them most years. I think. And continued to do so occasionally, as an adult. But as I write this in 2014, I think it's been at least a few years since I've seen them in stores. I know they're still being made, but maybe they're just not shipping to my neck of the woods, anymore. I can't imagine why, and it's pretty annoying.
In my youth, I enjoyed Disney's Halloween Treat and It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and Garfield's Halloween Adventure, and possibly other things. Yeah, and aside from specific Halloween specials, there were probably Halloween episodes of shows that I saw over the years. I don't know, most of them I'm sure I wouldn't remember now. But TV is important.
In case I haven't mentioned it elsewhere (though I probably have), at some point in my youth I acquired a Boglin called Bog-o-Bones, which for many years I would take out every Halloween. I don't do that every year anymore, but I still have it.
Teen years & beyond
One year when I was in high school, I went to a thing at my school's Performing Arts Center. I don't even remember if it was close to Halloween, but it probably was. (It might have even been on Halloween, I'm not sure.) I remember getting a ride to the event from someone who must have been a grade below me (but I didn't have a car or a license). And I remember having some Snappin' Apple Bubblicious (which I don't think they even make anymore), of which I gave a piece to him. And I remember having written a sort of scary story based on a dream I'd had, which I must have read during the drive. (I think the story started with someone jumping out of a pile of leaves to scare a friend. And later there were a guy and girl on a date, and the girl was acting all scared because she claimed to suspect her date was a vampire, but then it turned out she was really a vampire, and drank his blood. That kind of plot twist has surely been done before, but I don't recall having seen or heard of any specific examples of it.) The event itself was some guy telling stories, I don't even remember how many. Probably at least three, but I can only barely remember two, I think. And only one of the stories made a really lasting impression on me, but I know it freaked me out at the time. (There was an immediate scare factor about a crazy guy doing crazy things, even if it was only to himself; but also, what was scarier to me when I thought about it later was the fact that he was able to explain certain things to the authorities in such a way that they wouldn't know that he was crazy.) Also I think the storyteller had incense burning during his performance, which I liked. (It wouldn't shock me if that was my first real experience with incense.) I really wish I could remember all the stories better, but especially I wish I remembered more details about the one I remember best. (I do know it ended with the line, "Not necessarily forever!" ...Trust me, it's way creepy if you know the context.)
I remember one year putting on my graduation robe & cap as a costume (probably from high school, which means this would have happened sometime after I graduated, obviously). And I think I had made up some fake diploma which... I think was supposed to represent "graduation" from an insane asylum. Maybe that was as my character The Kidder, though I'm less than 100% certain about that. I think I just walked up the street to a little gas station/convenience store, and I probably bought some little thing there, but I have no idea what. Anyway, I certainly wasn't trick-or-treating, at that age.
And I wish I could remember more about the Halloweens of my teen years, but I just can't. I wish I could remember more about my childhood years, for that matter. And I wish I could remember more about my twenties. There must have been two Halloweens (1995 and 96) that I spent in college, but I can't for the life of me recall what I might have done either year. 1997 is a complete blank, too (though I couldn't swear that the graduation robe thing I mentioned didn't happen that year, rather than one of the two years between high school graduation and college). In 1998 I was probably staying with my friend Rob and his then-wife (or maybe that wasn't until later in the year, I don't remember). In 1999, I was in California, and I don't remember anything specific about what I did that year, though chances are I was in a pub on Halloween. I know I got a Halloween-themed coaster that year; it could have just been close to Halloween, but probably it was the actual night. (When I started this page in 2014, I wasn't sure if I still had it, but I found it in 2015, and scanned both sides of it. Sadly, years ago, I had it and a bunch of Star Trek coasters taped together, so part of the picture on this coaster was torn off by the tape. What's worse is it was the Guinness side, which I definitely like more than Bass- not that there's anything wrong with Bass.) 2000-2002 are also a blank, but I was back in New Sweden living with my parents. In 2003 I moved to Ohio, but that's the year I started my annual journal, so I guess I needn't say more here, from that point on.