By Jim Killam
Not sure of your Halloween responsibilities as a neighborhood resident? We’re here to help. Over the years, and at great personal cost, we have intercepted reconnaissance from local 11-year-olds as they devise their trick-or-treat strategies. At most houses, everything goes just fine. Nothing to report.
Then there are … The Eleven. Eleven types of well-intentioned residents who get flagged by trick-or-treaters for Halloween misconduct. Read the list and make necessary adjustments. Learn from those who have gone before you. This carries the added benefit of keeping toilet paper from lodging in your trees later that evening.
People who answer the door with a 55-gallon drum of candy — the good candy — but then insist that each trick-or-treater take only one measly piece. By the end of the evening, they still have a 55-gallon drum of the good candy … which you suspect was the plan all along.
None of that overpriced so-called “good candy” at this house. Those plain, orange-and-black wrapped peanut butter things were good enough for these people as kids, so they’re good enough for the neighbor kids now. Best of all, one 99-cent bag gets them through the evening because the little urchins only take one each, just to be polite.
1428 Elm Street
A dad who’s just a little too enthusiastic has filled the front yard with props and scenes that would frighten a horror film director. Witches, zombies, assorted chainsaw mayhem … it’s all here to make sure every kid in the neighborhood sleeps with one eye open for the next year. And then there’s a friendly couple at the door asking little kids if they want some candy. Um, no.
Those people. The ones who make salads from fallen tree branches, mill their own flour and drink organic Kale slushies. Candy has never darkened the door of this house and it certainly would never be handed to unsuspecting young ones. The dingy green treats offered here are home-wrapped in cellophane and taste like the bottom of a lawnmower. Word gets out quickly among trick-or-treaters: Run away!
These busy folks can’t take time to answer their door for sniveling kids demanding candy. The ingenious solution: The honor bucket! Fill a bucket — a small bucket, probably one of those cheap plastic jack-o-lanterns — with fun-sized (microscopic) candy. Nothing really good, or some little ingrate will take it all in one swipe. They leave the bucket on the driveway, but not too close to the house. Then they peek through the drawn blinds periodically to monitor the situation. When the bucket is empty, they turn off the porch light and call it a night.
The Mother Lode
King-size candy bars for everyone! Someone’s either generous or clueless, but if you’re the kid holding the bag, you don’t care. This approach qualifies as Halloween misconduct only because the residents proclaim themselves superior to the rest of the neighborhood. A stop here equates in candy weight to about eight stops at the “fun size” houses. This house has been called the holy grail of Halloween. That is, unless you happen upon …
Bill and Melinda Gates
They hand out money. For real. Sometimes it’s pennies or nickels. But at some houses, it’s dollar bills. Word about a house like this spreads like wildfire. A line forms, and kids will trade masks in the street so they can ring this doorbell multiple times. Then the residents run out of small bills, turn off the porch light and Lord of the Flies breaks out on the sidewalk between kids who got money and kids who got bupkis.
People who want to know everything about the kids’ costumes, where they got them and the characters they’re portraying. Then they start reminiscing about the homemade costumes they wore, made out of lint and rolled-up newspaper because that was all they had back in those days but they were grateful and you kids don’t know how good you have it with your store-bought costumes and your fancy candy. Meanwhile the kids just nod and fidget because they are losing precious time with one whole side of the street to go.
Zero Dark Thirty
No lights on, no driveway bucket. Only the bravest kids ring this doorbell … which is one of those internet camera doorbells that the residents are monitoring from their secret lair hundreds of miles away. Don’t bother with this house.
The Dentist’s House
Toothbrushes. Floss. That is all we have to say about that.
These are the people who forgot to buy candy and now are handing out anything that happens to be in their fridge or pantry: Cheez-Its. Frosted Mini-Wheats. Cottage cheese. Fish sticks. Yes, even kale. You’ll know this house because you can find these groceries discarded by trick-or-treaters on the sidewalk out front.
There you have it. Don’t get yourself on this list and when you wake up Nov. 1 and look out on your lawn, all should be good. Disagree? Take it up with the 11-year-olds.
Jim Killam is a journalist, author, teacher and terminal Cubs fan. He and his wife, Lauren, live in Rockford and work internationally with Wycliffe Bible Translators.