Halloween traditions continue: But, protect your children
By Joe Olvera ©,2011
Lions and Tigers and Bears, oh my! And, not only that, but goblins, witches, skeletons, and, of course, the ever-popular ghosts with a simple sheet pulled over the head, with two slits for eyes – will be roaming neighborhoods on Oct. 31, as Halloween takes hold of the imagination, with children and some adults dressing up like the character they most admire. Only, there’s something different about this Halloween that wasn’t there before 1974.
That’s when the “Candy Man,” or the Man Who Killed Halloween,” came into the public’s eye. Ronald Clark O’Bryan was his name and he lived in the Houston, Texas suburb of Deer Park. O’Bryan, in order to collect a $40,000 life insurance policy on his 8-year-old son, Timothy, spiked a package of Pixy-Stix candy with cyanide. Following that horrific incident, watchful parents began changing and taking some of the fun from the holiday, not allowing their children to go door-to-door, hoping to scare and impress home-owners with their carefully selected costumes. They hoped to fill their containers with candy and other goodies.
Whereas before, children would roam the streets knocking on doors and shouting the familiar, “Trick of Treat,” to smiling people who would pretend to be frightened or laughingly amazed by toddlers dressed in a variety of costumes, the trust had been lost. Nobody felt safe anymore. Even though O’Bryan received his just reward when he was sentenced to death and executed by lethal injection in 1984, those fears remain. Ghosts and goblins may have taken a back seat to real life madmen and criminals, but, the tradition continues at a fevered pace, mostly fueled by children’s innocence as they threaten home-owners that if they don’t receive a treat, they will play a trick on them.
Halloween – filled with mystery, magic and superstition began as a Celtic end-of-summer festival during which people felt especially close to deceased relatives and friends. For these friendly spirits, they set places at the dinner table, left treats on doorsteps and along the side of the road and candles to help loved ones find their way back to the spirit world. In more modern times, in America, Halloween celebrations were more limited in colonial New England because of the rigid Protestant belief systems. Halloween was much more accepted in Maryland and the southern colonies. Following the lead of new immigrants, especially from Ireland, they helped to popularize the celebration of Halloween on a national scale. Taking from Irish and English traditions, Americans began to dress up in costumes and go house to house asking for food or money. This was the beginning of the “trick or treat” tradition which continues today.
That is, until O’Bryan committed his horrendous crime. Although nothing of that sort has occurred in America since 1974, parents continue to practice safe Halloween experiences for their children, not allowing them to do door-to-door trick or treating because of the potential danger. Instead, parents have created safe havens where they know and trust those who create such events. Still, parents are cautioned to protect their children, and, themselves, at all costs. With the advent of the internet, a new dilemma has arisen wherein parents are advised to protect their kids from the electronic boogeyman. Some precautions include:
*Get on the internet and check your local state website for sex offenders As bad as it sounds, this is just a fact of life now;
*Know the route your kids will be taking if you aren’t going with them. Make sure that they know not to deviate from the planned route so that you always know where they will be;
*Trick or treating isn’t what it used to be. In most cases, it’s not safe to let kids walk the streets by themselves. Make sure an adult is going with them, and make sure you can trust that adult;
*Make your young child pick out or make a costume that will be safe. Make sure that it’s fire proof or treated with fire retardant. If they are wearing a mask of any kind, make sure that the eye holes are large enough for good peripheral vision;
*Kids will be kids. Explain to them the difference between tricks and vandalism;
Throwing eggs at a house may seem funny but they need to know that clean up
and damages can ruin Halloween for everyone. If they are caught
vandalizing, make them clean up the mess they’ve made;
*And, more importantly, knock only on doors where there is a light. These are the
homes where children will be welcomed. Don’t knock on doors where the lights are out. Generally, this means, stay away. Obey and respect. Above all, have fun. It can still be done, despite the fears created by the “Candy Man.”.