10.27.2009

Frightening children for fun and profit

Halloween may be my favorite holiday, but not for the reasons you might guess.

Yes, there’s candy, and I’m all for that. Yes, there’s a sense of community from all the kiddies and their chaperones prowling the chilly night together. And, yes, it’s a lazy man’s holiday, requiring little preparation, perspiration or shopping.

But here’s the reason I enjoy Halloween: I love scaring the bejeebers out of little kids.

Sick, I know, but I can’t help myself. I get caught up in the spirit of the holiday, wolfing down candy and greeting trick-or-treaters, and next thing you know, small children are running AWAY from my house rather than toward it.

I’m not a nut for Halloween like some grown-ups, those who decorate their yards in fake cobwebs and plastic skeletons and flickering jack o’ lanterns. (See “lazy man’s holiday” above.) I don’t host a “haunted house” where children gross each other out, handling “eyeball” grapes or cold spaghetti “guts.” I never wear a costume myself because a) they don’t make them in my size, and b) I’m scary enough in street clothes.

My Halloween enthusiasms are more spur-of-the-moment, fueled by the traditional sugar buzz and a Pavlovian response to the doorbell. Costumed children show up at my door, and I’m compelled to put a little “boo” in their holiday.

Years ago, when our sons were small, we lived on a street that was so popular with trick-or-treaters that some neighbors were forced to take out home equity loans to fund the annual candy giveaway. I was in charge of answering the door and handing out treats. As the night wore on, I found myself itching to do a little tricking myself. Thus was born the Evil Laugh.

Kids would ring the doorbell. I’d open the door slowly, standing behind it so they couldn’t see who was there. Then I’d unleash the Evil Laugh, which goes like this: “BWAH-hah-hah-ha-ha-ha-HAH.”

Most trick-or-treaters weren’t fazed, but some were startled by the Evil Laugh. Occasionally, terrified kids would sprint all the way to the sidewalk where their frowning parents waited. Those poor children got extra candy, if they could work up the nerve to return to the porch.

A few years ago, my wife brought home a Halloween decoration: A giant, fuzzy, orange-and-black spider. You’re supposed to hang the spider on your door or make it a centerpiece, but I hooked it to the back of my shirt.

I’d answer the doorbell, hand out the candy and then, before the kids could head for the street, I’d turn and ask, “Is there a bug on me?” The shrieks still echo in my ears.

The best one ever was when my kids where in grade school. They had several friends over for Halloween, and my older son led them into his darkened room for a “séance.”

I went outside and slipped around to his window. Just as the kids were fairly certain they were on the verge of conjuring up the dead, I used my fingernails to scratch on the window screen.

That’s all it took. No “boo,” no decorations, no costume. Just scritch-scritch on the screen. Screaming kids nearly killed each other, stampeding for the exits. (Most of them don’t twitch anymore, and their parents have since forgiven me.)

I think word has gotten out about my antics. The number of trick-or-treaters has declined in recent years. Maybe parents are warning each other away from that weird guy’s house.

Good. More leftover candy for me. BWAH-hah-hah-ha-ha-ha-HAH

1 comment:

ryan said...

Great subject. I have been playing around with the idea of the comment structure recently.

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