Scared silly over Halloween

Poisoned candy, murder, automobile accidents, molestation, fire, suffocation: an American reports on the new panic.

Jeff Nicolich

Topics Politics

Halloween used to be one of the most exciting nights of the year for kids. Parents would send their children out to go from door to door wearing a scary costume, collecting candy, the amount of which could last anywhere from days to months, depending on your appetite.

Candy was always the main goal. The secondary goal was to scare and be scared. Today, kids and grownups alike are frightened out of their wits before they even leave the house. Newspapers and TV are full of reports warning about the dangers of trick or treating. We are told that parents should take extra precautions due to the terrorist attacks. The message is ‘trust nobody’. And the candy? Forget it. Candy is something you collect only from people you know – all other candy is thrown away or used as tokens.

Poisoned candy, murder, automobile accidents, molestation, fire, suffocation. These are just a few of the things that, we are told, can happen to a child on Halloween night. Child safety specialist Debra Holtzman has compiled a pre-Halloween checklist that reads like something a special forces soldier in Afghanistan might benefit from (1). Advice ranges from the benign to the bizarre. For instance, we are advised to avoid ‘baggy’ or ‘billowy’ costumes and not to give out the ‘powdery’ type of candy.

‘Powdery’ candy is the ultimate fear in these times of anthraxiety. No doubt some families will handle the Halloween bounty with latex gloves and surgical masks. By linking unsubstantiated Halloween scares with the events of 11 September and the fear of anthrax, the scaremongers are going beyond the normal course of duty to inform the public of potential threats.

Fortunately, there are still some prepared to stick up for Halloween. Pointing out that most Halloween hazards are grossly exaggerated or unproven, Urban Legends Reference Pages stated: ‘It’s a sadness that a holiday so thoroughly and greedily enjoyed by kids is being sanitised out of existence in the name of safety. Sadder still is there appears to be little reason for it.’ (2)

Next year I will wear a short, tight-fitting costume made entirely of fire-proof reflective tape, flashlights and spare batteries for my cell phone. That’ll be a shocker!

(1) Debra Holtzman, is the honorary co-chair of the Florida SAFE KIDS Coalition and the author of, The Panic-Proof Parent: Creating A Safe Lifestyle for Your Family, McGraw-Hill Companies, 2000

(2) Halloween poisonings,

The following guidelines were posted on


Make sure an adult accompanies all children while trick-or-treating; Carry a fully charged cell phone; Stop only at homes where you actually know the family and there is an outside light on; For guidance and safety sake, accompany younger children to the door of every house they visit; Supervise older children to ensure their safety as well, and to avoid Halloween pranks; An adult can stand far behind the kids.


Don’t give out any homemade treats. Instead of candy, you might consider giving out money, glowsticks, retro-reflective bracelets and stickers; Instruct children not to eat any treats until they get home (Give your child a healthy snack before trick-or-treating so they don’t get hungry.); Inspect all treats; Allow your child to eat only those treats that come in unopened and original wrappers; Toss any homemade treats your child receives; Avoid giving choking hazards such as gum, peanuts, hard candies, or small toys as treats to young children; As a safe alternative, throw a Halloween party or attend one with close friends and family.


Children are four times more likely to suffer a pedestrian-related fatality on Halloween than any other night of the year. In addition, falls and burns are also a common cause of injuries among children; Never let children under age 12 go trick-or-treating or cross the street without the supervision of an adult on Halloween night; Tell your children to stay on the sidewalk at all times.


Make sure the entire costume (including beards, masks and wigs) are clearly marked as flame resistant; Avoid costumes made of flimsy materials and outfits with big, baggy sleeves or with billowing or long, trailing features; The costume should never be loose fitting, 100 percent cotton; The costume length should be short enough to prevent the child from tripping and falling; Your child should wear sturdy and well fitting shoes; Costume accessories must be soft and flexible. A child should not be allowed to carry a hard, sharp object.


Consider makeup (but make sure it’s nontoxic) instead of a mask, which can obstruct the child’s vision or restrict breathing. If they do wear a mask, make sure the child can see and breathe easily; Make sure hats and scarves are tied securely to prevent them from slipping over the child’s eyes; Decorate costumes, bags and sacks with retroflective tape and stickers; Reflective tape will glow in the beam of a car’s headlights; Equip your child with a flashlight and glow in the dark accessories. Make sure they stay on well-lighted streets.


Prepare homes for trick-or-treaters by clearing porches, lawns and sidewalks and by placing jack-o’-lanterns away from doorways and landings; Illuminate jack-o’-lanterns with flashlights or glow sticks; Avoid candles; If you’re giving out candy, make sure it’s not a ‘powdery’ kind.

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Topics Politics


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