Don’t Surrender to the Fearists

Wallingford, it is your moral and civic duty to hand out candy to the children of strangers next week. Parents, if you do not let your children go door to door at your neighbors’ houses collecting goodies, you are surrendering all that is good and dear in America to the fearists.

Yes, the fearists! Like terrorists, fearists undermine our society by sowing distrust and uncertainty everywhere we go. Fearists don’t bomb buildings, but they still chip away at the things that make America great: our adventurous spirit, our independence, our willingness to brave new frontiers despite the risks.

What makes them so insidious is that the fearists don’t even know they’re doing it! They mean well. They think they’re helping. They’re doing as they’ve been taught, as they’ve been told.

And what do they do? They tell us that it’s dangerous to allow our children to go to houses of neighbors to collect candy. They tell us it’s better for the children if they go to the mall, carefully sanitized and policed buildings where paid employees dole out mass produced pieces of wax masquerading as chocolate into pumpkin-shaped pieces of plastic with flimsy handles.

Trick or TreatersWhen we were young (yes, “we” as in you and we), we’d roam the neighborhood in giant packs of all ages, sometimes with a parent idling out on the sidewalk, sometimes without. We’d roar door-to-door, show off our tatters of costumes to the witch-hatted lady at the door, and sometimes go in (gasp! yes, go in to the house of a stranger) to see their boiling cauldron, cackling crone or strobe-lit ghosts. Each house held some piece of unexpected craziness (or at least a treat). The odd house with the lights off was the anomaly, not the rule.

And, in perhaps the hardest piece to reconcile with our modern sensibility: in our bag of treats, alongside the bite-size Snickers and tiny cardboard boxes of Nerds, were…dare we say it…unwrapped treats! Some (yes, dear reader, it hardly seems possible) homemade. Gooey rice krispie treats, crunchy popcorn balls, cellophane-wrapped brownies, and apples. Apples! (Please, somebody administer smelling salts to the lady in the back, the shock of this news has overwhelmed her.)

“But times have changed,” you say. “We didn’t know the risks then”, perhaps, or maybe “they really are greater now.”

Let’s review the numbers, shall we?

  • 10: Total number of documented cases of “pins in an apple” in the United States since, 1959 – 2005. And of those ten incidents across the entire country over those forty years, most of them were kids putting things in their own candy or that of their friends as a prank. In the worst case, one person required stitches. There have been no deaths.*
  • 30: Number of people who die each year in the US from eating eggs.*
  • 51: Number of children who died playing baseball, 1973 – 1983.*
  • 42,000: Approximate number of people who die in car accidents each year in the United States.*

Do we stop eating eggs? Stop playing baseball? Forsake our cars?

OK, that last one, we’ll take it up separately. Let’s not get sidetracked, people. We’re on a roll, here.

Now, we hear the rejoinder: there is a risk, so why take it? What’s the harm in keeping the kids in on Halloween night?

The risk is that we deprive our children of the sense of risk and adventure that build initiative, curiosity and independence. By telling them that their neighbors are dangerous, we undermine their trust in their community, and this tears at the very fabric of our society. It splinters us, separating us off into sterile, safe pods where we know nothing better than suckling on corporate pablum and watching network television.

Whew. OK, it’s getting a little dizzy up here on our high horse, we’ll step down.

Really, folks, you should turn on your light and put out a pumpkin this year. If you have kids, take ’em out trick or treating. Every year, we hear from readers who say that they’ve bought big bags of candy to give out, and then nobody shows up at the door. Don’t disappoint your neighbors. They want to see your kid’s dinosaur outfit!

We still haven’t convinced you?

Alright, we didn’t want to have to pull this one out, but you’ve forced our hand. Zillow (Best Places to Trick or Treat in Seattle) has run their enormous database of real estate information through a gigantic, magical machine and determined that:

  • Seattle is the #1 city in the country for trick-or-treating
  • Wallingford is the #1 neighborhood in Seattle for trick-or-treating

This means, ipso facto, that Wallingford is the #1 neighborhood in the country for trick-or-treating! Living in Wallingford and not trick-or-treating would be like going to Chicago and not ordering deep-dish pizza, going to New York and not eating a bagel, going to Yosemite and not taking a hike!

You owe it to your children, you owe it to your neighbors, you owe to yourself. You owe it to America. Fight the fearists. Trick or treat!

  1. FreGirl said,

    Well said! We keep bubble wrapping our children and locking ourselves away from our neighbors and you know what happens? Well, take a look at the country. 😛

    Wed, October 20 at 11:07 am
  2. jacqui said,

    The Griffindoor house (that is, us) will be storming the neighborhood come Halloween!

    Wed, October 20 at 11:24 am
  3. walkinroun said,

    One of the great treats I discovered when I moved back to Wallingford after an absence of some 35 years was the astonishing array of tiny ghouls and goblins who managed to make their way to my sidelined apartment door on Halloween. Thank you for this wonderful essay on one of the joys of childhood and our need as adults to wrangle our way around “fears”. Bravo!

    Wed, October 20 at 11:28 am
  4. Chuck said,

    When I was a kid in Milwaukee in the 70s there was great fear that danger was afoot. So much so that I never got to trick or treat at night, and we always took our candy to the nearby hospital to get X-rayed. (Which also allowed my parents to take all the Snickers bars, you know, to make sure they weren’t “dangerous.”) To this day Milwaukeeans go out on the sunday afternoon before Halloween.

    I was shocked, SHOCKED I tell you, when I moved away and found that kids could go out at night. Shocked and delighted actually, my kids love it! :)

    Wed, October 20 at 11:46 am
  5. Batman said,

    Thank god for the pagans and their holiday’s, or this life would truly be boring.

    Wed, October 20 at 12:26 pm
  6. harley said,

    too much coffee this morning j? but, regardless, cathy and I will be sending 9 month old eden peach out on her own sunday night. she’s strong enough to crawl at least 4 houses and show those fearists! neighbors, please don’t report us…but do watch out underfoot!

    Wed, October 20 at 1:43 pm
  7. Floor Pie said,

    Thank you for this! My son is really excited about going door-to-door this year.

    And neighbors, if you’re feeling adventurous enough to cross Stone Way after dark, we West Wallingfordians and our big bowls of candy will be happy to see you!

    Wed, October 20 at 2:04 pm
  8. entropy's bitch said,

    *slow clap*
    I will be handing out sugary treats and have a haunted staircase up to my house. I will make the little princesses tinkle their adorable costumes(not really) and never question the 17 year olds wearing a baseball cap, holding on to a pillowcase and their last vestiges of childhood. Parents will get offered candy, and if a tiny Batman needs a new treat bag, I’ve got plenty.
    PLEASE trick or treat. I don’t have kids, but DH and I love halloween.

    Wed, October 20 at 2:46 pm
  9. joe momma said,

    thank you for making an attempt to de-pussify america.

    Wed, October 20 at 2:50 pm
  10. stacey said,


    Wed, October 20 at 5:03 pm
  11. scarebaby said,

    Great article! I unfortunately live on the third floor of a security building so never get little trick or treaters, and I’m so sorry about that. I love to go out on Halloween and just enjoy the fact that people – big and little – are out walking around in the fresh cool air.

    Getting to know your neighbors is the best defense against both real crime and the fear of it.

    Wed, October 20 at 6:09 pm
  12. leilan mccoy said,

    Right on, I agree with your comments. A poll recently showed Wallingford the #1 neighborhood to Trick or Treat in. (Queen Anne #2, Magnolia #3)

    Wed, October 20 at 6:30 pm
  13. Tanya said,

    I plan to have candy so please make your way down Wallingford, toward 43rd. We’ve got jack-o-lanterns and plan to have some somewhat healthy treats for your littles (and their parents!).

    Wed, October 20 at 6:53 pm
  14. cathy said,

    hmm, excellent article


    Wed, October 20 at 8:47 pm
  15. Virginia Smyth said,

    Thank you, thank you, for articulating so well what I have been thinking for many years. My pumpkin will be out, lights on, and treats–well, as usual I’ve bought them early. Hopefully, there will be something left for the kids!

    Thu, October 21 at 5:50 am
  16. Fruitbat said,

    I agree whole-heartedly about the fearists. Thank you for this. Anyone interested in the topic in general should read “Free-range Kids” by Lenore Skenazy– a guide for anyone who wants to get away from the cable-news fed paranoia.

    And thanks to the person who invited trick-or-treaters to West Wallingford. I don’t know about South West Wallingford, but the northern part of West Wallingford, and north Fremont, get very few trick-or-treaters, so those who show up generally get handfuls of candy at each stop, not just one piece! Hmmm–do any kids read this blog?

    Thu, October 21 at 7:00 am
  17. Kelley said,

    2nd Ave between 45th and 50th will happily await your robots and zombies!

    Thu, October 21 at 9:30 am
  18. Margaret said,

    Fruitbat, I know for a fact that Little Wally Dude reads this blog. And you can be sure he and his merry band of 8 year-olds will comb the entire area.

    Thu, October 21 at 9:43 am
  19. P.J.G. said,

    Thank you X 10!!! Growing up in Northend Tacoma (in the Dark Ages!) Halloween T or T was a major event…we kids always created our own costumes, NO store boughts for us! We scoured the neighborhood far and wide and knew which houses gave the best stuff; always saved the house that gave HOT Cider and Doughnuts(GASP!) for last! This cherished memory of Halloween is one that I work to emulate and is on my Personal Goals (Minor) List. I want to be the Neighborhood Lady remembered for the Halloween Experience…decorations, scary music, BIG candy bars and discussion/acknowlegement of each and every kid’s costume before they leave….and they have to climb stairs to get here!
    NorthEast Wallingford is going strong and gets a good turnout of kiddies!

    Thu, October 21 at 10:42 am
  20. BusyBody said,

    When I moved to Wallingford in 1975 there were 23 kids whose homes backed up to our alley and they were everywhere, without an adult anywhere. We had zero accidents or scary things happen. Unlike Ravenna where we came from. The kids around there told me that they sometimes saw “weinie waggers” there and they they would yell and call them names. No scardy cats there.
    We get almost zero Kids on Sunnyside Ave, maybe because there are houses only on one side (Good Shepherd Center across the street). So I am delighted to see that Eden will be crawling up my front steps and I’ve reserved a treat just for her.

    Thu, October 21 at 11:17 am
  21. Don said,

    Well said Jordan! Send the frightening ghouls, witchs, etc. our way between 47th and 50th on Latona. They won’t be disappointed.

    Thu, October 21 at 3:54 pm
  22. Melissa said,

    As a kid I did not live in a neighborhood good for trick-or-treating and would LOVE to join wallingford kids and their parents in pillaging the ‘hood. will you scoff at a childless 30-year-old who just wants a little candy?

    Thu, October 21 at 5:04 pm
  23. P.J.G. said,

    If candy is what you want Melissa, come on over to Latona!
    My favorite “adult” T or T memories are from back in the Mt. Lebanon (Pittsburgh PA) neighborhood. After taking the kid out, then putting her to bed, my hubby and I would visit the immediate neighbors (back then we all knew each other!) with an empty glass and yes(GASP) leaving the kid ALONE in the house ! Our “group” always grew with each house visit…..and pity the folks at the last house! Oh, I can hear the growls now…leaving a kid alone and drinking out on the street! Well, we WERE walking…out for about 45 minutes! Jeez , sometimes even I miss my good ol’ days

    Thu, October 21 at 5:29 pm
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