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Featured Article

The Unsung Heroes of Halloween

By: onipar

The Unsung Heroes of Halloween

By Anthony J. Rapino

Every year we celebrate the many memories and products that have filled our Halloweens with wonder.  We list our favorite candies, costumes, and TV specials.  We regale our friends with stories of parties and bon fires.  We even rank our top haunted houses and pumpkin patches.  Yet in all of our stories, in all of our pumpkin-filled remembrances, we often leave out an essential element.  We gloss over those unsung heroes of Halloween.

We forget the treat-givers.

In my long (some would say too long) trick or treating career, I’ve met hundreds of treat-givers on Halloween night.  They come in all shapes and sizes, each with their own traditions and peculiarities.  Some are forgettable, others all blend together in my mind as an archetype, and still others stand out like glowing Jack-o’-Lanterns in an abandoned graveyard.

It’s my belief that these Halloween warriors should be celebrated like heroes of old, their stories passed down via the verbal tradition as a lone storyteller gathers costumed friends and family around a roaring October fire.  Even the ones who only smile and hand us candy corn deserve respect, because they chose to participate in the most magical night of the year.  They could have easily turned off their lights and pretended not to be home.  But they didn’t.

These basic treat-givers--let’s call them The Front Line--were the ones who laid the groundwork for all of my Halloween memories.  I may not recall faces or even the exact candy they gave me, but they are the ones who make up that fine meshwork of Trick or Treating.

My friends and I (still young enough that our parents were there, waiting on the sidewalk) ran to the first house of the night.  They had the front porch light on, and in the window we saw a pumpkin or two, so we knew they were ready and waiting.  They didn’t deck the house out with many decorations--this couple representative of so many others--yet did just enough to tip off the trick or treaters.  We knocked on the door and screamed in unison, “Trick or treat!”

The door opened on a middle-aged couple who, like their house, were similarly unadorned.  There were no costumes, but there was a big bowl of candy that they lowered and let us pick from.  They smiled and watched us scavenge the bowl for our favorite pieces, trying our best to avoid the generic stuff like Smarties and candy corn.  When we were done, we ran off, already forgetting the faces of these brave soldiers. 

A little farther down the road, we found our next kind of treat-giver.  Let’s call them the Absentee Treaters.  These were the people who probably loved Halloween just as much as the most ardent trick or treater, and who were out making their own haunted memories.  Being that they loved the holiday so much, they couldn’t bear to leave the trick or treaters wanting, so they placed a bowl of candy on the front porch with a note that said “Please Take Just One.”  We loved the Absentee Treaters for their goodwill and humanity, but even so, by time we got there, the candy had all been taken by one or two kids.  We shook our fists at the bat-filled sky and cursed their greedy little souls.

NOTE: Video below contains some language.

Further still on this magical Halloween street that survives only in my mind, we discovered the Experimental Treaters.  These were those peculiar folks that either forgot to buy candy or had planned on giving out atypical “treats” for some other nefarious reason my kid-brain could never comprehend.

One such Experimental Treater in Brooklyn had come to the door of his apartment, then calmly handed my friends and I full-sized posters still in the tube.  He explained in a distant way that he had so many posters from work, he didn’t know what else to do with them.  Still others would plop into our bags random doodads and doohickeys.  I had received pennies, floss, unwrapped candy, books, magazines, and on one frightening occasion a condom.  From these houses, I backed away slowly. 

Nearing the end of the street, down into the dark cul-de-sac surrounded by trees, awaited my favorite type of treat-giver: The True Believers.  These are the psychos after my own heart.  The ones that were not content to simply hand out candy.  They were compelled to dress up, decorate, create mini haunted yards, and embrace the holiday with a fervor usually reserved for the children.

One such family stands out in my mind as the pinnacle of my youthful trick or treating.  We came upon the house in quiet awe.  The entire front yard was covered with spider webs hanging from the trees and spooky figures erected along the pathway.  Somewhere a fog machine hummed, creating a low-lying mist illuminated by the green and red lighting placed throughout the yard. 

The house itself had many of the die cut paper decorations that were so popular in the 80’s.  But they also had older, vintage light-up blow molds in the windows: pumpkins and scarecrows with black cats, all glowing orange and brilliant.  The decorations were one thing, but what happened next ensured I’d never forget these treat-givers.

It started off low from somewhere near to the house, perhaps in the garage.  My first thought was, “Why are they going to mow the lawn at night?”  But that wasn’t quite right.  There was an edge to the rumbling sound.  A revving.

From behind a bush--still yards away--a masked man jumped out and brandished a chainsaw over his head.  He revved it again, and then gave chase, screaming and laughing.  Luckily I was nearly a teenager, and even as we turned to run, we knew it was all a gag.  My friends and I laughed and ran around the front yard, dodging hanging ghosts and the chainsaw wielding maniac.

Eventually he turned off the chainsaw and lifted the mask.  He called out, “Come on!” and waved us to where his wife waited with a cauldron of hot apple cider and giant bowls of full-sized candy bars.  We hung around for awhile, drinking our cider and watching the man scare the Smarties out of other kids.  It was the sort of thing that probably wouldn’t fly these days.  And while I’m sure the man must have known to holster the chainsaw when the kids were too young, something tells me that it was the kind of prank only the 80s or 90s could endure.

After some time, we headed back out onto the dark street, where other kids and parents walked in costume, carrying flashlights and glow sticks, swinging plastic orange pumpkins filled with candy.  This road now only exists in my mind, but I like to visit it now and then.  The decorations, the treats, and the ones who made it all possible still live there, and it makes me happy to know I can always stop by and have a cup of apple cider with them.  More importantly, it reminds me to always go above and beyond, because you never know whose memories you are going to help create during the next haunted Halloween.  

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onipar Posted on Oct 06, 2015 at 05:55 PM

(Video also features decapitation!) :-p Thanks, Tony.

Vaporman87 Posted on Oct 06, 2015 at 05:36 PM

Ahhh... no need. I just stick a little notation in there with a warning, and it's all good.

onipar Posted on Oct 06, 2015 at 05:27 PM

Wow, sounds amazing NLogan. You are most definitely a True Believer! :-)

Vaporman, he is referring to the video I embedded in my article (Just Take One). At the very end a recurring character form their earlier Halloween videos appears and rattles off a bunch of his "catch phrases" which contain plenty of f-bombs and more. If you need to remove the video, I understand.

Vaporman87 Posted on Oct 06, 2015 at 02:38 PM


I never doubted your true believer status NLogan. Your entry in last year's contest pretty well cemented that as fact.

NLogan Posted on Oct 06, 2015 at 12:00 AM

Oh and for those that may be wary of language there are a few choice words at the end of the video.

NLogan Posted on Oct 05, 2015 at 11:47 PM

Wanna be true believer here. We have always decorated the house to the gills; but confession here, most years we turned out the lights and left to do trick-or-treating of our own. We usually wait until our immediate neighbors send their kids around then leave ourselves and hit their houses. I trick-or-treated until a ripe old age because my little brother came around and was 14 years younger than me and well he needed someone to show him the ropes. Then my kids came and I still trick-or-treat with them. My years my little brother's years my sons' years = well over twenty years of trick-or-treating! I always buy good stuff plus i.e. good candy bars plus small Halloween toys to throw in the cauldron. Some years a grandparent mans the door as we make our yearly rounds but most of the time there are few trick-or-treaters as we live on the side of a mountain and little legs tire quickly. The spoils of the cauldron get mixed in with my sons' haul at the end of the night. For a few years in high school we had dummys in the yard and were mixed in with them in costume, other years we have had mini-haunted houses etc. I look forward with dread and delight to when my kids are too old to go and the parties/decorations we can do when we can properly man our stations at home for All Hallow's Eve.

onipar Posted on Oct 04, 2015 at 07:14 PM

Ah, so true, scojer. Sometimes I just love to pile the candy in because I know it makes the kids happy.

scojer Posted on Oct 03, 2015 at 04:42 PM

I use to remember the houses where I got floss or healthy stuff. I'd never go back to those houses again. I remember the houses that were decorated I would go back a few minutes later and get even more candy from them! They would give out the biggest hauls, and I just couldn't help going back a second time. The thing that made those front liners awesome, is that they would often recognize me, and say "Back for more?" They didn't seem to mind putting even more candy into my bag.

onipar Posted on Oct 02, 2015 at 11:29 AM

Hoju, I knew you'd be a True Believer! :-) That sounds like you go all out. The chainsaw thing...yeah, I'd be afraid to do it these days.

Thanks, Micky! Wow, that house sounds pretty killer! I kinda wish I could still go trick or treating. :-p

mickyarber Posted on Oct 02, 2015 at 05:19 AM

Great article. It brings back a lot of memories. My grandmother lived on a street that was full of older folks who all gave out candy. At the end of the street was a house like you mentioned at the end. It was a younger couple, and from quite a distance you could see the eery golw of orange and black lights, and all the kids you would run into had different theories about what would be found there. It was always the last stop of the trick or treating, and the anticipation built until you finally stopped by there. It was always the best candy haul, and best enviroment on that night. Look forward to reading more of your memories.

Hoju Koolander Posted on Oct 02, 2015 at 03:28 AM

I loved the breakdown here. We so often tske these participants in Halloween for granted. What would we do without them? I am happy to count myself as the neighborhood True Believer, creating a new theme each year for the kids to enjoy. I haven't taken to chasing them with Chainsaws yet though.

Vaporman87 Posted on Sep 30, 2015 at 08:12 PM

Just bus them in. Or tell your college students to spread the word. Make it mandatory to show up in costume. LOL

onipar Posted on Sep 30, 2015 at 07:34 PM

The True Believers are the best. They really did make Halloween extra special. It makes me sad that where I live now, we don't get many trick or treaters. Only a handful of the local kids come by. Perhaps if I advertise. :-p

Vaporman87 Posted on Sep 30, 2015 at 06:00 PM

I loved those true believers! Every year you made extra sure to hit their places. Yes, you were there to collect your full size (to heck with fun size) reward. But they made the experience so much more fulfilling. I once attempted to turn our house into that type of place. I decorated the sidewalk leading up to our front door with graves and spider webs, ghosts and ghouls, and a homemade pumpkin scarecrow sitting in his chair guarding the door. But since I had to go collect treats myself, I didn't get to enjoy the reactions of the visitors. I have a feeling their weren't very many, because our driveway was at the very top of the hill, and it was very long.

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