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Halloween Hysteria


Beginning in the 1980s with the Satanic Panic, Halloween has been a culture war target for ignorant, hysterical Evangelicals. In their minds, Halloween is a Satanic holiday; a high holy day when Satanists kidnap and sacrifice children to Lucifer. And if it is not the Satanists, it is pedophiles who are kidnapping children off the street and molesting them. And don’t forget warnings about Halloween candy. This year, law enforcement is stirring up parents over rainbow-colored fentanyl tablets and marijuana-laced gummies. Ask yourself, what drug dealer or user gives their expensive drugs to children? Years ago, it was razorblades in candy, resulting in parents having their children’s candy x-rayed at local hospitals. All nonsense, for which there is not a shred of proof.

I can only think of four dangers children face while trick-or-treating:

  • Teenagers stealing candy from younger children
  • Bellyaches from eating too much candy
  • Automobiles
  • Grandpa eating their candy 🙂

These four things are REAL threats. The rest of the Halloween “dangers” you read about this time of year in the news and on social media are hysterical nonsense. Halloween is a holiday that is meant to be enjoyed by children and adults alike. Don’t let fearmongers and conspiracy theorists ruin the day.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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  1. Avatar

    I remember trick or treating in the town I grew up in. We walked around, although Dad was in the car making sure we were okay. We took huge paper bags and would literally get half a huge bag full per kid. And then the candy thief would get his share.

    Seriously, it a day for people to dress up and have fun. People who don’t like fantasy seem to be pretty humorless, anyway.

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    The story about poisoning candy is actually true. Back in the 70’s, a man poisoned his own children’s pixie stix on Halloween, (in my neighborhood-one I rode my horse through trick or treating) to collect insurance money. Deer Park, Texas in 1974, (date via Google search). I remember the hysteria and I was actually pretty worried, since it happened in my neighborhood. My mother threw out all my pixie stix and homemade treats.
    That’s the only legitimate story I could find and one I remembered, as a child.
    I always enjoyed Halloween. It was fun to dress up in costumes, dress my horse up, too, go to haunted houses and fall fairs at school and enjoy an evening being silly.
    It’s strange how the evangelicals like to suck the joy out of everything.

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    I’m really puzzled by this especially with seeing a post from a school friend tonight proclaiming as a Christian she will not be celebrating Halloween and handing out candy and never has. I mean it’s entirely her perogative. It’s just that for years now here in the buckle of the bible belt the Southern Baptists have all but taken Halloween which I always thought a bit funny and ironic. Just about every church holds “Trunk or Treat” events for the last two weeks of October with a different church holding their event almost every day and inviting the whole community, not just their church members. They give out tons of candy and some even serve hot chocolate and snacks or even homemade chili and cornbread and show movies! It’s quite a big celebration and many kids really rack up the candy going to each church. By the time the actual day of Halloween rolls around many kids may not even want to go out because they already have so much candy and have already dressed up and may be tired of going out in the cold night and want to stay home. So in other words the Baptists have taken over Halloween so it’s funny this year to hear some Baptists are suddenly insisting one is not suppose to celebrate Pagan holidays which does make sense, except the Baptists have already been throwing big celebrations for the holiday for a couple decades.

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    Karen the rock whisperer

    I grew up hating Halloween. When I was a young child, my parents decided to buy me one of those cheap plastic face masks (I think it was supposed to be Cinderella) and I absolutely hated the thing. My mother dragged me trick-or-treating to exactly two houses, next door and across the street respectively, where widows who doted on me lived. Then she got tired of me complaining and took me home. I couldn’t get out of that hated mask fast enough.

    The following Halloween, she dragged out that hated mask again, and so I said I’d rather hand out candy than go trick-or-treating. That was fine with my parents. They hated the idea of me being out after dark anyhow, and I’m sure my mother would have gone with me only to gripe about it. The following years, it was simply assumed that I would take on the burdensome task of answering every ring, in a neighborhood where there were a lot of trick-or-treaters. My first university year, living in a dorm, I REVELED in not having to answer the damn doorbell.

    After I graduated and moved to my current city, I started handing out candy again. I enjoy seeing the children’s costumes and listening to their happy chatter as they walk the block. But then several years ago I adopted a shelter cat who is fiercely stressed out by someone ringing the doorbell, let alone having me open it to a crowd of noisy strangers. So I leave the porch and living room lights off, hang out in the back of the house with my cats, and give my easily-frightened kitty some extra loving attention.

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    Ben Berwick

    Remind me to share with you the pics of my Halloween outfit this year (already planning next year too, but I’m torn between Darth Vader and Scrooge McDuck).

    These fundies are such killjoys. they’re wound up so much by kids in costumes having fun?! If anything, Halloween gets a community out of their homes, interacting and mingling with one another, and all in the name of good-natured light scares, and even laughs.

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    I would add one more danger: cheapskates who hand out whatever crap is lying around. One year I got a bunch of broken candy canes. The wrappers were torn up. Another year, I got a handful of cough drops. Menthol. My dad was pissed about that, but I didn’t know what house they came from. Over all, my Halloween memories are good. It was sad when the paranoia hit. The elderly ladies on my block used to make the best homemade treats, but they had to stop At least my parents were friends with the neighbors. I got homemade cookies, cupcakes, and candy. Made up for the cough drops! 😋

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    Benny S

    Back when I was a young-un in Smalltown USA, nobody had head-to-toe costumes. All we had were those really stiff plastic, slightly-molded cartoon character face masks (such as Scooby Doo, Archie, Batman, Felix the Cat). The masks were held to the back of your head with a weak rubber band stapled at both ends. While trying to breathe, you drowned in your own humid sweat that was building up on the back of the mask every time you exhaled, and, at the same time, the plastic corners of the mask’s eye holes jabbed into the corners of your real eyes. Everyone knew who you were because you were wearing your familiar daytime street apparel. But, hey, still good times.

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    I was a kid during the Satanic panic and all the scares about poison and razor blades in the candy! My friend’s grandma lived up the street from us, and she always made homemade treats for the kids – popcorn balls, candy apples, etc….. and my mom made me throw away what Mrs M madd because of that BS panic. Mrs M was a sweet old lady who had never poisoned or put a razor blade in hee treats, but because the news anchors said so, we had to throw away the treats. So stupid.

    Meanwhile, a few years ago there was a home near is that went all out for Halloween – they had 2 huge tables full of cookies, Rice Krispy treats, punch, all kinds of treats – every kid wanted to go there. It was great! No one got sick or died……

    I think drugs are too expensive to give away, right????

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      You think of the love people have to make home made popcorn balls for neighborhood children. And such love is Satanic? If that’s the case maybe Satan is just a goth with a good heart. I’m thinking back to my own childhood trick-or-treating, Mrs. Saunders’ legendary popcorn balls. I lived in a small town so we got to eat them.

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    MJ Lisbeth

    I think it was Ambrose Bierce, in his “Devil’s Dictionary,” who defined Puritanism as the fear that someone, somewhere, might actually be enjoying something.

    The same can be said about almost any religious fundamentalist.

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    I remember the constant refrain “check your candy”. It got to the point where, when I DID find something once, I just thought “Well, yeah, that’s why I checked”, and moved on, didn’t even tell my parents.

    It was one of those cheapy peanut-butter-chew candies, wrapped in orange or black paper. What I found was a teeny-tiny screw.

    For decades I assumed it was malicious intent, but a few years ago I learned about how some food companies use metal detectors in their factories, to check for… well, pieces of factory, falling into the mix. Screws, for example. I’m betting this particular candy company didn’t have metal detectors back then.

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      @KADEPH We never found anything in our candy, but I recall trading with a friend at school. Maybe the friend or neighbor he got them from was playing a joke, but I thought the candy (peanut butter kisses) tasted like soap. I spit it out and didn’t trade with him ever again.

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    Benny S

    I noticed the graphic at the top of the post doesn’t disapprove of zombies. Must be due to the bible zombies found in Matthew 27 after Jesus died:

    (NKJV) V51 Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, V52 and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; V53 and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many.

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    Mr. Gerencser forgot to mention one danger of Halloween. That danger being rambunctious teenagers and young adults vandalizing property. The late 1960’s and early 1970’s were bad years for one particular small town in central Illinois. Halloween was an excuse to litter the streets with outhouses and other types of buildings, The mayhem was particularly bad if Halloween fell on a Sunday evening. That meant a three day orgy of vandalism, one incident being someone pushed a car into a basement where the house had not been put over the basement yet. The following Monday the mayor of the town went to the high school and he had the responsible parties clean up the mess. After the three day orgy of destruction the downtown area looked like it had been hit by a tornado. At the time the police force of the town made Barney Fife look like Chuck Norris in comparison.

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      My mom told me about Halloween in the thirties where turning over outhouses was a big prank to play as was putting a buggy on the barn roof. She used to throw the most fabulous Halloween parties for our training union class at our Southern Baptist church where Halloween was not an issue. We’d have hot dogs with homemade chili, chips, witches brew (hot spiced cider) to drink and then would walk to the cemetery close to the house to tell ghost stories. Our school also had a Halloween carnival around Halloween which was fun.

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    The bible condemns pretty much all of Donald Trump’s behavior but evangelicals continue to blindly follow him so they need to shut the fuck up about Halloween

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    I remember as a young child having the wimpy, little plastic jack-o-lantern for candy. I know many of my costumes were train related, though – go figure. In grade school the PTA conned…err…convinced local businesses to donate plastic trick-or-treat bags for the students. The bags were better than the plastic pumpkin but at a certain point they suffered structural failure and your loot was now subject to a free-for-all grabfest as it poured out. We eventually moved up to pillowcases before I decided I was too old to be begging door-to-door for candy. Mom would meet us at school for the costume parade and then we would trick-or-treat as we walked home. We usually hit the local neighborhood in the afternoon receiving baked goods from the neighbors, pennies (remember them? One year a house was giving out dimes!) and candy. After dinner it was off to see the relatives for more loot. I also recall each Sunday school class having a Halloween party.

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    in the mid-1980s, i went, with a couple of friends, to a halloween party. we walked there (it was a small town), and our path lead us directly in front of a “storefront ministry” (it was later housed in what used to be the town’s porno theatre). i and one of my friends wore costumes, the third one was dressed normally. as we walked by the storefront ministry, a crowd of people came out of the ministry and started threatening us, pushing us around, and eventually knocking us over. the “pastor” of the ministry then appeared at the top of my head, and started repeating this phrase, over and over: “jeezisistheonlynameunderheavenbywhichamancanbesavedthereisnoothername!!!” after a few minutes of this, i asked the guy if he really thought acting like a parrot was going to affect me in any way, whereupon the crowd began to hit and kick me. at some point, cooler heads prevailed, and they let me go, but i will never forget that incident.

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    We had a fundy, I’m guessing, come up to us this afternoon while we were working in the yard. I was raking leaves so miss fundy approached hubby who was sitting on the front steps having some water after pulling some of the annuals out of the flowerbed. She wanted us to sign a petition asking the borough to ban all celebrations of Halloween because the events are exalting satan and his demons. She gave this obviously rehearsed spiel and then tried to hand the clipboard toward us. Hubby looked at her and said we couldn’t sign because Halloween is our high, holy holiday, that is why we were working so hard cleaning up the yard. She had this shocked look and asked if we were satan worshippers. His reply was nope, worse – gay. She hightailed it of our yard. Maybe she thought the rainbow flag we fly out front is some sort of flood reference? Anyway, we watched her work the street and received not a single signature but did have a few doors slammed in her face.

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      That’s hilarious! I don’t understand the sudden urgency this Halloween for some Christians to want to ban it or speak out against it. Why this year and not in previous years? Who has instigated this sudden bee in their bonnet?

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Bruce Gerencser