More Treat, Less Trick

Halloween used to be fun. My mom and I would Scotch tape paper skeletons with metal rivet joints all over the house. My dad helped me carve the most elaborate jack-o’-lanterns, using the leftover pieces for ears and horns and other accessories. Then I’d take the biggest pillow case I could find and run around the neighborhood taking candy from strangers.

These days, it’s all about Saw IV and pictures of pale, creepy babies with googly-eyes. What was once cute and cartoonish is now dark and serious and disturbing. The kids of the ’80s have not yet grown up. They’ve hijacked Halloween and taken it away from the kids of today.

I was in line at Rite Aid a few days ago when I heard an electronic shriek behind me. It’s not unusual to hear kids playing with the noise-making toys stationed throughout the store. This is most notable later in the fall, when the poor Rite Aid employees are assaulted for hour upon hour with a cacophonous melange of Christmas carols.

Sure enough, right next to an arts-and-crafts front-yard signpost directing passersby to Witch Way and Ghoul Gulch, a little boy was taking an appealing package’s advice seriously: TRY ME! But this electronic shriek was far worse than tuneless renditions of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “Silent Night” all playing over top of one another, because its source was a plastic skeleton about 9 inches tall, sitting in a miniature electric chair. At the touch of a button, a blue light flashed from behind the skeleton, and he jolted and jiggled about in his restraints, moaning and screaming. The light went out, the skeleton stopped shaking, and he said something like, “Whoa … Let’s do that again!”

This isn’t even a proper toy. It’s not something you can really play with. You just press a button and laugh along at the merry spectacle of a human’s death by electrocution.

And the kid’s mother was standing there without an expression on her face. I’d rather have the kid play with a toy gun.


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the untallied hours

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