There’s been so much fear circulating around these days, from the economy to terrorism to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars that I’m feeling a bit overdosed with it. Now comes Halloween, one of those holidays that strikes fear into the hearts of most parents as their little one’s go out into the night taking candy from strangers! Well, let’s put this into perspective and see what there really is to fear this Halloween.
First, I hope that most of your neighbors are not strangers. I hope that you at least know their names and could recognize them at the grocery store. If not you have something to be concerned about not only at Halloween, but also on the other 364 days of the year. If this is the case for you, start by getting to know your neighbors.
Many parents today were trick-or-treaters themselves during the 70’s and early 80’s during the candy tampering scare that panicked the country. As a result, many of today’s parents believe that this is still something to fear. The reality is that there has never been a case of a child becoming ill or dying from tampered candy obtained during trick-or-treating at Halloween – or any other holiday for that matter. So what started the candy scare in the 70’s? While the exact origin is uncertain, there seems to be a watershed event that happened in Pasadena, Texas in 1974. A father, who recently had taken out a life insurance policy on his 8-year-old son, put a cyanide laced Pixy Stix in his son’s candy bag. The boy died and the father was quickly caught, tried and in 1984, executed for murder. If you’d like a complete history of the candy scare, read more about it in this Wikipedia article.
Another Halloween fear stems from the perception that child molesters are more likely to use trick-or-treating as a lure for unsuspecting children. While this seems plausible, the truth is that there is no increase in sex crimes around Halloween. In fact, sex crimes against children are at their highest during the summer months. Researchers at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida studied crime statistics over a 9 year period found that the number of sexual related crimes against children remained unchanged during the Halloween season.
The real reason to fear Halloween is in the increase of auto accidents with pedestrians. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of child aged pedestrian deaths increases four times on Halloween compared to the same time period (4pm – 10pm) on any other day of the year. The reasons for this according to the CDC includes the small physical size of children making them difficult to see, compounded with dark costumes that further decrease their visibility. Additionally, children trick-or-treating during Halloween will tend to cross streets at the shortest route rather than at the safest route. Likewise, the costume itself can reduce a child’s peripheral vision making hazards like moving vehicles unnoticeable – not to mention uneven walking surfaces that might cause a stumble and fall. Finally, Halloween can invoke a kind of “magical thinking” that can create feelings of protection and invincibility that can cloud decision-making.
So to be safe this Halloween, make sure your younger children are supervised by an adult during their outings. For your older trick-or-treaters, make sure they have flashlights, review traffic safety rules and your expectations of their behavior. Ensure that there are not potential costume problems like long drapes that might cause them to trip, or masks that block their vision while walking. Finally, let them be scary. Research has shown that when children are able to pretend to be scary, they can develop an improved sense of confidence in confronting their own fears during the rest of the year.
Maybe some of us adults could use a little of that confidence for ourselves this Halloween. I’m thinking I’ll dress up as Frankenstein this year. How about you?
– Paul Kulpinski, LMT