Halloween in the Dark Again

Although it’s still Study Week here in Maynooth I am back at work for the morning and then I’m attending a conferring ceremony this afternoon and later on I have to go into Dublin to give a talk at the Institute of Advanced Study. It’s Hallowe’en, of course, so no doubt there are quite a few weirdly dressed scary-looking people about, but one gets used to that working in a Physics Department. I just hope this evening’s talk isn’t an unintentionally horrible experience.

Anyway, it’s more than a decade since I posted my first blog about the real horror of Hallowe’en so, despite popular demand, I’ll take the excuse of a busy day to repeat it here.


We never had Hallowe’en when I was a kid. I mean it existed. People mentioned it. There were programmes on the telly. But we never celebrated it. At least not in my house, when I was a kid. It just wasn’t thought of as a big occasion. Or, worse, it was “American” (meaning that it was tacky, synthetic and commercialised). So there were no parties, no costumes, no horror masks, no pumpkins and definitely no trick-or-treat.

Having never done trick-or-treat myself I never acquired any knowledge of what it was about. I assumed “Trick or Treat?” was a rhetorical question or merely a greeting like “How do you do?”. My first direct experience of it didn’t happen until I was in my mid-thirties and had moved to a suburban house in Beeston, just outside Nottingham. I was sitting at home one October 31st, watching the TV and – probably, though I can’t remember for sure – drinking a glass of wine, when the front door bell rang. I didn’t really want to, but I got up and answered it.

When I opened the door, I saw in front of me two small girls in witches’ costumes. Behind them, near my front gate, was an adult guardian, presumably a parent, keeping a watchful eye on them.

“Trick or Treat?” the two girls shouted.

Trying my best to get into the spirit but not knowing what I was actually supposed to do, I answered “Great! I’d like a treat please”.

They stared at me as if I was mad, turned round and retreated towards their minder who was clearly making a mental note to avoid this house in future. Off they went and I, embarrassed at being exposed yet again as a social inadequate, retired to my house in shame.

Ever since then I’ve tried to ensure that I never again have to endure such Halloween horrors. Every October 31st, when night falls, I switch off the TV, radio and lights and sit soundlessly in the dark so the trick-or-treaters think there’s nobody at home.

That way I can be sure I won’t be made to feel uncomfortable.

4 Responses to “Halloween in the Dark Again”

  1. I’m in total agreement with your view of Halloween, feeeling more or less the same. And for some reason, it seems to me most of us have lost something important after US Halloween has settled in in Europe, about fifteen years ago. Pumpkins as substitues is no good deal to me.

  2. Dave Carter Says:

    Bake some soul cakes, which really are traditional, and give them to any children who come calling. If they don’t, then you can feed the soul cakes to the birds. Or eat them yourself if that fails.

  3. I loved your trick or trick story! I can remember carving out turnips as a kid in the 1980s in England. That was the extent of my Halloween experience back then. These days I spend the night pretending to be out, with the curtains drawn and lights off. Very boring I know. I know that they really know how to celebrate it in Derry, though!

  4. Around here it seems to have died. A few children still go round but far fewer than some years ago. ASDA pushes it hard but not very successfully, at least here. Last night we had not a soul. Of course, it does seem a little old-fashioned. Teenagers wearing masks on the streets in the dark? Children asking strangers for sweets? I am surprised there isn’t any government advice on this.

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