Do you check the candy your child collects on Halloween? Would you let older children age 12+ go door to door unsupervised? Do you trust your neighbours? Most people today don’t even know their neighbours, and they have no time or any desire to meet them. Those folks among us who advocate their children attend ‘safe schools’ with metal detectors and armed guards at the door, usually encourage little or no congress with neighbours between the two points. Halloween is an alien concept.
Every October, corporations challenge their marketing executives to extend their brand into a more logical position inside the lucrative Halloween holiday market. Just last year, the National Retail Federation of America found Halloween has become the sixth largest spending holiday in the United States behind Christmas ($457.4 billion US), Valentine's Day ($13.70 billion US), Easter ($12.63 billion US), Mother's Day ($13.80 billion US) and Father's Day ($9.01 billion US). The study found that Halloween sales have grown by about $2 billion since 2003, to just over $5 billion in 2006.
Fuel Ghoul can see that Halloween is
growing in all the wrong places. Most folks living today don’t know anything
about how the pumpkin came to become the ubiquitous welcome lantern at over 100
million homes across
Fuel Ghoul shudders with rage and conviction when he thinks about his own sister and her children; they won’t be frolicking down
lamp lit residential lanes this year, they won’t be crossing dark streets or
taking candy from strangers. They’ll be heading for the West Chester Mall, a
shopping center near their home, to trick-or-treat among the stores there.
“I’ll take them to Reggie and Carol’s and to Rob’s mom’s house, but we’re going
to the mall,” She said to him, and when he asked why not meet some of the
neighbours on her street she protested, saying that “the kids want to go to the mall. Its fun,
convenient and most importantly it is safe.”
In Fuel Ghoul's opinion, it’s also fundamentally wrong. He loathes corporate ad bucks promoting retail trick-or-treating as a safe alternative to walking about your neighborhood. Shopping malls offer a stale, pedestrian-only, lights-on, shallow smile sales-clerk kind of experience. All spookiness has been exorcised -most shopping malls insist that no scary costumes or masks be worn.
Come to K-mart and get your free bag of Halloween candy on Oct31st. Retailers
use candy to bait strangers. Sugar coated offerings lure potential new customers
into a venue where they've never shopped before. And even if the families
don’t buy anything on Halloween, they’ll remember the store when
shopping for Christmas.
Corporate hegemony is hurting Halloween. Unwarranted issues of safety and morality are spiked home by media scares. Watch the papers the week before Halloween, there is at least one ‘it could be your neighbour’ story presented to plant seeds of doubt and sell more copy.
Yesterday, a ‘human interest’ story in an American newspaper advertised the fact that the SPCA would not allow black cats to be adopted in the month of October, fearing perhaps local residents might be tempted to use the creatures in Satanic rituals. I checked
Beware the ‘razor blade in the apple’, and fear the possibility of eating adulterated candy is the message promoted by retailers, and this is the most pervasive of all corporate lies; there is little or no substance to this tenacious urban myth. Yes, it happened once in 1974: An 8 year old boy died from a cyanide-laced candy which he picked up at Halloween. Investigations revealed however that the boy’s own father had intentionally spread cyanide on the candy in order to kill his son. He wanted to collect the insurance. He was charged, tried, convicted and executed.
In 1982, fifteen kids and one adult became ill at a school Halloween party. It might have been caused by the candy and cakes that they ate. But the newspaper reports of the lab tests on the food are contradictory. Although nobody died, the story hasn’t been forgotten and is preserved by our fear of predators.
Fuel Ghoul is greatly discomfited by the general trend away from neighborhood-based trick-or-treating. He would like to see consumers simplify their lives and buy fewer disposable goods, and he believes that trick-or-treating in shopping centers replaces community with commercialism, and soon children will begin to associate Halloween with local retailers, rather than with local friends and neighbours. As an alternative, FG suggests community-center costume parades, school carnivals and block parties. Can you find a destination where the myth and stories of Halloween can be shared? Yes he's sympathetic to parents’ concerns, but can you not celebrate Halloween safely without salespeople?
Shopping mall trick-or-treating is scary because it’s hurting Halloween. Media fed urban myths propagate fear and destroy neighborly interaction, the very thing that makes the holiday such a great asset to society. Many people don’t realize the importance of knowing and trusting those who live near their residence. There may come a time when you need each other, whether its to mobilize together to face an environmental disaster, create a crime watch, find a baby sitter, or borrow a ladder - Halloween helps.