The One True Horror of Halloween

updated May 1, 2019
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They may look cute (Image credit: Sean Locke Photography)

I’ve always loved Halloween. Every year as a kid I’d dress up in my homemade costume and go door to door to ask strangers for candy. I’d shuffle through the crispy leaves, carrying my pillowcase and enjoying the faint chill in the air. But I’d shake my tiny fist at the people who had left their light off, or even worse, had the gall to give out boxes of raisins.

So what I’m trying to say is that I’ve never had a traumatic Halloween-related experience. I’m not whatever the Ebenezer Scrooge of Halloween would be; I don’t sit at home as an adult muttering to myself about the carefree frolicking of trick-or-treaters.

But I will admit that two years ago I forgot to buy Halloween candy.

In my defense, I had recently gotten married and we had just moved to the military base my husband was stationed at. Every street and every home looked exactly the same, like they had come off of some suburban assembly line. And while I knew people on the base had children, I’d only occasionally see an overturned bike in a driveway or a basketball hoop; it wasn’t all that often that I actually saw children running around the neighborhood.

So with no Halloween plans, buying candy completely slipped my mind until about four o’clock in the afternoon the day of. And by then I was settled in, Scream was on, and I figured What the hell, I’ll just leave the porch light off. It was the universal symbol for no candy, right? Or so I thought.

Around dusk I heard them coming. Screeching, laughing, a crowd of about 20 or so kids and parents. I nervously peeked out of my blinds and with panic I realized they were coming to my house. Even worse, they were coming to my glass paned backdoor that very clearly showed we were in fact home. I panicked and called for my husband while running into my living room before I heard the (multiple) rings of the doorbell. Here is a sample of our whispered conversation as we crouched behind our couch:

“Oh my God. I have no candy. And they’re still standing here and knocking and ringing. Our porch light is off, but do all the lights in the house need to be off?” I said. “When will they go away?”

“I have no idea how this works, I’ve never given out Halloween candy in my life,” said my husband.


I kid you not (no pun intended) that it took a solid five minutes for the zombie-like mass of children to move on from my house. The funny thing was that the parents were even more persistent than the kids. Like I somehow owed them candy. In the quick break between groups, my husband grabbed a roll of Christmas wrapping paper and covered our backdoor and one of our windows while I ran around flicking off lights, wondering if we were losing our minds.

“This should definitely deter them right?” I mumbled.

But the rest of night was similar. The aggressive over-ringing of our doorbell while a huddle of small costumed children would go to both our front and side door. While we watched the movie. While I prepared chicken wings in my dark kitchen. While I drank a glass of wine on my couch. While I drank my second glass of wine.

Ring, ring, riiiiiing.

One child’s father even peeked through the bushes and into our kitchen window while taking a sip from his small bottle of Fireball; looking for any movement that would indicate candy was coming. But eventually the waves of people thinned out, until the doorbell rings were separated by half hours instead of five minutes.

When I was lying in bed that night, grateful for the silence, I kept going over it in my mind: What about the light rule? How had I gotten this so horribly wrong?

Needless to say. the following year I just bought a bag of candy.

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