For the next couple of weeks, there are certain streets in my neighborhood that I must avoid walking, or even driving, down with my seven-year-old daughter in tow. My girl is traumatized by creepy Halloween decorations, and a single menacing mummy can transform bedtime into a shriek show. Should we happen upon something like a bloody corpse or baby zombie, that kid will end up in my bed for weeks.
I love a good scare and can’t wait for my daughter to grow out of her fears. I am not about to complain to any neighbors about their gory Halloween enthusiasm, but I also understand my daughter’s angst. It seems like Halloween decorations have become scarier and scarier every year.
Apparently, it’s not just in my neighborhood where decorations have gotten out of hand.
We live in a time where anyone can drop $100 at Home Depot and have a chain-rattling ghost two-stories tall moaning through the night. Increasingly, people seem to think that the best way to distinguish their display is with visceral realism.
One Halloween enthusiast, Johnnie Mullins, incited hysteria in his neighborhood with two fake dead bodies he arranged in his driveway. The body that appeared as though its head had been crushed by an automatic garage door was so alarming that a passerby called 911 in a panic. Another neighbor reported, "My heart about came out of my chest. I thought ‘Oh my God. If I think it's real, just think of what a child would think?”
I know my child would think about two dead bodies in a driveway, and then I would remind her that it’s Halloween and not real. Eventually, she’d get over it.
Mustang city authorities investigated Mullins’ display but did not order him to remove the mashed corpse dummies.
Across the Atlantic, gore lovers aren’t so lucky: James Creighton, who lives outside London, was forced by police this year to remove his Texas Chainsaw Massacre display. Creighton, who has fashioned the scene every year since 2009 as part of a fundraiser to bring in money for cancer research, was crushed: “The police told me they want me to put a black tarpaulin across the bottom of the fence so children can't see it, but it spoils it for everyone else then.”
I’m glad American police officers didn’t take that path in any of these cases, or on my block. Halloween is maybe the last holiday that the whole neighborhood celebrates together: it’s a treat. So I can put up with the trick of a few shocking scares for my daughter.
Do you think Halloween has become too scary for little children? Should enthusiasts of the holiday temper their displays? Tell us your thoughts in the comments or a blog post.