Mr. Springsteen and I Are Through with Halloween


BrucespringsteenborntorunEven today, 33 years after I first played it on the cheap turntable in my Jersey bedroom, I can still remember where every single grunt goes on the entire "Born to Run" album.  And if you buy me a drink, I’ll prove it. 

Other than that, Bruce Springsteen and I have only one thing in common: We are both fed up with Halloween. 

Oh, we’ve both been good sports for years.  In my case, that means spending almost as much on candy as I spend on tulips and running frantically to the door for four straight hours.  In Springsteen’s case, there were apparently "masked characters," elaborate decorations, and an uncelebrity-like air of welcome at his big house in Rumson, NJ. 

But our generosity has been stretched to the breaking point. At his house, too, I’m guessing, the perennials have been trampled into dust!  The boxwoods have been
stumbled over and broken!  The peach trees have been idly stripped of
branches–one time too many!  We have been made into curmudgeons despite ourselves.

Like at Bruce’s house, the problem with Halloween on Caroline Street
in Saratoga Springs, NY is "catastrophic success"–so many visitors, the whole business feels dangerous.

We’re actually
urban here on Caroline Street, so every suburban kid from miles around pours into my
neighborhood for more efficient candy-gathering.  Where, I wonder, is
the enterprise among today’s suburban youth?  When I was a child, I
walked miles of McMansion gloom just to gather
a handful of Snicker’s bars. 

But it’s not just the neighborly cityscape that draws the crowds
here.  It’s the mood, including the many Victorian houses that, like mine, are crying out for a five-digit paint job but contain people without the dough.  My next-door neighbors, a super-nice young couple, go
all out on the atmospherics, including bringing out an animatronic figure named Sully who
rips open his chest and screams every time somebody claps.  A little
further up Caroline Street, there are other neighbors with a spooky Italianate house who get really
spooky and lurk in the overgrown hemlocks to scare the bejesus out of

The result is thousand children and their parents appearing on
my doorstep every Halloween.  Frankly, I didn’t think I was buying a
job hosting a street festival when I bought my house. 

Of course, I might not feel so invaded, if the crowds weren’t so destructive to my garden. Last year, I actually had the Headless Horsemen on a real live horse standing in my flower bed! With the horse rearing up in terror at Sully’s screams!  Absolutely insane.

Still, I’m sure I don’t have it as bad as The Boss. Nobody assumes they know me when they don’t and calls me "Bruce" when they ought to be calling me Mr. Springsteen.  That, I’m assuming, is truly creepy. 

For me, there is only one upside to this increasingly upsetting and anarchic holiday: Out of a thousand kids, maybe three every year are rude.  The rest–suburban, urban, poor, rich, carefully costumed or carelessly costumed–are touchingly grateful and polite. 

A holiday that reminds you of the inherent goodness of children…well, I still hate it, but possibly a little less than I did three paragraphs ago.


  1. It’s a great post with an horrific story I would certainly hate (strong word perhaps) Halloween if I live where you live. Hope you have a great weekend anyway/ LOL Tyra

  2. All I can say is “rugosa roses”, nice thorny rip your costume if you get near roses. Maybe just plunked in for the occasion even. Or snow fencing? I designed my front garden so the kids can walk on it, other parents are horrified, but I even have rocks there specifically for the little terrors (two of which are mine) to jump from and to.

  3. Come live in my neighborhood for a couple of years and you will love Halloween again. For years no one trick or treated around here. The houses are too far apart. I would get 10 kids total every year. I always wished I would get more kids. Last year broke the mold however and I had 30 which is a nice number. Enough so you get to see all the cute kids in costumes but not so many to make you go crazy.

  4. In the 20+ years we have lived in our Nashville home we have had a total of 3 kids Trick or Treat here each Halloween! My son and two friends would hit us before they headed out! They didn’t mind the long walk in the neighborhood to reach the doors. The neighbors loved it!

    We were able to leave the house and visit parties. What a delight!
    Friends who live in urban neighborhoods talk about the huge outlays of cash to pay for the thousands of visitors’ candy!

  5. Better thee than me. Mostly rural here, no neighbors, other than one family with mostly grown kids who’re not into trick-or-treating.

    However, I will admit to being partly responsible for what your rant is about when I was a kid. Read my latest post to see why.

  6. I miss the treat-or-treaters. I’d make Toll House cookies, and hand ’em out to the children and parents. We’d have bunches for several hours. The flood seemed to have taken many of the children with it, and we’re just beginning to build them back up. I heard some by my sidewalk planting the other day, “See? That’s Butterfly Weed. OHH, look there are some – that’s a Monarch caterpillar. NO. Don’t touch, look at it.” From my window I saw a little girl lecturing about 5 other kids. I welcome them – c’mon and bring your great parents.

  7. I have mixed feelings. Part of me misses never having had the little kids and their costumes…and part of me is relieved that I don’t have to buy candy… that we’ll end up eating.

    The countryside is just too spooky at night, no matter what time of year!

    One neighbor has invited the neighborhood to a dessert party tonight. Not many children here as there are mostly empty-nesters like us.

    There is great fun in reading the old ghost stories across today’s blogs.

  8. My introduction to the North American secular celebration of All Hallow’s Eve was in eastern rural Canada, a single woman teacher like myself saying “We must go out of town for the evening.” We did, we went to a friend’s house, and returned to a small town which looked like a battle zone, broken shop windows, baulks of wood across the street, police cars everywhere. That is the night that historic covered bridges get torched.

    I’m with Michele, I don’t like Hallow’een. If kids didn’t eat more sweet stuff than they need already and if they made their own costumes instead of their parents buying stuff, maybe I would feel differently but I am not about to spend money I can’t afford on kids who have too much.

  9. Time was when my daughter was a kid that the neighbourhood was full of ghosts and goblins on Halloween, blowing down the street like leaves on the wind, laughing and shrieking and having fun. But now, twentysome years have gone by and all the kids are grown and many of them have little ghosts and goblins of their own but they live in far-away places and hardly anyone comes trick-or-treating any more. There are Haunted Houses and Costume Parades and organized events for them, and drat it — I miss them giggling at the door! Tonight we have had six — three adorable little girls, a witch, a devil, and a princess, and three hulking 14-year-old boys in football shirts.

    Maybe if I lived on Caroline Street, I would be happy that they don’t come, but here on my leafy street I kind of miss them. And what do I do with all that leftover candy?

  10. Living in the same house for over 30 years I have gone from having 150+ trick-or-treaters to this year where no children showed. I remember fondly the day the two neighborhood boys rang the doorbell and then hid in the bushes and ran out and ambushed me with canned string. I pretendend to be outraged and ran after them and they couldn’t run for laughing. I remember the kid dressed as a toilet lifting the seat cover to show a bag full of treats. I remember the love lavished costumes of made by justly proud parents. I remember all the little guys and gals stumbling up the steps, I remember when it rained or when it was bitter cold and they came.

    Today I took my 2 year old grandson to the four houses nearest me and was greated with big bowls of candy, friendly people and warm smiles. Sadly I’m sure this was the only trick-or-treating on the entire street.

    Send all those flower bed trampling hoodlums over to my house; I miss them.

    Nobody even smashes my pumpkins anymore.

  11. What wonderful memories in Demarest NJ…knowing year after year which house gave full-size Hersey bars and who had Butterfingers! Then the shaving cream and egg teenage years!

    In Cold Spring, just north of year, Parrot St. is the same – – hundreds of candy-frenzied kids attack this over-the-top decorated street. A few local community groups raises money to give the families money to pay for all of it!

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