Saturday night’s alright for frightin’

Halloween this year falls on a Saturday. This is great news for everyone and everything – candy companies, dentists, purveyors of slutty nurse costumes for adult revelers – except mailboxes. I don’t know if there are statistics to back me up on this, but I would wager that more mailboxes are brutalized when Halloween falls on a Saturday than when it falls on a weekday. Likewise, I would also argue that the Vermont State Police find a whole lot more drunken middle-aged vampires trying to figure out whether they are driving on asphalt or median on U. S. 7.


One has to presume that Saturday Halloweens are a little rowdier for everyone: The kids trick-or-treat later and the adult parties last longer.


Certainly my wife and I will be gearing up for more kids than usual at our front door. We’ve been in Lincoln well over two decades now and the two factors that affect how many trick-or-treaters we get are the day of the week on which the holiday falls and, yes, the weather. If you look at the calendar, you will see that Halloween has not fallen on a Saturday night since 1998. Leap year interfered with its falling on that day in 2004. Not only was Halloween a Saturday in 1998, it was downright balmy by the standards of Lincoln. That year it was my turn to trick-or-treat with our daughter, who was then a kindergartner, while my wife stayed home to give out the Brussels sprouts and the oysters. There is nothing like the face of a small child on Halloween when you give him a Brussels sprout or an oyster instead of a chocolate bar. (I’m kidding. We have never given out Brussels sprouts. One year we did give out handfuls of chicken bouillon cubes and claim they were caramels, but that was only because we had run out of candy and had to throw something in the bag.)


In any case, we had roughly 200 trick-or-treaters in 1998, which is at least 75 more than most years. The lowest turnout I can recall was when Halloween fell on a Tuesday and the weather was cold and rainy: We didn’t top 100.


I have always been a big fan of Halloween, though there is something a little disturbing about the very premise of trick-or-treating: Give us stuff or else. It’s as if one night a year we want to encourage our kids to be bullies. I would never do this, but I have always wondered what would happen if in my best Al Pacino voice I said to a group of five-year-old tigers and princesses when they showed up at my door, their moms and dads beaming at them from the edge of the walkway, “So, ya think ya can threaten me? Ya think I’m just gonna toss a Reese’s peanut butter cup into your little bags there? Well, ya picked the wrong house, bucko. What are ya gonna do, soap my windows? Toilet-paper the trees in my yard? Bring it on! Gimme your best shot!”


This, of course, would only suggest to the neighborhood that I am – to use a little clinical parlance – off my meds. Besides, I really do love Halloween. When my daughter was younger, my family used to seriously decorate the house. We’d hang the four foot tall girl doll my mother gave us years ago (don’t ask) from the attic window and decapitate the four foot tall boy doll I’d had since I was a little boy (again, don’t ask). One year the girl doll used the boy’s head as a bowling ball. A local mother once told me that she didn’t bring her children by our house because it was too disturbing. I was so proud.


Now that our daughter is 15 and I am irrevocably middle-aged, we don’t decorate with quite so much enthusiasm. But with Halloween falling on that all too rare Saturday night this year, perhaps it’s time for one last hurrah. We’ll see. I may be older now. But no one who knows me really thinks I am any more mature.  


(This column originally appeared in the Burlington Free Press on October 25, 2009.) 


Chris Bohjalian

Chris Bohjalian is the author of nineteen books, including his forthcoming novel, The Sleepwalker. His other novels include the New York Times bestsellers Midwives, The Sandcastle Girls, The Guest Room, and The Double Bind.