When Did Adults Steal Halloween?

For a costume party in 1982, I dressed as a bag of dirty laundry.

October 30, 2018

Lin and Mary Channel Their Inner Game of Thrones


When did adults wrestle Halloween away from the children?

Wasn’t Halloween about finding some stuff around the house and turning it into a costume?

An oversize trench coat, a curly wig and top hat. Throw in a bicycle horn and you’re Harpo.

I know what you’re saying, “Who the hell is Harpo?”

Send the kid out with friends and a Unicef box to collect pennies.  Trick or treat for Unicef.  I know what you’re saying, “What the hell is Unicef?”

I see too many trick or treaters trudging along with their Scream mask in their hand.  They seem defeated.  In an age where every treat imaginable is a mouse click away, they find themselves begging for candy door to door.  They’ve already heard too many lectures about razor blades in apples and arsenic in cookies. 

Every doorbell they ring may be prelude to a poisoning or a kidnapping.  So their parents hover like moths drawn to the light of their lives. 

Danger lurks on every sidewalk.  Some kids are home before it’s even dark enough to see a jack o lantern’s candlelit grin.  In some communities, Halloween is held on a day that is more convenient for the grown-ups.  Yeah, Halloween is not good for me.  Can we change it.  Saturday works better for me.  The neighborhood might issue a schedule.  Trick or treating will be conducted Saturday starting at 12 noon and will last no more than 3 hours.

Meanwhile, the same adults who have sucked the life from Halloween like a binging Bela Lugosi can’t wait to get out to their own parties. 

Nothing casual about these costume parties.  Theme cocktails.  Dry ice.  Bloody marys with peeled grapes for eyeballs.  And the special costumes.

Have you been to any Halloween costume emporiums in the past few years?

You can’t find a nurse costume, but you can find a naughty nurse costume.  Every profession is represented by the naughty version. Naughty police officer. Naughty cheerleader.

I merely point out these costume options in the hope it will inspire you to send pictures, no, I mean, I want to point out how much Halloween has become a holiday for adults.  

A few years ago, I dressed in a knight’s tunic with a rope around my waist, a colander for a helmet, and a broomstick for a lance.  No one had any idea that I was the knight of the woeful countenance.  Don Quixote, the Man of La Mancha.  If only I had been clever enough to be the naughty knight of the woeful countenance, no one would have asked any questions.  They would have called the police.

Lin as Don Quixote with a Centaur and Bacchus

    In 1963, I was a pirate.  In 1964, I dressed up as matinee horror idol Barry Goldwater.  My Halloween costumes as a kid aren’t nearly as interesting as my Halloween costumes as a young adult.  And let’s not even mention the night in college when I fell asleep in the bushes outside the Old Stone Jug while dressed as the messenger of the gods, Mercury. A Speedo pulled up over white long johns. Frye boots with little wings taped to the top. A metal construction helmet with wings attached on both sides. And for reasons I don’t recall, a red cape. You know what they say. Nothing good happens in the shrubbery outside a small town bar after midnight.

   The most frightening costume I have ever created?  For a costume party in 1982, I dressed as a bag of dirty laundry.  I only mention it because it still embarrasses my wife.  You put on long underpants (a recurring theme).  You cut two holes out of the bottom of a laundry bag, you slip it on like some industrial size Huggies and head to the hamper.  Now fill your bag up with a textural cross section of your dirty laundry.  Socks are good.  Underpants are essential.  Damp gym shorts.  The benefits of being a bag of dirty laundry are obvious.  The outfit keeps you warm. It’s easy to make, and, of course, if you spill salsa and onion dip on your costume, no problem, it’s already dirty laundry.  And for you single guys, nothing says romance like a bag of dirty laundry.  The ladies love the bag of dirty laundry costume.  And when you’re looking for a conversational introduction nothing beats a line like, ‘Hey, you wanna see ALL my underpants?’ Trick or Treat.

My favorite memories of Halloween?  Being a kid. Hitting the whole neighborhood with other kids until our pillowcases were bursting at the seams.  Now I enjoy the next generation of trick or treaters.  The ones excited enough to run from house to house.  I’ll always remember a 4 year old of my acquaintance who was dressed as a zebra one Halloween.  He went to 6 houses and then said, “Can we go home?”  Doncha want to do any more trick or treating?  We asked.  No, he said, I have enough.  Halloween is first and foremost for the kids.  Even Charlie Brown could tell you that.