Take the `Boo' Out of Halloween


ON a Halloween eve 41 years ago on the eve of the 1948 presidential election, a confident Thomas Dewey counseled the American public to reject Harry Truman and the ``hobgoblins of the Democratic Party.'' The electorate wasn't easily scared, however, and the man from Missouri narrowly outdistanced the New York governor in what may have been the biggest upset of the century.

Then, Halloween was more treats than tricks - kids dressing up in homemade costumes to make the neighborhood rounds for candy, and the telling of ghost stories in the dark.

Now the event has become fair prey for devil worshippers and an excuse for rowdies to loot and riot. What was once children's fun has too often become destructive and dangerous in some locations.

For this reason, many communities are reining in Halloween, canceling school costume parties and other Oct. 31 activities and replacing them with more constructive events. This is a good sign.

Perhaps it is time to transform Halloween into a children's day or a harvest festival. Instead of defacing property, young people might be encouraged to help the elderly and infirm refurbish their homes or apartments. Costumes might take on a storybook theme rather than a ghoulish glow.

Some of this is already going on. Schools in Frederick County, Md., for example, have shelved the ghost and goblin get-ups in response to parental complaints that the holiday now is linked to devil worship. Similarly, adult pressure in Texas prodded the Harlingen Consolidated Independent School District in Harlingen, Texas, to appoint a committee to examine the role of Halloween in the schools.

Last year, Halloween violence erupted in the Hollywood area of Los Angeles, when thousands of revelers in masks and gaudy costumes smashed shop windows and looted merchandise. Members of local gangs joined in the fray until it was finally quelled by the police.

Detroit, recovering from a rash of arson fires and Halloween-related riots of previous years, has mobilized community efforts to minimize destructive mischief-making. Last year, the city imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew on teenagers during the festival period. Mayor Coleman Young reported a marked reduction in arson and related crime.

State troopers and sheriff's deputies uncovered what appeared to be a satanic ritual in the Albany area of New York. It turned out to be a mock ceremony staged by a university professor for the purpose of parodying devil worship. Bystanders, however, viewed events - including feigned human sacrifice - as genuine and called authorities.

The solution is not to ban Halloween - though some may be tempted to do so. The answer is to turn the event into a force for good rather than an opportunity for evil.

If Halloween glamorizes the negative aspects of society, such as satanic worship, it needs to be rethought.

It's time to take the ``boo'' out of Oct. 31 and replace it with something less scary.

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