Oct 302021

It’s been a while since I posted anything about my days as a small town newspaper publisher in the Pacific Northwest and in Arizona, but this picture going around on Facebook reminded me of something that happened each year about this time back during those days and I am sure still continues.

As most of you who have been reading this blog for very long know, I published small town newspapers for much of my adult life, and every October, I and every other newspaper publisher I knew received dozens of letters to the editor protesting parents allowing their children to take part in Halloween and celebrating the “Devil’s holiday.” Not just one or two letters, but sometimes 20 or 30 or more. When you consider the fact that most of these towns had a population of 10,000 to 20,000 people, that’s a lot of letters to the editor on one subject. Especially one as crazy as that.

And it wasn’t just letters to the editor. One Halloween night back in the early 1980s, I got a call from a friend who worked for the police department telling me I needed to go to such and such street. I frequently got tips like that from the police, and if they bothered to call me at home I knew it was something I definitely needed to be covering.

I got to the street, in a typical middle-class neighborhood, and there were police cars everywhere. It turned out that a woman had taken four young kids who were trick-or-treating into her house and had barricaded the door and was going to pray and preach them into salvation. In a small town, everybody knows everybody, and she wasn’t known to be any kind of a mental case. But she was very devout and decided that since the parents would not protect their children’s souls, it was up to her to do so.

As I recall, it took two or three hours for a police negotiator and the preacher from her church to convince her to release the children, who had been totally traumatized by her telling them how their flesh would melt off as they burned in hellfire forever because they were willing to trade their souls for free candy, courtesy of the Devil.

Only once in all my years in the newspaper business did I ever cover a story where Halloween treats had actually been tampered with to contain something harmful to the children. In that case it wasn’t an adult who did it, but a 15-year-old boy from a very troubled home with emotional difficulties.

Unfortunately, I also covered two stories where excited children ran across dark streets and were struck by automobiles. In one of these incidents, a little boy was scraped up and bruised but was treated at the emergency room and released. The other was a fatality, and I remember the policewoman I talked to at the hospital breaking down and saying when she was brought in, the little girl was wearing an angel costume.

I much preferred writing about kids out having harmless fun, or churches and schools hosting events where they could enjoy Halloween safely.

It’s certainly a different world than the one I grew up in, when we dressed up in our homemade Halloween costumes, grabbed a paper grocery store bag, and hit the street collecting enough treats to put us into a sugar coma for the next week.

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of Dog’s Run, my mystery set in a small Ohio town in 1951. I have 36 novels out, as well as 11 nonfiction books, and I have to say that Dog’s Run is my favorite. It’s a gritty tale that is loosely based upon an actual crime that took place in that part of the country when my father was a young police officer there, and I warn you in advance that there’s some rough language, but it’s appropriate to the time and place. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.

Thought For The Day – Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.

Nick Russell

World-Famous, New York Times Best Selling Author, and All-Around Nice Guy!

  3 Responses to “Newspaper Days – Halloween”

  1. I remember kids changing to a pillow case from a paper bag. Bigger kids were ripping out the bottom of the bags. Some stole the candy, others just thought it was funny.

    Sad about the little angel hit by a car. Our town changed it to daylight hours for that reason. Sometimes to be in daylight, it wasn’t even on the 31st. It was a “treat” to move to a different state that had Trick or Treating on Halloween in the dark.

    Was the woman who held the kids charged with anything?

  2. Barb, yes, she was originally charged with kidnapping, as I recall, but since it was not done for gain (ransom), the charges were eventually lowered to something else like unlawful imprisonment and she was ordered to undergo mental health evaluations and treatment and probation.

  3. OMG, I worked for a small newspaper in Kansas for five years and I thought we were the only ones that got the Halloween letters! I remember on that said kids guts would explode with the devil’s flames if they went trick or treating! So crazy!

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