Tonight, costumed kids hit the streets as darkness falls.
Normal rules are suspended; children are given rein to roam in the dark, trespass on private property and take candy from strangers.
Scaring each other is allowed, all in good fun.
But worry returns when the Halloween haul is dumped on the carpet. Candy is sorted according to kid-preference, parent-preference and danger.
Packaging is examined for breaches; homemade treats are dissected for pins and blades.
But the experts say that tampered treats are a myth that says more about the psychology of the day than actual danger.
The Washington Post recently interviewed Joel Best, a sociology and criminal justice professor who studies the phenomenon through history. He has yet to find a substantiated case of an injury stemming from Halloween candy.
We tend to leap to that conclusion long before the evidence comes in. Best found five cases of child deaths initially attributed to Halloween sadism — two in Michigan — and in each case, subsequent investigation found other causes of death ... a relative’s heroin, a father’s life-insurance scheme, natural causes, an enlarged heart and a streptococcus infection.
Best said this year THC-laced candy fears are making the rounds, rooted in recent vaping deaths and changing marijuana laws.
Social media vaults unverified accounts or warnings into seeming credibility, for the sheer repetition of them. The wildfire-nature of this myth just shows our cultural fear of tampered food and a deep-seated psychological preference for the “monster we can manage.”
“It’s the best thing to be afraid of,” Best said. “He only does it once a year.”
Facts instead point to less flashy, but legitimate Halloween dangers like getting hit by a car. Best cites a 1997 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report that places a child’s risk of getting struck by a car as four times higher on Halloween.
So tonight, children who aren’t old enough to be aware of the dangers of distracted drivers need to be corralled by someone who does. Drivers should also try to stay off the road between 5-8 p.m. (Traverse City trick-or-treat hours) and stay home and pass out candy instead.
Oh, and children should be taught to say “thank you” as gratitude is repetition we can get behind.
We can’t independently verify a much-publicized poll by TopCashback.com that said 78 percent of parents steal from their kid’s Halloween. But we can say that an informal poll around the newsroom thought that the other 22 percent were lying.
We can see some parental strategy at work in sectioning off certain candy as “potential threats to be reckoned with later” — after bedtime with a horror movie and hidden wrappers in the bottom of the garbage.
So maybe it’s more of a trick than we think.