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Scaring Ourselves More than the Monsters Do

on January 26, 2009 - 12:42pm

black hand and pumpkinface
While there are many things to legitimately fear in the world, I find that human beings have a tendency to heighten these fears to the point where we lose scope of what we should actually be afraid of; what the original source of fear was, and how to act in order to protect ourselves. If you lose sight of what the original source was, then any action you take to prevent it from happening again is fairly useless.

I just read a news story from last October about a town in Pennsylvania who, after 16 years, lifted a ban on trick or treating after dark. The ban was put in place in October of 1992, after an 11-year-old girl, Shauna Howe, was abducted and murdered by two men.

Death is tragic. Murder of children is devastating. The people who commit these acts are the source of fear, and have nothing to do with a holiday.

I decided to do a bit of digging on the original story, and what I found illustrates my point of displacing fear.

The girl wasn't taken on Halloween. She was actually attacked on October 27th, while walking home from a girl scout Halloween party. On her own.

I can understand the town being afraid to let their kids out alone (key word here being alone) after dark so soon after the abduction, but to continue the ban an additional 15 years?

The attack didn't happen on Halloween, so if you decide children shouldn't be out after dark on their own, why wasn't there a curfew set in place for the winter months? Or year, for that matter?

No, it's easier to perpetuate fear of Halloween. Case in point: a reporter spoke with a local 15-year-old boy about the lift of the ban. The reaction of the teenager? "I have a gut-wrenching feeling something bad's going to happen."

So here is a youth who, because of the ban, has spent his entire life with the belief that horrible things happen to children on Halloween night - even though nothing actually happened on Halloween night to begin with. And I am sure there were many voices to encourage this belief, that Halloween is evil and encourages others to do evil.

Personally, I think it's evil to raise children with unfounded fears. Yes, be cautious of strangers. Yes, be fearful of what could happen if you allow children to walk along the streets on their own, especially after dark. But Halloween has nothing to do with it. Terrible people don't have a schedule we can follow: they do bad things in the day time or night, on the street or in our homes, and in any season. So teach your children to be cautious year-round, and let parents be an active part of the solution. Don't rely on fear to keep your children safe.

I imagine many of the children in that town shared the boy's scared sentiment. Many, but not all.

It was a 10-year-old girl, Elizabeth Roess, who lead the charge to change the ban. A little girl who used simple logic in her argument to bring back nighttime trick or treating: Halloween decorations are best appreciated at night, and many people aren't home during the day to give out candy.

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