alloween is traditionally a time for pranks. Unfortunately (or fortunately, in the view of those who value their peace, property, and dignity), pranks have largely fallen by the wayside in the United States, replaced instead by a focus on parties, putting on costumes, and cranking up your sugar intake to life-threatening levels.
In this column, we will be reviewing a number of Halloween pranks -- traditional, modern, and new. We're certainly not suggesting that you actually do any of these things, but they're definitely fun to think about. (Readers should note that most of these pranks assume that everyone in the country lives in a rural setting. For some reason, Halloween traditions do not recognize apartment buildings or housing projects.) Traditional pranks: You've heard of them, you probably haven't done them, and your neighbors will be glad when they're gone.
1. Outhouse Manipulation: Back in the day when a toilet was a bench in a shack over an open hole, a group of youths with Halloween high jinks in mind might take a notion to move someone's outhouse. Generally, the little half-moon-bedecked structure is moved a few feet behind its hole. If this is done without being noticed, then some poor rural fool leaving his home to relieve himself of a midnight burden will wander up the backyard path only to find himself treading on empty air only a few feet from his goal. The resulting splash and ruination of long johns is theoretically hilarious to all parties concerned (well, except for one). Knocking over an outhouse while it is in use is equivalently humorous and classy.
2. Soaping Windows: You don't see this one very much anymore, even though windows and soap are as plentiful as ever. This prank is due for a resurgence in popularity, since it's fun to do, is rather surprising to the person whose house it is, and -- if properly executed -- is not all that difficult to clean up after. In contrast to the outhouse-type prank, it also has a strong focus on cleanliness and hardly ever gets anyone killed.
3. Wagon Transportation: Another old chestnut. Ajoyous gang of thugs "borrows" Farmer Fred's hay wagon, takes it apart, and reassembles it atop the schoolhouse. It's more work than most modern kids are willing to go to (these days, setting a bag of something foul on fire and ringing a doorbell is practically considered hard labor), but the effect is dramatic enough to warrant a woodcut in the local paper. Locking a cow in the schoolhouse adds a level of intensity to the whole event, but isn't particularly fair to the cow.
4. Egging: It stains, it ruins paint, it smells bad, it's hostile. Have we left anything out? Another prank which sinks to the level of unmitigated vandalism, egging works best with aged raw eggs. Hardboiled eggs don't make as much of a mess but can break windows. If you absolutely must tread this turf, we suggest throwing egg-salad sandwiches in baggies. The victim will be left seriously confused.
5. Setting Chicago on Fire: No no no no no. Not funny. Don't do it. Besides, this is a Devil's Night tradition, not a Halloween tradition. You don't want the police thinking you're evil, heartless, and unable to read a calendar.
6. Kicking Pumpkins: Smashing a gourd that some small child spent joyful hours carving can be fun. While you're at it, why don't you slap his mom around too, you bastard.
7. Kicking over Tombstones: This is why graveyard caretakers hate Halloween. Believe it or not, this is not just disrespectful and vandalous, it can also be quite dangerous. Knock over the wrong tombstone and you could end up with a vengeful spirit on your ass for the rest of eternity. Really.
Modern pranks: Hard work is out, and the emphasis has shifted away from property damage and toward harming others, being rude, or getting personal satisfaction.
1. Razors in Apples: Though most modern pranks are relatively harmless, this one is an exception. There aren't many people who have actually been caught inserting foreign objects (needles, razors, drugs, bugs, and foul substances) into treats, and reports of such instances are widely exaggerated. However, we would like to go on record as saying that anyone who would do such a cruel, inhuman thing should have a pumpkin inserted into them.
2. Lyric Alteration: Probably the most common -- and lamest -- prank of all. Chanting "Trick or treat, smell my feet, give me something good to eat" wins you no friends and makes nobody think you're clever. If a man answers the door try, "Trick or treat, that's what she said, your wife and mailman both in bed." Be prepared to run. 3. Collecting candy for your "sick" little brother: This isn't so much a prank as it is a scam. It's on the naughty list just above coming back to the house with the good treats for seconds. Do this and you're one step closer to spending your adult life as a phone solicitor.
4. Ejecting Bad Treats: Here's one we sympathize with. There are a few sick, twisted individuals out there who, instead of giving out Snickers bars or other appropriate treats, befoul the treat bags of youngsters with granola, sugarless gum, and toothbrushes. There is an unspoken rule that these people -- many of them dentists -- should wake the next morning to find their lawn covered with their offcast, misguided treats.
5. Pranking the Pranksters #1: We found a nice description of this one while surfing the Internet -- "At Halloween just leave a bowl of candy on your doorstep. Watch from inside your house. The second some unlucky bastard comes and takes all the candy, burst out of your door and beat the shit out of them. Works every time." Although we might insist that "beat" be changed to "scare," we generally approve of this one.
6. Pranking the Pranksters #2: A slightly more elaborate form involves an individual dressing up like a mannequin (complete with straw or newspaper "carelessly" protruding from clothing cuffs) and then jumping at anyone who attempts to vandalize the dummy. We personally were witness to an incident in which a young trick-ortreater dealt a solid punch to the leg of a newspaper-stuffed corpse hanging from a tree, only to have the dummy roar and begin thrashing around madly. Never before or since have we seen a child so thoroughly wet a Batman outfit.
New pranks: A few items currently on the rise in popularity but -- for better or worse -- not yet part of the national Halloween vocabulary
1. Reversing: Dress up in a costume and stay home. When someone rings the doorbell, fling open the door, yell "Trick or treat!" hold out your treat sack, and watch confusion overtake the crowd. May scare small children.
2. Dress up as the Surgeon General and give out cigarettes: Pretty self explanatory. May scare adults and/or lead to prison time.
3. House Stalker: This one is great for a sibling too old to trick-or-treat who has younger ones to usher around. Just dress in something odd and stand on the sidewalk, staring unmoving at the house your wards are going up to. Keep standing and staring until your kids are headed to the next house. We tried this once wearing our regular clothes and a fencing mask and were quite pleased with the results.
4. Tricky Treats. Instead of candy, give out soda crackers, golf balls, or condoms. Since giving out condoms might be illegal in your jurisdiction, it's actually much safer to dump a bunch of condoms into a "just take one" bowl on a neighbor's porch. Of course, if that neighbor read #5 in the previous batch, the results could end up being quite newsworthy.
5. Kidney Theft: The gist of the deal is you drug someone, have their kidney surgically removed, and leave them in a tub of ice with a note instructing them to "Call 911". You then sell the kidney on the black market and use the proceeds to buy treats. Warning -- this one may be illegal, too. Call the police and ask.
6. Bait and Switch: On Halloween, you dress your young children up and take them to some cheesy party at a church, school, or friend's house and try to convince them that this is much more fun than going door to door for treats. This is a full step below trick-or-treating at a mall. We saved this one for last because it is so evil and cruel that we wish nobody would even consider trying it. By all means, have a safe and sane Halloween, but don't go out of your way to have a lame one, and don't take your paranoia out on your kids.