Posts Tagged “halloween”

Jack-o-lantern Pumpkins, via PubliDomainPictures.NetFolks my age will remember the panics that kicked up, back in the ’70s and ’80s, about trick-or-treat candy being tampered with at Halloween. Either they were injected with poison or drugs, or had razor blades shoved in them. Every year, the media ran stories about this “danger” and advised parents to check their kids’ Halloween candy (as though the average parent would be able to easily detect any sabotage). That this annual scare was an urban legend with no basis in truth, didn’t matter; reporting on this danger was a reliable annual affair.

Over the last few years, with several states permitting the sale of marijuana, including what are called “edibles” containing the herb, the focus of this annual panic has shifted a bit. As reported, for example, in Philadelphia magazine, warnings are out that kids might be given marijuana treats (Archive.Is cached article):

New Jersey officials are warning parents to beware of a little “trick” this Halloween – marijuana-laced candy.…

According to the state Department of Health, there is “a significant presence of marijuana candy and other edible forms in New Jersey and nearby states.”

Wes Culp, a spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Department of Health, said the department “is on high alert for any number of things that could affect children” during this time of year, but the department hasn’t seen any issues with weed-laced candy yet.

I appreciate that Culp admits officials haven’t “seen any issues with weed-laced candy yet.” But that’s the real point here: There’s no evidence any children have ever gotten “edibles” in their trick-or-treat bags (cached). None!

People really need to stop with all of this bullshit. Yes, it’s at least plausible that, given the existence of pot-laced “edibles,” some idiot might give it out to a trick-or-treater. Yeah, it could happen. But that it’s plausible does not mean it will happen. It just doesn’t. Let’s stop panicking already over something that’s never even happened. OK?

Photo credit: PublicDomainPictures.Net.

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Jack O'LanternHalloween is one of those odd things that most Americans don’t think much about, but a small number obsess over. It’s become a vast economic boon, being one of the most profitable retail holidays. It’s a major driver of social events, with people holding Halloween parties all over the place, and businesses hosting Halloween events, too.

But some Americans don’t see Halloween as fun, they see it as downright profane. Back in my own fundie days, the circle of Christians I was part of, didn’t care for it much, viewing it as a pagan — if not Satanic — celebration that Christians had to stay away from. Influential Christian leaders like Marion “Pat” Robertson have condemned Halloween as “Satan’s night” (WebCite cached article). Some Christians who’ve shunned it even came up with a simultaneous alternative they called “JesusWeen” (cached). Yes, that’s right … JesusWeen. Another Christian anti-Halloween phenomenon are the many “Hell houses” hosted by churches around the country, this time of year (cached). Some Jews have reservations about Halloween, too, and for similar reasons.

Once in a while this tension between Halloween-as-an-all-American-tradition and Halloween-as-profane-diabolical-celebration breaks open into something unexpected. An example of this just occurred in my home state of Connecticut. Milford public schools, as Milford Patch explains, cancelled an annual Halloween parade, and some aren’t happy (cached):

Halloween has been cancelled in the Milford Public Schools this year and that decision isn’t sitting well with numerous city parents.

In a note sent home to Milford parents last week the seemingly unpopular decision was announced.

“This year the Milford School District has decided the following: Halloween parades will not take place in any Milford elementary school. The decision arose out of numerous incidents of children being excluded from activities due to religious, cultural beliefs, etc. School-day activities must be inclusive. Halloween costumes are not permitted for students or staff during the day at school.”

The sanctimonious outrage as a result of this decision has been palpable. Online petitions have demanded Halloween be restored in Milford schools. The rage has been particularly loud amid the Right-wing media, such as on Daily Caller (cached) and National Review (cached). In the eyes of the Right, this is “political correctness” (aka Leftism) run amok. The curious part about this, of course, is that it’s religiously-conservative Christians who’re the ones who usually object to Halloween (as I noted above), and nearly all of those are politically conservative, just like the rest of the Right. So I have no idea how or why there could be any clear Leftist agenda behind a school system not having its Halloween parade.

At any rate, the Milford schools couldn’t withstand the Right-wing campaign against them, and as Milford Patch reports, yesterday evening they surrendered on the matter, and explained what they had done and why (cached):

Just before 5 p.m. Milford school officials released a statement to the media regarding Halloween in schools.

The statement was written by Superintendent of Schools Elizabeth Feser.…

We are writing to you in response to the accusations that have been made against the school system around how we celebrate Halloween in the schools.

The misinformation around the decisions the school made tied to celebrating Halloween is huge, and the spreading of untruths by parents and members of the community very disturbing.…

Ultimately, all eight principals, with my endorsement, chose to focus their energies on a family Halloween celebration, and forego the 20 minute parade in school. The thinking behind this decision was that a family event in the early evening would enable all who wanted to be a part of a Halloween celebration to do so.

Meanwhile, children who for religious or cultural reasons would not take part, could easily, and without stigmatization, not attend the event. In addition, in recognition of many working parents who have difficulty leaving work to come to school, an evening event would allow them to be present with their children.…

Sad to say, while careful and sensitive thought went into the decision to celebrate Halloween at a school/PTA-sponsored major event outside of the school day, there are those who unmercifully attacked the decision, falsely accusing the Milford Public Schools for banning Halloween.

We have been accused of being un-American, of denying children participation in an American tradition, and that we should be ashamed. We struggle to understand why we should be ashamed about the Halloween celebration that each school/PTA is sponsoring, wherein children are encouraged to wear costumes, will be given candy, will spend an hour or more in fun and games.…

There are those who feel a 20 minute parade is more important, however, and its elimination is contributing to the demise of Milford as a city and Milford as a community, as well as the demise of the Milford Public Schools.

Once again, then, we see America’s Right wing flipping out, going berserk, and mercilessly bullying people due to an outrage they’ve worked up among themselves over something they never understood in the first place. Way to go, guys. Way to go! You must be so proud of behaving with just as much immaturity as the young grammar-school kids whose Halloween parade you’ll tell yourselves you saved. Well done!

For the record — and to clear away any of the misconceptions associated with Halloween in the US — here’s the real scoop on it: Halloween as it’s celebrated in the United States, is more or less a modern holiday created by a culture which happens to be majority-Christian. Sure, it has elements of the old Celtic Samhain, as well as a few other pagan influences. But it also has more modern influences, e.g. Guy Fawkes Day. It is firmly pegged on the Christian calendar as the evening prior to All Saints’ Day (aka All Hallows’ Day, hence, Hallow E’en). Halloween is, in short, an amalgam of pre-Christian as well as Christian-era practices, contorted by American commercialism into something which has completely lost any tangible connection to anything the Druids were doing in ancient Europe on Samhain, or even to the Gunpowder Plot cooked up by Guy Fawkes.

Put another way … Halloween is not a religious holiday. It is also not entirely an areligious holiday. It has little to do with Christianity, except that it happens to be the evening before All Saints Day, which is a Christian holiday (although it’s one few Christians really “celebrate” any more).

So just go to your favorite Halloween celebration, and if you have kids, let them go out trick-or-treating, and enjoy the day. But without any of the religious or ideological baggage it seems to have kicked up.

Photo credit: Patrick, via Flickr.

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Jack O' Lantern - Witches' BrewHalloween seems to bring out the ridiculous in a lot of Americans. And the mass media have more than a little to do with it. A common mantra every year is that children are sickened and sometimes killed by trick-or-treat candy, every year, because they ingested a “treat” that had been poisoned. Unfortunately for this all-too-common myth, it simply is not true (WebCite cached article). This year, the concern voiced by local media here in Connecticut is not toxic treats, but sex offenders. For instance, WTIC-AM 1080 in Hartford offers this proud announcement that the state plans to head off this danger (cached):

Connecticut Department of Correction parole officers will be conducting unannounced home visits and surveillance of the roughly 250 sex offenders under their supervision, for Halloween.

Offenders have been advised to have no contact with minors, keep their outside lights off, and not answer the door for trick or treaters.

And the venerable Hartford Courant dutifully carries a virtually-identical story (cached):

Trick-or-treaters may not be the only ones showing up on Connecticut doorsteps this Halloween.

Parole officers will make unannounced visits to sex offenders’ homes, although the offenders may not know it, the Department of Correction announced Thursday.

They’ll be watching to make sure offenders are not having contact with minors — even those who show up at their homes. The sex offenders have been told to keep their outside lights off and refrain from answering their doors, the agency stated in a press release.

Right at the start, let me state that there is clearly a potential danger here, that some child might unknowingly knock on the door of a sex offender. Clearly that’s possible. I don’t deny it, not in the slightest.

But let’s put this in perspective. It’s exceedingly rare for any child to go trick-or-treating alone, not to mention unsupervised. (We used to go out by ourselves when I was a kid, but that never happens these days. More’s the pity.) The chances that any given sex offender might answer the door and be faced with a lone trick-or-treater he might be able to molest, are extremely remote.

Making this an even more improbable scenario, please note that we’re talking about 250 sex offenders. Yes, that’s 250 … in a state with a population in excess of 3.5 million! The average child in Connecticut will not even go near a sex offender’s home in the first place. A child trick-or-treating at 25 homes (for instance) has a 0.179% chance of encountering a sex offender. That’s right, not even .2 percent of a chance.

(Updated to add: My figures here are wrong. CT has an average household size of 2.52. This means the odds of a trick-or-treater encountering a sex offender while visiting 25 homes, is actually 0.45%. Higher than I cited, but still certainly not significant.)

Talk about a ridiculous non-story. Give me a fucking break!

P.S. In the world of Christian religionism, it turns out that some of them are more than a bit miffed that Halloween is too non-Christian a holiday. So they’ve launched a campaign to celebrate Jesus Ween instead (cached). Yes, you read that right: Jesus Ween (cached). The less said about that, the better, I think … !

Photo credit: De’Nick’nise.

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Derby Superior Courthouse, aka Sterling Opera HouseIt’s to be expected, I suppose, given that Halloween is almost here. But the news media continue to waste their time — and that of their readers/listeners/viewers — on stories about “hauntings” and the paranormal. It’s something I’ve blogged on many times already, and there doesn’t seem to be any end to this pathetic journalistic trope. The latest example is one I saw tonight on WTNH-TV out of New Haven, CT, reporting on the putative “haunting” of the Sterling Opera House in Derby, CT (WebCite cached article):

News 8 is with two paranormal investigators checking out one spot in Connecticut some say is haunted, the Sterling Opera House.

Dan Rivera and John Silveira run “Above the Realm Paranormal” which checks out reports of Unexplained noises or shadows or other things you can’t explain yourself.

The Sterling Opera House was built in 1889. It’s undergoing a renovation.

The “meat” of the report is in the video, which is right here:

The problem is that none of this so-called “evidence” proves anything. Gobs of light on photographs? Lens flares. Supposed children’s voices saying “Help me”? Some guy off-camera holding something over his mouth, saying it in falsetto.

Please, spare me the protestations of how “genuine” and/or “sincere” these “paranormal investigators” claim to be. They may be genuine, in which case they’re deluded. They also may not be, which makes them frauds. Either way, not good.

And the good folks at Channel 8 News were taken in by it. For shame. We don’t need any more “haunting journalism.”

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Halloween inevitably creates “danger” scenarios, especially regarding trick or treat. Back when I was a kid we heard about poisoned candy. With maybe a couple of exceptions — including one in which a child was poisoned by a family member, not a stranger he’d solicited candy from during his trick or treat outing — these stories are pretty much unfounded.

The scare has moved on to new targets since then. Now the danger is sex offenders who will — the presumption goes — prey on visiting kids. CNN, among other media outlets, breathlessly reports:

During the week before Halloween each year, Lt. Steve Rose of the Sandy Springs Police Department in Georgia knocks on the doors of every registered sex offender in his jurisdiction.

Rose set out in his unmarked Dodge Charger Wednesday with a printout of 20 names to verify that the people on the list live where they say they live.

His mission brings him and members of his force to subdivisions, houses, hotels and and apartment buildings in this Atlanta bedroom community of about 85,000 people.

“We do this to give people a level of comfort so they know we’re keeping tabs on them,” said Rose, a former sex crimes detective with 34 years of police experience.

Gee, that’s so nice and comforting. The only trouble is, the whole thing is a crock! LiveScience reports, via Yahoo News:

Each year at Halloween, parents have concerns about trick-or-treating, and many believe that a danger far graver than chocolate overdose awaits their children in quiet neighborhoods: sex offenders.

This scare is fueled by alarmist news reports and police warnings. In many states, convicted sex offenders are required not to answer the door if trick-or-treaters come by, or to report to jail overnight. In many states including Texas and Arkansas offenders will be required to report to courthouses on Halloween evening for a mandatory counseling session. …

A new study shows that the public has little to fear from sex offenders on Halloween. The research, published in the September issue of Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment, examined 67,307 non-family sex offenses reported to law enforcement in 30 states over nine years. …

“There does not appear to be a need for alarm concerning sexual abuse on these particular days,” the researchers state. “Halloween appears to be just another autumn day where rates of sex crimes against children are concerned.”

The bottom line is that resources and money are being wasted:

Not only is the hype and fear unwarranted, but the study also suggests extra taxpayer dollars spent monitoring sex offenders on Halloween are wasted. All the mandatory counseling sessions, increased police presence, and so on had no effect at all on the incidence of sexual abuse on Halloween.

It’s time to grow up and stop already with moral panics and the scare tactics. That goes for the police departments looking to ratchet up their overtime budgets, and reporters in the mass media who know better than to frighten people without good reason. OK?

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No less an authority on the matter than Pope Benedict XVI has declared Halloween to be “anti-Christian.” The (UK) Telegraph breaks the news:

The Holy See has warned that parents should not allow their children to dress up as ghosts and ghouls on Saturday, calling Hallowe’en a pagan celebration of “terror, fear and death”.

The Roman Catholic Church has become alarmed in recent years by the spread of Hallowe’en traditions from the US to other countries around the world. …

The Vatican issued the warning through its official newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, in an article headlined “Hallowe’en’s Dangerous Messages”.

The paper quoted a liturgical expert, Joan Maria Canals, who said: “Hallowe’en has an undercurrent of occultism and is absolutely anti-Christian.”

Let’s be clear on the matter: Halloween as it’s celebrated in the United States, is more or less a modern holiday created by a culture which happens to be majority-Christian. Sure, it has elements of the old Celtic Samhain, as well as a few other pagan influences. But it also has more modern influences, e.g. Guy Fawkes Day. It is firmly pegged on the Christian calendar as the evening prior to All Saints’ Day (aka All Hallows’ Day, hence, Hallow E’en). Halloween is, in short, an amalgam of pre-Christian as well as Christian-era practices, contorted by American commercialism into something which has completely lost any tangible connection to anything the Druids were doing in ancient Europe on Samhain, or even to the Gunpowder Plot cooked up by Guy Fawkes.

Put another way … Halloween is not a religious holiday. It is also not an areligious holiday. It has very little to do with Christianity, except that it happens to be the evening before All Saints Day.

The Pope makes the mistake of trying to relate everything to his religion, and because he doesn’t understand what he’s talking about, he decides it can only be “against” Christianity. Well, your Holiness, this time it’s not about Christianity or Catholicism at all. Put your Christian persecution complex away for once and try to grow up just enough to understand that. OK?

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A church in North Carolina has gone out of its collective mind … there’s no other conclusion one can reach. And I can show this in two ways:

According to regional sports channel NESN, a number of well-known athletes are going to Hell:

The Amazing Grace Baptist Church [of Canton NC] released a list of athletes who are going to hell, and the Patriots’ quarterback [Tom Brady] headlines the list.

“Tom Brady has an unwed child, but it’s okay because he wins Super Bowls,” it says on the church’s Web site, which has either crashed or been taken down. “Tom Brady is teaching us to have sex outside of marriage, to commit fornication, don’t marry and do the right thing, don’t take responsibility for your actions, have a good time no matter who you hurt in this world, go from sex partner to sex partner, and it’s okay because of who I am. How many of you dad’s cheer on Tom in the Super Bowl while your kids are watching?”

Among others targeted for hellfire by this wingnut church are Richard Petty, Matt Leinart, and Joakim Noah.

Second piece of evidence: This same church is planning a Bible-burning session. Yes, it’s true, and the (UK) Telegraph reports the story behind this profane festival:

Marc Grizzard, of Amazing Grace Baptist Church in Canton, North Carolina, says that the first King James translation of the Bible is the only true declaration of God’s word, and that all others are “satanic”.

Pastor Grizzard and 14 other members of the church plan to burn copies of the other “perversions” of Scripture on Halloween, 31 October.

The New Revised Version Bible, the American Standard Version Bible, and even the New King James Version are all pronounced to be works of the Devil by Pastor Grizzard and his followers.

Pastor Grizzard said: “I believe the King James version is God’s preserved, inspired, inerrant, infallible word of God… for English-speaking people.

“We are burning books that we believe to be Satanic.”

As well as inappropriate translations from the original Hebrew and Aramaic, the pastor and his associates will be burning books by various Christian authors, as well as music of every genre.

These people likely subscribe to the very odd — and dwindling — school of English-language scriptural philosophy known as “KJV-Only.” At least, I had thought it to be dwindling … apparently it’s making a comeback, in Canton NC if nowhere else.

Please note, the Amazing Grace Baptist Church of Canton, NC is not the Amazing Grace Baptist Church of Mt Airy, NC. That church is apparently unrelated and is not pulling the same kinds of stunts, as USA Today reports:

[U]nfortunately, the early reports zipping around the Internet didn’t specify the city for Amazing Grace Baptist Church.

So, in Mount Airy, NC., Pastor Jonathan Barker of Amazing Grace Baptist Church would like folks to know, “This is not our church!”

So if you plan to complain about the non-KJV-Bible-burning Amazing Grace Baptist Church that’s sending Tom Brady et al to hell, please be sure to contact the one led by pastor Marc Grizzard in Canton, NC. OK? The folks in Mt Airy, NC are not behind this.

Hat tip: Skeptics & Heretics Forum.

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