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Halloween is a holiday that many kids (and adults) look forward to all year as a special chance to have fun with dressing up in costumes, trick-or-treating, parties and school parades, and sweets. Some cities even close down streets along entire blocks for neighborhoods to host special trick-or-treating runs and large costume parties. Businesses welcome kids with give-aways and decorations. Halloween is supposed to be scary too, right? That’s part of the fun for many people: getting scared on Halloween – with a “boo!” from a ghost coming out of shadows, a clattering of bones from a skeleton, a big spider weaving its way toward us; and many other things that on any other day might just be gross or uncomfortably startling – is supposed to be all in good fun.

One thing we at Kidpower have learned over the years as parents and teachers ourselves is that for Halloween to be fun – we have to KNOW OUR AUDIENCE and PLAN AHEAD. The younger kids in my life all love to go to the pumpkin patch, talk about their costumes nearly endlessly and plan for Halloween for months ahead – they love Halloween. And each of them has somewhat different tolerance for scary images, stories, and games. We know one child who really doesn’t like anything gory, like zombies, but thinks wrapped up mummies, skeletons, and spiders are cool; another child who likes to dress up like a fairy and grant good wishes; another who loves trick-or-treating because it is fun to meet lots of people and collect lots of things; and another who would rather stay home and give out candy to the passing hoard. But none of them like to see R-rated murder and mayhem – so every year we scout out our trick-or-treat route ahead of time and check in with neighbors to make sure we avoid areas that kids might not want to see – because it’s too scary.

What if that was a block we couldn’t avoid? What if it was the block our child’s elementary school was on? This was the case in an Ohio community, which got lots of complaints and press because of a very gory front yard display that went up nearly 4 weeks before Halloween and looked very real, depicting graphic violence. While on some newstory websites adults commented that they thought it was well done and in the spirit of the holiday, the articles quoted a 9-year-old who was scared “because it looked like real people;” and parents who said and it wasn’t possible for many families with young children to avoid this block as it was near the entrance of their school.

I thought that “Scary Mommy” blogger, Valerie Williams, really got it right when she wrote after seeing photos of the Ohio home display: “As a parent, it would bother me if my kids had to see this everyday. I wouldn’t let them see a horror film with people being stabbed or suffocated by a plastic bag, so why would I want them viewing a depiction of it in life? Halloween is about horror and gore, but it’s also for little kids. If a homeowner wants to do something like this, maybe it has a better place in a “haunted house” set-up where people have an option whether they or their children see it. I can imagine it ruining a night of trick-or-treating if a child became terrified by a graphic display they had no way of avoiding. It seems unfair to ruin something for little kids for the fun of adults.”

Local news reported most recently that the display in Ohio has been taken down because it attracted visitors late at night who scared the homeowners. I think that it’s unfortunate they had this fearful experience themselves – and I’m also glad the neighborhood kids do not have to see the frightening display any longer. For those who appreciate the horror and gore aspects of Halloween, please do consider ways to keep the access limited to those who also find it fun, such as hosting it in a backyard, or creating an enclosed haunted house, as a good way to keep everyone safe while having fun.

A little planning ahead and thought about who will be experiencing your Halloween displays, costumes, and celebrations, can go a long way to making Halloween fun and safe for the kids and adults in your lives!

If you are planning for Halloween activities that will include kids, please also check out our 8 Kidpower safety tips for planning a fun and safe Halloween, which is also available in Spanish!




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Published: October 21, 2015   |   Last Updated: October 21, 2015

Beth (she/her/hers) is the Web Communications Director and a Senior Program Leader for Kidpower International. She is a former journalist, now writing & editing coach, business technology and strategy consultant, child protection and gender inclusion advocate, and has been a Kidpower instructor (for all-ages) since 1992.