UNBOUND header image 1

Show Notes Episode 36

November 1, 2020


All Hallows Eve (Samhain), Oct. 31 - “The veil between worlds”


As a Wiccan I was convinced that I was able to contact my best friend who died when we were 11. I was convinced I had contacted my father and settled some old business.


All Saints Day, Nov. 1

All Souls Day, Nov. 2

Day of the Dead, October 31 through November 2.





Bobbing for apples – we did this

Jack O'Lantern – we did carved or decorated pumpkins
Black Cats


There WERE reasons to dislike Halloween that had nothing to do with religion


Out of control fires


Lots of general mischief that frightened children and seniors and literally managed to scare some people to death. And this went on for a long time in Europe and did eventually make its way to the states. Irish and Scottish immigrants were making Halloween mischief right up into the 1920s when organized Trick or Treating was adopted as a means of quelling the mischief and giving people something less destructive to do. The participation of children was also significant here since most people still had no desire or intention to harm children. Lots of kids around? Better be careful what you decide to set on fire...




In the early 20th century, Irish and Scottish communities revived the Old World traditions of souling and guising in the United States. By the 1920s, however, pranks had become the Halloween activity of choice especially for bored teenagers. Those same bored teenagers seemed to have no problem begging the neighbors for candy either and that combined with having a lot of kids around rapidly steered halloween practices away from harmful mischief and toward tasty, tooth-rotting sweets.


The phrase Trick or Treat was largely popularized through pop culture (Peanuts, Disney). Trick or Treat started in the 1920s but it was the Walt Disney company that brought the phrase (and a huge revival of the practice) into the public vernacular in 1952 with its cartoon simply titled, wait for it... “Trick or Treat.”

The practice of Trick or Treat has its origins in Celtic traditions:


Soulers - “Organized begging”

Mummering – not just Samhain but involved disguises



The Great Depression exacerbated the problem, with Halloween mischief often devolving into vandalism, physical assaults and sporadic acts of violence. One theory suggests that excessive pranks on Halloween led to the widespread adoption of an organized, community-based trick-or-treating tradition in the 1930s. This trend was abruptly curtailed, however, with the outbreak of World War II, when sugar rationing meant there were few treats to hand out. At the height of the postwar baby boom, trick-or-treating reclaimed its place among other Halloween customs. It quickly became standard practice for millions of children in America’s cities and newly built suburbs. No longer constrained by sugar rationing, candy companies capitalized on the lucrative ritual, launching national advertising campaigns specifically aimed at Halloween.


Today, Americans spend an estimated $2.6 billion on candy on Halloween, according to the National Retail Federation, and the day, itself, has become the nation’s second-largest commercial holiday.


Today, Americans spend an estimated $2.6 billion on candy on Halloween, according to the National Retail Federation, and the day, itself, has become the nation’s second-largest commercial holiday.


Evangelicals don't often outright condemn Halloween, but they don't have to. Instead of aiming their crosshairs at the holiday itself, they make people fear everything associated with it. So they don't have to tell you, “Don't go trick-or-treating” because they've already told you that things like ghosts, witches, devils, and demons are evil. Take all those things and put them in one place and, at that point, do they really need to condemn it outright?


Halloween deals with some dark subjects and reminds us about things like death and the morbid thoughts we all have about ourselves or people who have passed. Evangelicals do not like it when people think too much in the wrong contexts about their own mortality.


Since Halloween steers your thoughts into some of those dark places, it is clearly not something a believer who stands upon Philippians 4:8 would ever even want to be part of:


Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”


Halloween also, to the evangelical, glamorizes hell. And there's nothing worse than a dirty sinner who thinks Hell is gonna be a party!


They don't want you participating in Halloween in its secular form, but they're fine with things like Fall Fun parties and harvest socials.


Urban Legends


Tainted candy and sweets - https://www.history.com/news/how-americans-became-convinced-their-halloween-candy-was-poisoned


...fears of Halloween sadism rise during fearful times. For example, paranoia about tainted candy spiked in the early 1980s after a rash of Tylenol poisonings in which cyanide-laced acetaminophen was placed on store shelves and sold. The high-profile crime led to the introduction of childproof containers and tough federal laws aimed at punishing those who tamper with drugs. After the Tylenol murders, which are still unsolved, warnings about adulterated Halloween candy increased.


There are only a couple actual cases of even potential poisoning related to Trick or Treat – one crazy lady who handed out ant poison in NY in 1964 (and in that instance no one was harmed) and this marvelous piece of humanity:


The most infamous Halloween poisoning took place on October 31, 1974. That’s when a Texas man named Ronald O’Bryan gave cyanide-laced pixie sticks to five children, including his son. The other children never ate the candy, but his eight-year-old son, Timothy, did—and died soon after.


Though nobody saw O’Bryan put the cyanide in the candy, investigators learned that O’Bryan had recently taken life insurance policies out on his children. He was convicted of murder and executed via lethal injection in 1984. Though it’s been decades since the crime, the “Candyman” murder still looms large in the memories of many parents on Halloween.


Razor Blades in Apples - https://halloweenlove.com/razor-blades-in-the-apple-urban-myth-or-deadly-fact/


I heard all sorts of things too...


PTSD soldier
Cat food cookies

Blood cookies


Oh, and no one is giving your kids LSD or weed edibles. Let me explain something to anyone who is not already in the know: Drugs are expensive. Weed is UBER expensive here in MA. An ounce can run you $400-500 on the recreational side. An OUNCE. In order to make enough pot brownies to hand out to unsuspecting kiddies it would easily cost that or twice that for most folks around here. And even at half the price, why on earth would I go through the trouble of making the butter, making the brownies, and passing out MY MEDICINE to a bunch of kids, most of whose parents are going to chuck them (or recognize them for the treasures they are – and my pot brownies are next level – and eat them themselves – prank foiled!)?


These urban legends do NOT have their roots in evangelical religion, but what is the biggest motivator these people use with people? FEAR. So if they can heap a bunch of unsubstantiated nonsense onto the fire to get you to run from it, they will. Many Christians believe these stories as much as they believe their bibles, which, to me, makes a lot of sense.


My Story


No one ever expressly told me not to participate. I gave it up on my own.

The Satanic Panic had a huge influence

First Halloween at college

I was big on “stay home” as a youth director and even pulled a few of those urban legends out when it suited me. This place didn't want a harvest social. Read that as “It was my idea so they decided to reject it and refuse to pay for it.” After that I went to the kids with parents on the board and put ideas in their heads so their daddies would agree to release some funds.


My aversion to Halloween continued pretty much until Liam was born, around which time my rational mind stepped in and refused to let me deny him a childhood. By then I was pretty much over the bugaboo aspect of it anyway and eased my way, OUR way, back into it as soon as Liam was old enough to Trick or Treat.


From there the negative aspect just lost its edge. I still knew plenty of Christians who celebrated Halloween in the traditional way and decided that most of the aversion to it came from me, not specifically what I'd been taught. Again, it was the piece-by-piece deconstruction of a concept that they do to make certain things less appealing. Too worldly. Too carnal. Too much fun. Still called myself a Christian until 2011, still took my kid Trick or Treating.


While there are a few historical reasons to be skeptical about Halloween (and yes, mischief night is still a phrase that gets tossed around but it's been years since I've seen anything beyond strewn toilet paper and maybe a few egged houses and really not even that much since I was much younger in that regard), the basic practices have nothing to do with any evil anything. It's a night where kids get to have fun and largely unwittingly participate in practices that might be pagan in origin but are totally and completely secular in their practice now. No one goes trick or treating to mock Christianity. No one goes Trick or Treating to show their allegiance to the devil. They go Trick or Treating because it's fun and they like candy. Parents participate because it makes their kids happy and because they can tap the spoils later. It really doesn't go any further than that as a cultural practice.


On the spiritual side of things, there are worse things we do as human beings than remembering people who have passed away. It's ok to miss them and it's mandatory to remember them. Our brains won't have it any other way. Traditions like Samhain and the Day of the Dead help the participants focus on the positives about people they knew and loved who have passed – even pets who've passed. It's what I said weeks ago about being remembered fondly. It's the best way to live on past our years and these rituals are all about that.


Halloween may be about candy first and foremost, but the season of the year is also, to many, about accepting and dealing with our own mortality. Forget how your pastor wants you to see it. Take your kids trick or treating. It won't raise as many eyebrows as you think and your kids will love it. Also take the time to observe the more macabre aspects of the season. It will expand your view of people and how they think about their own mortality considerably. I would even say that if you're invited to a Samhain ritual or Day of the Dead celebration you should go. It IS possible to look at these things through a secular lens and learn a bit more about how we think and how we cope with the less appealing aspects of our existence, particularly our eventual non-existence.


Lastly, stop letting other people dictate to you what is decent or of good report. There is love, respect and decency in remembering those we loved who have passed and remembering them fondly. There is no dishonor or sin in taking joy in your child's face when she runs back to you wielding the king size Snickers she just scored. This is the good stuff, people. Let your kids be kids. Let yourself enjoy the experience of Halloween and all the diversities of celebrations that happen around this time of year. Being comfortable with these things and not being afraid of them because someone else says you should be is not just a small step, it's a huge leap you'll be taking toward getting and staying unbound.




Other Sources: