I have behind me a glorious history of broken windows, snowballed car windshields, one Little League refreshment stand pilfered, a list of neighbors with rattled nerves, one fourth-grade teacher who quit the profession to join the USO in Korea and a number of unspeakables.
This year I have been asked to reveal, for the first time, some favorite tricks so that those of you who plan to be home on Halloween will be prepared. t
If you have a reputation in the neighborhood as a Scrooge or a mean person, then you have my sympathies.You will probably be high on the trickster hit list. Tricksters don't play tricks on nice people, unless the people are so very nice they deserve a major letdown.
Mostly we're talking about people who keep their shades drawn all the time, people who build large fences to keep the kids out, people without any children who show their general disgust for other people's children by never having any candy to give out on Halloween.
Also we're talking about people who obviously have more money than anybody else on the block and make a point of letting everyone know. And wealthy people whose kids are generally disliked for their aloof behavior in school and at play.
All these are asking for trouble.
In my experience, the typical middle-class prankster does not want a police record. I'm not talking about bad seeds headed for reform school. Or trouble makers from better families who will later make a name for themselves in respectable pursuits. Both are definitely more malicious.
Most Halloween trick players are more afraid of you than you need be of them. Their tricks, generally, are not intended to cause genuine harm.
But if you are among those likely to have tricks perpetrated upon them, be sure, first of all, that your car, especially a shiny new Cadillac, Lincoln, Jaguar, etc., in a neighborhood of old Ramblers, Dodges and Ford Galaxies, is safely in the garage.
The average trickster is not into slashing tires. But watching a monster Lincoln sink down to the wheel rims when the tires are deflated is the stuff of Halloween stories that will be told and retold for years to come.
Don't fall victim to the Dry Run. The Dry Run is not peculiar, necessarily, to Halloween. But it is particularly annoying on Oct. 31.
The Dry Run consists of several tricksters hiding behind bushes on the street while another runs up to the door, pushes the doorbell and dashes madly across yards and over hedges. He is giggling uncontrollably because he can imagine your surprise and chagrin as you open the door with a handful of chocolate bars and find nobody there.
Halloween is never complete without at least two or three Dry Runs.
To guard against, keep the front of the house well lit. Disconnect the doorbell. If you have a heavy door knocker, take it off as well. Determined trick-or-treaters will not mind awfully knocking on the door with their fists. They have to put up with all kinds. But trickster is interested only in the free nuisance value of a good ring or a loud thump. If he has to rap his knuckles in the process, he is likely to be discouraged.
Do not confuse the Dry Run with the Wet Run.
The Wet Run is something else altogether. On Halloween, never, repeat NEVER, answer knocks or rings at the back door. If you answer the back door and no one is there, it is a sure sign that a Wet Run is in the making.
The purpose of ringing at the back door is to draw your attention away from the front. While you are so distracted, a group of tricksters is rigging your front screen door with a balloon filled with water. You will walk back to the living room scratching your head after a mysterious back-door summons. You will next hear a ring at the front door.
From a discreet location nearby, the perpetrators will be watching, hands over mouths, as you step from the doorway for a better view, tip the screen door, release the balloon and drench yourself.
If you have a fire extinguisher, keep it near the front door. You need not fear a genuine inferno; but small fires, usually in conjunction with other mischief, are a tool of the dangerous prankster.
For many years my father raised dogs and this provided ample material for the old Fire-on-the-Doorstep routine. The leavings were placed in a paper bag, left on a deserving porch and set aflame.
So if you hear shouts of "Fire! Fire!" from the sidewalk, reach for the fire extinguisher. Do not run out and jump up and down on it, as the tricksters would have you.
Some people have a spot light in the backyard for parties, late night basketball or whatever. If such is your case, keep it lit as well. And if you have a dog who does not bite and can be allowed to roam the back yard freely, by all means let him out Halloween night.
Firecrackers mostly have short fuses and you can never run far enough away before they go off. But that never stopped us from treating neighborhood undesirables to a Halloween bang. The process involves some time, however, and dark back yards, or drainage ditches nearby, are usually the best places for this type of undercover work.
We used a cigarette that burned for several minutes, allowing a decent escape before it actually set off the fuse.
You are making a big mistake if you leave your pumpkin out on Halloween. Nov. 1 in our neighborhood was always a pumpkin bath, a scene of such carnage and destruction it withered even the stoutest Halloween hearts. A pumpkin bath differs from a blood bath only in there being mutilated Jack-O-Lantern lying about rather than actual bodies. I never personally participated in pumpkin destruction. That falls into the malicious category.
But I've heard of cherry bombs being placed inside pumpkins and doorsteps being completely defaced with the dismembered squash. If you must show your pumpkin carving craft, display it from inside the window.
Probably the latest generation has invented all sorts of tricks over the years, some different from those mentioned here. Your best education will most likely come from asking kids what kind of stunts they pulled last year.
And. . . RING! RING!. . . one minute. Have to get the door.