Social Distancing, Stranger Danger, and The Campaign To Save Halloween

Summer Block
11 min readJul 28, 2020
Photo by author.

Last week, after months of sadness and worry, I got a promotional email from the Spirit Halloween store and instantly I felt glad to be alive. As in, I literally thought, verbatim, “I’m glad I am alive.”

This week on Twitter there’s been a lot of talk about what Halloween will look like this year. Many people worry there will be no Halloween at all, which is of course ridiculous. For all its long history, Halloween has been under threat (in the 17th century, it was outlawed). Halloween has been threatened by Puritanism, by urbanism, by deforestation, by commercialization, by overprotective parents and Satanic panic and poisoned candy hoaxes, by pranks that go too far and pranks that don’t go far enough. Fear that there may be no Halloween is a Halloween tradition itself.

Meanwhile the Halloween haunt community has been planning their response to the pandemic since the first stay-at-home orders in March. On Halloween Forum, between posts titled “Crows/Ravens I need LOTS of them” and “Fog Distribution — Does Tubing Size Matter,” there’s a thread on “touchless candy delivery systems” ranging from the simple to the sublime. “Could you just manually drop the candy down a chute of some sort?” someone asks. You could. Other solutions include animatronic arms, pulley systems, air cannons, conveyor belts, plexiglass partitions, modified vending machines, and just tossing candy out the window. An apartment-dweller in New York City is planning to dress like a masked witch and dole out candy from a cauldron at the end of a long-handled ladle. The Halloween blogger Senor Scary is rigging up a sort of clothesline, with full-sized candy bars suspended by painted orange pins. (He adds, “And yes, I’ll be prepared if kids take more than one — because that’s the Halloween spirit.”)

Poster chubstuff from Hillsboro, Oregon is planning a candy drive-through: “we will prepare full sized Halloween bags to hand out to the kids while they stay in their car. I’m wearing skeleton gloves and a half mask that covers my nose and mouth anyway, so I’m prepped for social distancing from the start. The bags will have a bunch of candy of all different types to approximate what kids would have gotten from a bunch of houses in the neighborhood. We don’t get that many kids, so we can afford to…

Summer Block

Writer for Catapult, Longreads, The Awl, The Toast, The Rumpus, McSweeney’s, and so on. Owner of After-Party Taxidermy. Working on a book about Halloween.