- The Washington Times - Monday, October 29, 2001

Life has seemed gruesome and threatening enough lately, so many Americans are turning away from the macabre and taking a cautious approach in planning for Halloween.
Standard imagery such as fire and severed body parts have become just too real since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Likewise, the lingering specter of anthrax has suddenly put anyone caught masquerading in a hazmat suit at risk of being diagnosed with a case of acute insensitivity.
For this Oct. 31, fantasy on the lighter or brighter side seems the order of the day.
Vampire outfits are still in demand, but there's little interest in dressing as devils this year, Halloween retailers and costume renters say.
"They're not asking for bin Laden but they're not asking for politicians either," said Pat Carson of Pat's Costumes in Rockville, where brisk business from a mostly adult clientele had left just one pair of Uncle Sam's red-and-white striped trousers hanging on the racks by Thursday night.
Superhero get-ups such as Wonder Woman and Batman are among the most popular, but lots of folks also plan to spend the night taking on more mundane, less noble personas such as Robin Hood, catwomen, flappers and gangsters, Mrs. Carson said.
While young children are still enamored with pretending to be princesses, cartoon characters and cuddly critters, national retailers say there has been an uptick in sales of police, firefighter and emergency "SWAT" team outfits.
"Guests who are searching for those costumes would be advised to shop soon," said Target stores spokesman Douglas Kline.
The second largest retail holiday still will be sweet for businesses, which report that candy sales are running on par with other years. However, it does appear that more trick-or-treaters will be collecting their goodies at private parties or close to home.
Although Teri Ruttenberg's daughter is always accompanied by an adult on Halloween, Mrs. Ruttenberg said, 4-year-old Sarah who will be wearing spots as a Dalmatian puppy this year won't venture beyond the well-known confines of their Vienna, Va., neighborhood.
Even the relative safety of trick-or-treating inside shopping malls is less appealing this year, Mrs. Ruttenberg said.
For civil engineer Jackie Schirato, Halloween more or less began and ended with shopping for the black T-shirt, emblazoned with a peanut-butter-cup-sized jack-o'-lantern, that she wore Friday at Tyson's Corner Center.
Unlike years past, Ms. Schirato said, none of her friends is hosting a party to this Halloween.
"They said they just weren't going to do it this year I guess people aren't feeling as festive," said Ms. Schirato, 26.
Lots of Halloween hayrides and events are going on as usual, however, and may draw even more participants: some communities have drawn closer together, and many Washington area residents want to regain a sense of normalcy.
Still parents and children alike said they are more wary than ever of the potential for mayhem and will take more care than usual to observe long-standing admonitions about checking candy and staying safe on Allhallows Eve.
She may be nervous about the anthrax scare, but JoAnn Tom says it will take more than the threat of international bioterrorism to stop her from taking her two children out trick-or-treating on Halloween.
"We're pretty much going on with business as usual," said Mrs. Tom of the District's Chevy Chase community. "We're going to stick with the neighborhoods we know and the people we know, but we're trying to go on with normal life because you truly never know what's going to happen."
Her friend Liz Grosh of North Cleveland Park said she would do the same thing. "People were talking about it at school, saying, 'Oh, don't let your kids go out,' but then I thought, 'Why not?' We know all the people we'll be visiting, anyway."
Their determination to celebrate flies in the face of warnings from officials such as Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who last week expressed misgivings about trick-or-treating, saying he feared the holiday would result in a rash of false alarms that would overwhelm the public health system.
"We simply don't have the law enforcement resources in this state to look at every sack of candy where a Pixie Stick has opened and spilled powder and to test that to see if in fact it may be anthrax, which it won't be," said Mr. Huckabee.
Shopping centers nationwide are shutting down their own trick-or-treating, thanks to an Internet message making the rounds that warns patrons to avoid malls on Halloween. The FBI has since declared that letter, supposedly from one of the hijacker's girlfriends, to be a hoax, but many malls say they aren't taking any chances.
The Stoneridge Shopping Center in Pleasanton, Calif., for example, announced last week that it would skip its annual candy distribution "due to the current mood of the country and sensitivities to our customers."
Some parents are taking additional precautions. Judy Kearns said she plans on doing her trick-or-treating near her sister's house in Rockville instead of her own North Cleveland Park neighborhood.
"I probably won't do it in the city I'll probably go out to the suburbs," said Mrs. Kearns, whose three young children plan on going as an elephant, a lion and a tiger. "And I'm definitely feeling more conscious about only going to people's houses that we know."

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide