Halloween is supposed to be a scary time of year – a fun kind of scary, a night built upon faux fright.
The sidewalks fill with kids, teens and even some adults going door to door to bum candy. They don costumes ranging from the macabre to movie characters to presidential candidates having their usual bad-hair nights to adults dressed as Kentucky court clerk Kim Davis or Caitlyn Jenner, according to the Halloween fashion police. Once considered the welcome mat to the holiday season, Halloween now seems a more of a timeout from the Christmas marketing that hit many retail stores over a month ago.
According to LawnStarter, a yard care website and therefore the most trusted name in news, Stanislaus County ranks 10th among the top 13 big cities in the nation for the most treat-or-treaters. The survey is based upon the percentage of its population of residents younger than 18. All of this is standard boilerplate Halloween fodder.
But I came across something on the way to work Wednesday morning I really do find scary: That my bank and others posted fliers on the doors cautioning customers to remove their Halloween masks before entering the buildings.
Really? Customers have to be told NOT to wear their Halloween masks into banks? Apparently, they get so giddy in their ghoulish revelry that they check their common sense at the door.
It’s a formula for disaster when you think about it: Mask + bank = SWAT team rolling up outside, assault rifles pointed at you, hostage negotiators en route, Tasers and the coroner on standby. Talk about a severe penalty for early withdrawal.
Modesto police spokeswoman Heather Graves recalls a Halloween night a few years ago when a young man frightened the crew at a Starbucks in north Modesto.
“He placed his order and he still had his mask on,” she said. “The girls were afraid of closing,” not knowing what awaited them in the parking lot if they left the building.
A non-sworn officer, she heard the call and went by to keep an eye on things until an officer arrived.
“I saw the gentleman in the mask coming out and I said, ‘Sir, you do know it’s Halloween? You frightened the girls inside.”
He apologized profusely, she said. “It was very innocent.”
But still pretty dumb.
Halloween-related signs are getting plenty of attention, it seems. An organization called California Reform Sex Offender Laws recently filed a federal lawsuit against the California Department Corrections and Rehabilitation. The attorney for the organization demanded the state rescind what she claimed is a regulation demanding that registered sex officers post signs on the homes reading “We Do Not Participate in Trick or Treating” on Halloween night. The organization sought a temporary restraining order to stop the signs, claiming they are unconstitutional.
The suit claimed that a sex offender near San Diego, was required – presumably by a parole agent – to post such a notice. A TV station in the San Diego area reported about the lawsuit, inferring the sign is included in the restrictions set forth by the state 22 years ago as part of “Operation Boo.”
Just one problem: Yes, Operation Boo imposes a 5-10 p.m. curfew on registered sex offenders on Halloween, prohibits them from decorating homes and yards to lure children to their door, bans them from giving out candy or even opening the door for anyone other than law enforcement out to monitor them Halloween night. However, no rule listed in Operation Boo requires them to post any such sign, never has.
But why let any of that get in the way of a good press release and claim of victory? On its website Monday, the organization posted that the state withdrew “a statewide requirement that sex offender parolees post a sign on the front door of their residences on Halloween.” The release didn’t mention they’d filed in federal court when litigation should have started in a county superior court and worked its way up the judicial ladder.
The other major Halloween scare going around is the one warning people to avoid loose candy that might instead be the drug called Ecstasy. This one, and another involving drug-laced gummy bears, is making the rounds on TV and social media. Snopes.com, the urban myth debunking site, said the rumor probably is a mutation of Halloween candy scares from previous years.
It goes without saying that parents should always inspect the candy their kids collect before allowing them to eat it. Likewise, it also goes without saying that you don’t wear a mask into a bank, yet bank officials still feel compelled to post fliers just in case.