Halloween is my favorite holiday. I love everything about it — the tiny ghosts and goblins that show up on my doorstep, the search for the perfect pumpkin in the vast, viney fields, and, yes, the pumpkin spice lattes. Most of all, though, I love pranking little kids.
Not in a mean way.
To be honest, this love came to me rather unexpectedly, and in the beginning, I was even a bit annoyed by the whole thing. This was probably due to my circumstances at the time and my complete ignorance of the inherent joys in pranking kids.
The day it happened — the day I discovered my passion — I’d just finished putting my toddler to bed and was relieved to be sitting down to a quiet, peaceful dinner. I collapsed into my chair and was raising the first forkful to my lips when the doorbell rang. Having moved to a new town with my young family about a year earlier, I didn’t know very many people. I certainly wasn’t expecting anyone at that hour. Sighing, I tossed my fork on the table and got up to see who it was.
Swinging the door open, I was surprised to find no one awaited me on the other side. I leaned forward, peering into the night before cracking open the screen and cautiously stepping out. On the porch a little, brown paper bag rested at my feet, attached was a white ghost-shaped note.
Taking a last furtive look around, I stooped over, snatched the bag, and hurried back inside. Opening it, I found the bag filled with treats! I was delighted. Until I read the note.
Ghosting, for those who are unfamiliar, is like a ring and run only in this case, the pranksters aren’t some punk neighborhood kids trying to pull a fast one. Rather, they’re middle-aged adults running for their lives and diving into ditches for the sole purpose of spreading a little pre-Halloween joy. The joy, apparently needed because a single day of amassing hoards of candy is just not enough, comes in the form of Pixie Stix, Jolly Ranchers, and fun-size Twix bars.
Once ghosted, the rules state that the ghostee must find three more unsuspecting souls to trick. You’ll know who they are because ghostees are required to hang the ghost-shaped notes on their front door, indicating they’ve been hit. Anyone else is fair game. And with that, the ghostee becomes the ghoster.
Standing in my living room reading the note, I thought, Oh, what the fresh hell is this? More crap I gotta do for the kids?
But that was only because my daughter was in the terrible twos phase right before entering the terrible threes phase, and she didn’t even know what Halloween was yet.
Plus, I had not yet tasted the tantalizing allure of ghosting.
That first year, after some grumbling about how I was tired and the whole thing was a bit ridiculous and the kids weren’t even old enough to appreciate this little Halloween game, I hit the streets with a fistful of Airheads.
I set out alone because there was no way I was waking my two-year-old up and dragging her around the neighborhood after dark just to scurry up to somebody’s door, drop a bag of candy, and run like mad. Plus, her running skills were subpar. She totally would’ve gotten us busted. She definitely would’ve tripped and fallen, and I would’ve had to leave her behind because there’s no way I’m going down like that. It’s gonna take a lot more than a fallen kid to catch me.
But as soon as I pulled up to the first victim’s house, everything changed. I cut the headlights as I rolled silently past and came to a stop halfway up the block. With my heart pounding, I slid out of the car and crept back down the darkened street. Sneaking up to the front door, I rang the bell, dropped the bag, and dove off the front steps into the bushes. Which is where I remained shivering for a good long while — until well after the victim had returned inside with her booty and extinguished the porch light. I stayed crouched in the rhododendron bushes until I was sure my victims had abandoned any plan of trying to apprehend me. I’d come too far to have floodlights trained on me the moment I popped out to sprint across the yard. When the house got quiet again, I sprang up and with my adrenaline still pumping, I made my escape.
I was hooked.
In subsequent years, I’ve allowed my kids to join me, but it’s proven tricky. Simply put, they’re not the best ghosters. They may be old enough now to run, but it remains impossible for them to be still or silent, which are pretty much the key ingredients for ghosting. Whenever we’re hiding in the trenches or crouching behind a rock, I yell at them to quit their giggling. But it’s no use. Peels of stifled laughter escape in spurts from their plump, red cheeks, and it’s nearly gotten us busted more than a few times.
Which may be why I have to cut them from the team this year. Especially after what happened last year.
Upon hearing their squeals, a ghostee tried to wait us out. We’d made it as far as the driveway when our mark ripped open his front door and rushed outside. Panicked, we hit the ground and hunched behind the family’s car. Then, the ghostee started making guesses as to who his tormentors were. My kids could not handle the suspense. I had to press my hands over their mouths to keep them quiet. After a few guesses, he called out our names. We froze.
“I can see you, you know,” he yelled into the darkness. He was bluffing, but still, we feared he might be bold enough to leap from the porch to search for us. So on the whispered count of three, we took off running down the street, disappearing into the night. That little 3rd grader can guess all he wants, but he’ll never know for sure.
Pranking unsuspecting, little kids with my own children has created some of my fondest Halloween memories. And being the ghostee isn’t bad, either. Whenever your doorbell rings — and it will be a lot, invariably during dinner — watching the unbridled excitement light up the faces of your children is pretty nice.
While the rules may dictate ghosting only three others who haven’t been ghosted, much like anything done with kids, ghosting is a free-for-all. Can’t nobody tell a little kid who they can and can’t ghost. So you’ll get ghosted roughly twenty thousands times, but your kids will be just as excited on the 20,000th time as the first, springing up from the table, huge grins across their faces, to race to the front door and search frantically in the darkness for the culprit.
Usually, though, they aren’t quick enough. Ghosting is a stealthy game. But no matter. There’s candy.