When people move here, especially those with young children, a top question on their minds around this time of year is “When exactly is the mandated trick-or-treat time?” (Another popular query is “When the hell is the leaf collection time, as my bags of leaves have been sitting out for two goddamn weeks?” But that one doesn’t fit the holiday. Besides, the answer is March.) This year, as usual, the official trick-or-treat is scheduled for 5-6 pm, with some variances in outlying communities and bouroughs. Some people may think this is a bit on the early size, but it could be much, much worse. In fact, it has been.
Along with a decline in the city’s fortunes in the 70s came a dramatic spike in crime. Sure, there was the major stuff- murder, grand theft auto, regicide (Prince Richula III of the tiny island nation of Borgatu was mugged outside the Hauptman Palace Hotel in 1976)- but there was also a heavy cloak of vandalism and property damage which seemed to settle over the city for quite a time. This always seemed to get worse in the week before Halloween, especially on Devil’s Night (October 30). For years, the the city tried everything- heavily enforcing curfews, increased police presence, everything short of calling in the National Guard. Not that this would have helped, anyway- President Ford had told the city to “Go tell it to the Marines” in 1977, as printed on the famous News headline. When Mayor Wilson did just that, Ford was angry and explained had been meant as a “figural speech,” though no one had ever heard the phrase before. The camel-back-breaking straw came on Devil’s Night 1978, as a gang of youths burned down the cruise ships Princess of the Seven Seas and Princess of the Seven Islands, which were dry docked for repairs in the city’s South Harbor.
As a result, Mayor Wilson and Police Commissioner Scanlon did the unthinkable- they announced that Halloween would be canceled. Curfews would be tightened and anyone under the age of twenty outdoors after 5:30 pm would either be arrested or given a police escort home. This idea stood for about two hours, until officials realized that it was ridiculous to punish young trick-or-treaters for what had happened. There was a compromise, but not much of one- the city’s official trick-or-treating time would now take place from Noon-1 pm, basically accomplishing what they had set out to do, which was canceling Halloween. This new schedule kept up for a couple of years, with children being let out of school for an hour in the middle of the day to try and collect candy at houses where not many people were home. Eventually, the time was pushed back incrementally over the years until, finally, in 1990, it was locked into the 5-6 pm slot we have today.
So, it may seem early, but it could be much, much worse.
:: Calling around to a few of the city’s costume shops for an informal poll reveals the top Halloween costumes for this year-
1. Sexy Pirate
2. Sexy Firefighter
3. Sexy Grandma
4. Sexy Cowboy/girl
5. Sexy Borat
– R. White