Trick for Treats

Scaring the Neighborhood

Trick or Treat

Last year Halloween fell on a Saturday. This is awesome…except that DreamHost (my employer) throws an amazing Halloween party every year, so I didn’t get to hand out candy at my new house. This year I got a bowl of candy and toys, turned on the porch light, and got ready.

The Setup

When you approach our house, you walk a path from the sidewalk, go up three steps to the porch, and turn left to get to the front door or right to go along the porch (where we have an herb garden in a collection of clay pots). I put several pumpkins on the porch – including one painted teal to indicate that we had non-candy treats available – a pair of kerosene lamps in locations where they wouldn’t be knocked over, and a bowl of candy in front of the door.

Steel Inquisitor

I shrouded myself in the cowled robe I used for my Steel Inquisitor cosplay last Halloween and sationed myself on the porch, opposite the door. The cowl of that robe comes far enough over my head to completely obscure my face, and it’s thin enough that I can at least see where people are through it. With some boots to hide my feet and a black tee shirt hiding my skin where the top of the robe begins to open I could tuck my hands inside the sleeves and be a very convincing dummy.

The Payoff

It turns out we get a decent number of trick-or-treaters in this neighborhood! Enough that I sometimes gave myself away to one group by scaring the group ahead of them. But that also meant I sometimes got to build up tension and anticipation by remaining motionless through one group, only to jump at another.


“I saw it breathe!

“Oh, this one’s the scary house!

“They said it wasn’t real…

“It has shoes…look behind the pumpkin!

“You know what…I’m good. I don’t need any more candy.

“It’s low-key a foam doll.

“They said he’s real!

“It feels real

“It’s swaying. Would it sway if it wasn’t a person?


I considered wearing the Steel Inquisitor eyepiece as well, to step up the creepy-factor, but I’m glad that I didn’t. I got enough young kids who were too scared to come up to the house at all or who got scared rather than just startled when I finally moved. In those cases it was very good to be able to drop my hood and sit on the steps holding the bowl of candy with a big smile and my silly haircut to bring down the fear.

On a similar note I really appreciated parents who telegraphed signals for me to react to. There were several times that adults would be talking to each other as they approached and say things like “Oooh, that looks scary. Do you think it’s real? Why don’t you go first…I don’t want your brother to get scared” or “Oh goodness, I hope it’s not real…they’re only 2.” In those cases I was able to tell which kids would react well to being startled, which ones I should be more gentle with, and when I should break character and take my hood off.

I also got a couple of parents egging me on…they sent the kids up to the bowl of bait then said things like “Unleash the hounds” once they were all busy picking candy.

As in many pursuits, patience often paid off. I had one group of teens spend a good 30 seconds trying to decide if I was going to jump at them or not, then once they’d left I snuck after them and waited on the neighbor’s walk behind them.


After it sounded like I’d gotten all the trick-or-treaters I was likely to I still had some kero in one of my lanterns, so I picked it up, pulled my cowl over my face, and wandered the neighborhood to add some ambiance to the night. This was pretty fun, although it was late and not too many people were out. I’m wondering if in the future it might be fun to go reverse trick-or-treating, and carry something to give to the houses…or maybe to be a nomadic treater, with a big sack of goodies to give to people between houses rather than wait for them to show up on my doorstep.