Ghouls and goodies

It’s no trick — mom’s out for candy
Thursday, October 30, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 8:07 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

Carol Spratt still trick-or-treats — even at age 40. Her secret: take a child along.

Spratt was an aunt at the age of 10, and there was always a child who needed her to take them out on Halloween.

“I really always have trick-or-treated,” she said. “I never went by myself or with a group of friends. I always go because we have a big family.”

How old it too old?

Spratt, an Elsberry public school reading teacher, wears a costume to class every year, but she doesn’t wear one when she takes her three children trick-or-treating. She’s picky about her candy, asking for handouts only when Milky Ways or Almond Joys are part of the mix.

When Spratt goes to the door for candy, the reaction is invariably the same: “Aren’t you too old?”

Most people agree that someone Spratt’s age has no business going trick-or-treating. But how old is too old is a question that doesn’t seem to have a simple — or singular — answer.

Karen Kelley, a child development instructor at MU, believes that sixth grade is the limit but said it “depends on the way the kids are behaving and acting.”

“Sometimes, they get too old and start looking for mischief instead of candy,” Kelley said. “I think it’s just more of a younger children’s activity.”

Trick-o-treaters can cause trouble

Kelley says she’ll give candy to older trick-or-treaters — but not as much. As a general rule, she said, the older goblins tend to grab more goodies, whereas younger children are more hesitant and more polite.

Anita Houston of Columbia draws the line at 16 or 17. “I guess I’ve had bad experiences with that age group,” she said.

Two years ago, when Houston turned off her lights at 9 p.m., teenagers continued to knock on her door demanding candy. She told them it was too late. They left empty-handed, but played a trick on her by smashing her pumpkins and throwing toilet paper in her yard.

Sgt. Danny Grant of the Columbia Police Department said trick-or-treating is acceptable for children up to the age of 15 or 16, “but anywhere past that is inappropriate.”

Police get the most trouble on Halloween from teenagers age 13 through high school.

Age increases, candy decreases

For Thomas Josephsohn, a junior sociology major at MU, trick-or-treating is a family tradition. “I went trick-or-treating before I could walk. My dad would say, ‘All right, we’re going for a hundred houses tonight.’ “

Josephsohn would start trick-or-treating when it got dark and stay out until 11, being careful to only go to houses with the lights on. Although he continued his trick-or-treating habit through high school, he said, his stash of candy kept getting smaller as his age went up.

Houston’s 8-year-old daughter, Anna, thinks 12 is the right age to find something else to do on Halloween. For her, it’s partly an issue of height. After 12, she explained, kids are “way too big.”

Six-year-old Emily Look said it’s time to stop trick-or-treating “when you’re a grown-up.” She’s not sure how old people need to be before they’re considered grown-ups, but thinks it’s 30.

As for going door-to-door on Halloween, she said, “I’ll stop before I have kids.”

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