A knock at the door. More trick-or-treaters. Lurking on the front porch was a Johnny Depp-like pirate, wearing a ruffle-sleeved shirt and a skull-and-cross-bones vest — with a genuine 5 o’clock shadow on his face.
“Trick-or-treat,” the 33-year-old swashbuckler said in a gruff baritone.
He held out his hat to receive his bounty: Snickers, M&Ms and a NutRageous bar. The pirate thanked the kind host as he departed for the next port of call — any house with a porch light on.
We wanted to know: How old is too old? So, we asked every Columbia resident who opened the door to us trick-or-treaters, a trio of Missourian reporters aged 22, 25 and 33. Our “under-costume” investigation received raised eyebrows and curious looks, but every time, we left with our bags a little heavier and closer to an answer to our question: It’s never too old — as long as you’re wearing a costume.
“I think it’s all right if people are in the spirit of Halloween and willing to put on a costume,” resident Chris Montgomery said. “I wouldn’t turn anyone away.”
Resident Lauren Ottinger, 23, thinks a good costume is reason enough to give out candy.
“Costumes are big in my family,” Ottinger said. “If you have a good costume, you’re OK.”
Even those who were initially taken aback by a 30-something pirate eventually doled out the goods.
“You’re a little big,” resident Jay Kelly said, sliding Heath bars into our goodie bags. “If you have to shave, you’re a little too old.”
Kids, in Kelly’s mind, should stop trick-or-treating once they reach their “early teens.”
On the next block, resident Dan Bene said 15 is the oldest acceptable age for trick-or-treating.
“That’s when you start doing things like throwing pumpkins in the street,” he said.
Twelve was the youngest age given as an appropriate cutoff for trick-or-treating, but others, like Michele Keele, don’t believe in a cutoff. Kids have shown up at her door in street clothes holding plastic bags, but she has never turned them away.
But Keele doesn’t necessarily approve of such a half-hearted effort to bag sweets.
“When you no longer dress up and have fun with it, you should stop,” she said.
In the neighborhood west of downtown, residents said they’d been recording fewer knocks and doorbell rings than in years past. Maybe that’s why all ages were welcome.
“We used to get tons of trick-or-treaters, but now we’re lucky if we get 20,” Beckie Hocks said. “Older people are not expected but accepted.”
After conducting research at several houses, we overgrown trick-or-treaters had been showered with unexpected hospitality and enough candy to make for a tummy ache. We were almost disappointed we hadn’t been turned away.
Maybe one more house.
A woman dressed in head-to-toe witch wear answered the door.
Instead of candy, she handed us miniature cans of Play-Doh.
“I love the smell of Play-Doh,” one of us said. “It takes me back to childhood.”