Halloween is just around the corner, and brings reminders of cold, darkness, ghost stories and other scary things. While Halloween was once a time where we had fun planning and making our costumes, it has evolved in this country into something much more elaborate.

No more white sheets for ghosts and black paper covered cones for witch’s hats. People often purchase their costumes now, and they are representative of more recent culture; Salem witches and Casper the ghost have all but disappeared. Enter super heroes and movie characters.

Gone are the simpler days when my Girl Scout troop went to the local fort, only to find out the Boy Scouts had arrived first. They jumped out of every dark place with a “Boo” and hopes of scaring us (it always worked). Then we all picnicked together, drank hot chocolate and looked forward to seeing each other back at school.

Does anyone actually say “Trick or Treat” anymore? And if they do, is the “trick” still a harmless prank, such as wasting a roll of toilet paper on trees, or using a marker on your doorstep pumpkin, if you have run out of candy?

You wonder what to expect these days, when your doorbell rings on Oct. 31 … or any other day.

Are we more afraid of Halloween these days, or of all the possible frightening things we now know can happen? In our day, a few kids got together in costume and walked through the neighborhood collecting candy in little paper bags. Today, parents most often accompany their children, as we no longer know some of our neighbors, or whether to trust them with our children’s safety.

When I think of what was news when we were young, it all seemed less intense. While it is true that we were too young to understand many things, the concepts felt informative without immersing every known sense in the violence and drama. The newscasts on TV lasted 30 minutes with time out for commercials, and we could watch it all, without turning away for fear of what we would see.
Our psyches are now bombarded with visions of violence, death, terrorism, wars, devastation and just plain mean spiritedness, 24/7. Some evening newscasts end with 90 seconds of a positive story, unless there is a new health epidemic we need to know about.

And in the old days, you could shut it out by turning off the TV. But today, if you check your email regularly or are on any social media site, you cannot avoid it. To say nothing about the myriad of crime shows that appear each TV season, investigative or not.

Life, in general, seems scarier now. We hear about mass shootings more often, like Las Vegas.

We used to think that we were safe in schools, retail establishments, movie theaters, airports, churches and restaurants; but we now know of cases where that has not been true. And we hear about it over and over again and feel helpless.

Thomas Gray wrote “… where ignorance is bliss, ‘tis folly to be wise. ”

But ignorance is not a very good option these days. We seek information and we want to protect those we love from harm, where possible.
What to do?

Pick up a local newspaper, and get at least some of your news from there. Learn about local performers and Eagle Scouts; follow school and sport news; learn about organizations that are doing good things; read about a local resident; see what is happening event-wise in your area. Fill your mind with the good news of living. Such positive things.

A few years ago, I wrote about Halloween costumes, and how one that was very popular involved dressing like an “old” person. Turns out, all you needed was a pair of wire rimmed glasses, a ratty old gray sweater and brown socks.

Wearing it now. All set for the 31st. How about you?