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Traditional Halloween fun pales in face of 2020 reality
Tom Purcell
Tom Purcell

Halloween is a huge letdown this year. 

I love modern Halloween traditions. I love the sweet smell of autumn, the chilly air and the camaraderie of friends around a roaring campfire. I love hayrides, Honeycrisp apples and the clever, hilarious costumes my left-brained accountant and engineer friends come up with. Why do CPAs always create the wittiest costumes?   

But Halloween is awfully anticlimactic this year. 

Most Halloween events are canceled by state and local governments. Trick-or-treating is banned in many communities. Even if an apple-bobbing contest were held, mandatory masks would eliminate any hope of anyone winning. 

I loved the childhood mischievousness of Devil’s Night, when rowdy kids might soap some car windows or toss a harmless toilet paper stream into a brilliant orange oak tree - but such pranks pale in comparison to the real, nightly destruction we’ve seen in our cities’ streets for months. 

Halloween traditionally is a time to celebrate the harvest, but our “harvest” is dismal this year: Economic shutdowns have hurt millions of people and small businesses - with no relief or long-term stability in sight. 

And our people, and by extension our politics, are more divided than ever. 

Halloween is supposed to be the peak time to savor the last warm autumn air and prepare for the bitter cold just ahead - but this year, we still haven’t recovered from the disruptive misery that has been dogging us since March. 

The horror movies that have become staples of the Halloween season aren’t capturing our attention much anymore - because they aren’t half as compelling as our daily reality.  

Hey, Jason! Trust me on this: You’d be a way scarier movie character if you didn’t wear a hockey mask. Rather than a machete, all you need to do is sneeze on your victims.    

To make matters more unsettling, we’re just days away from a presidential election that, no matter the result, is going to agitate half the population as it elates the other half.  

Though it may seem that our uncivil, vitriolic discourse can’t possibly get worse, nobody will be surprised if it does get more chaotic, violent and out of hand. 

Though we haven’t begun to fully absorb or resolve the challenges our disruptions have caused - though we won’t get to enjoy a little autumn calm to help us prepare for the brutal winter months ahead - we’re already being warned that covid-19 is surging yet again. 

Some government authorities, who are enjoying absolute power over us a little too absolutely, are telling us to cancel Thanksgiving and Christmas gatherings. It will be good for us, they tell us. 

Few of them tell us about the other side of these endless shutdowns and disruptions for people with mental health issues, people with drug and alcohol addictions, and people who aren’t getting out to seek needed medical care. 

What to do? I recommend re-watching the 1994 Stephen King TV miniseries, “The Stand.” It’s about a lethal, highly contagious strain of influenza that is accidentally released to the public.  

It was scary when it first aired. Now it’s an adorable comedy. 

And that’s one more reason why Halloween is a huge letdown this year. 

Tom Purcell is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist. Send comments to Tom at