A Weekly Column
By Joseph Walker


OK, I'll be honest: I don't know who let the dogs out. And I don't care.

But I'd rather listen to a full evening of back-to-back performances of the pop hit, "Who Let the Dogs Out" - with its attendant "woof, woof, woof, woof-woof"-ing - than participate in the annual gruesome and gratuitous Halloween festivities.

And if that makes me Halloween's resident Grinch . . . well, so be it.

It is widely known around here that I am The Man Who Hates Halloween.

My kids know it. My neighbors know it. Local representatives from the international candy cartel know it. Everyone knows better than to mess with The Man Who Hates Halloween (of course, the irony of it is, that makes me kind of scary and frightening and . . . you know . . . Halloweeny).

It should be noted that my personal feelings on the matter have not been forced upon my children, who have been staunch trick-or-treaters for 22 Halloweens. Nor have I used my philosophical perspective to conscientiously object to passing out candy to all of the little ghosts and goblins who knock on our door demanding treats. We decorate the house, carve pumpkins, costume the children and willingly cave in to the implied threat of trick-or-treating ("give us candy or else the pillaging and plundering begin immediately"). I have even been known to run to the store for more candy when the candy bowl empties sooner than anticipated.

But I haven't liked it. Not one little bit. I don't like the dark, foreboding imagery that dominates the Halloween landscape. I don't like how it focuses on the morbid and the macabre. I don't like the way it makes heroes of mass murderers and degenerates. I don't like its emphasis on evil (by my own count, last year's costumed devils outnumbered angels by 7-1). And can you name even one decent, uplifting song that the holiday has inspired?

OK, forget "decent" and "uplifting" - name one song besides "Monster Mash."

"Uh-huh," Anita says each year when I point all of this out to her as I'm dragging the Halloween decorations out of the basement. "And your point is?"

"My point is," I exclaim, pointedly, "what are we doing here?"

"Well, I don't know about you," she says, "but the rest of us are having fun."

"But at what cost?" I ask. "What messages are we sending out to society? What are we teaching our children? That mayhem can be fun? That bad can be good? That once each year it's OK to glorify guts and gore and to go from house to house demanding goodies . . . or else?"

It's at this point that she usually smiles her most reassuring smile and pats me gently on the hand. "Sweetheart," she says, lovingly, "lighten up. This isn't the end of civilization as we know it. This is Halloween. It's just pretend. Everyone knows that. So relax and have fun with us. And if you're good, maybe the kids will give you a Snickers."

Since Anita is about the straightest straight-arrow I know, I'm willing to trust her on this. So I put up the decorations, buy the candy (always carefully setting aside "the good stuff" in hopes that we'll have some left over) and walk the streets trick-or-treating with the kids. And so far, our family seems to have survived 22 Halloweens with our virtues and values intact.

Which means I can go back to worrying about more important stuff.

Like those dogs, and whoever it was who let them out.

Woof, woof, woof, woof-woof.

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--- © Joseph Walker


Look for Joe's book, "How Can You Mend a Broken Spleen? Home Remedies for an Ailing World." It is available on-line through and