Before you think that I am some kind of religious nut who thinks that Halloween is the "devil's holiday," let me tell you that I am not one of those people. Anyone who knows me well knows that I love to read the Harry Potter books and that I don't belong to any organized religion. So, put the pens away and save yourself the trouble of writing to me.

The reason I hate Halloween stems from early childhood. I was scarred forever by a huge, hulking kid in a nasty costume, accompanied by 3 equally ferociously attired friends. Scared the beejeebers out of me. From that point on, I never wanted to dress up (except if I was on stage) and ask for candy (unless it was black licorice). As a matter of fact, I get extremely nervous each and every October 31st. My husband and I usually sit in our darkened house and watch TV and ignore the doorbell, pretending we are gone.

Don't tell me that I am ruining the evening for some young folks. There will be plenty of brightly lit homes with sacks of sweet treats for them. One less house won't destroy their Halloween fun. And, if by "fun" you mean yelling "Trick or Treat," getting some candy and leaving, that's not fun to me. Fun would be having people actually say "Trick" to you and having to sing a song or do a dance and take off your mask and actually say "Thank you" before getting rewarded.

In today's world, most homeowners are afraid to ask for the "Trick," probably envisioning wet toilet paper draped throughout their property or soaped car windows. Back in the 1940's, those were the "Tricks" that the delinquents performed. Today, your home might be spray-painted and your car windows smashed. Halloween vandalism has been legendary recently.

Why do perfectly normal children think they can perform in such aberrant ways on Halloween? I believe it's the "Mask Syndrome." When your face is hidden, you feel more invincible, less obvious, and free to do something you would never do if your face was known. Plus, add to that the "Peer Stupidity Syndrome," and you have the reason Halloween can lead to trouble. When a roaming gang of teens, dressed in costumes, decides to terrorize someone, they usually can do so with immunity.

Okay, okay - I can hear you now. "Dr. Smith, what about the joy a little one gets from dressing up as a princess and visiting the neighbors?" I agree with that. If we could limit Halloween to children under the age of 10, I would have no trouble joining the experience. But, I have witnessed entire families (Grandpa had a sheet over his body with two holes for eyes - crafty) with pillowcases for bags expect entire boxes of Moon Pies as gifts.

When I lived on the main street of our town, ignoring Halloween was virtually impossible. Throngs of our neighbors flocked to our homes. We purchased a lot of candy and stood by the door for the entire 2 hours of "Trick or Treat" because there was no break from the celebrating horde. Neighbors decorated their houses with fake spider webs, colored lights, carved pumpkins, and even taped sounds of screams and groans.

Now that I live in a peaceful pine forest near the ocean, we don't have traveling hordes of costumed citizens. We might get 4 or 5 neighbor children who wander up and ring our bell because they know we're home. If we know ahead of time that they are coming, we will gladly open the door and produce a candy bar. (Last year I bought a whole bag of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups to distribute, but my husband commandeered those and insisted we give away another kind of candy that he DIDN'T like). I always ask them to take off their masks so I can see who they are. Once in a while, I'll even ask them for a "Trick" and they'll look at me as if I came from outer space. No, dearie, just from the 1940's.

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO CONTACT DR. SMITH, SHE CAN BE REACHED AT HER EMAIL ADDRESS: JSMITH798@SC.RR.COM [1] OR IN CARE OF THIS NEWSPAPER.