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The Politics of Trick or Treating

The Politics of Trick or Treating


Ah Halloween: jack-o-lanterns, pumpkin spice everything and trick or treating.  It’s a dream come true for kids all wrapped up in a fun sized wrapper.  All this fun is big business with the National Retail Federation projecting that the average consumer will spend $86.27.  But as kids are trying on their costumes and planning their loot routes, many cites and towns around the country have passed some interesting Halloween laws including:


  • $250.00 fine if you trick or treat and you're over 14 years of age: Chesapeake, Virginia. If you think that’s strict, Newport News, Virginia bans all visiting ghosts after 8:00 pm.
  • $500 fine: anyone to dress up like a nun in Alabama. Wearing a habit will cost you $500 if you are caught.  Priests and Rabbis are also included so those with religious costumes in mind should look elsewhere.
  • No trick or treating on Sundays: Rehoboth Beach, Delaware declared that scary visitors could only come on Saturdays.
  • No Silly String: Hollywood, California bans silly string for the entire 24 hours of Halloween.
  • Only houses with porch lights on: Forsyth, Illinois. Visiting dark houses can cost a ghoul $750.00.
  • No corsets: If these all seem a bit much, Merryville, Missouri bans wearing corset as part of costumes.

Law enforcement often struggles to balance fun with safety  Many post reminders with safety tips, host trunk or treats and patrol on foot.  This year law enforcement is in the news yet again as the Butts County, Georgia ‘s Sheriff Gary Long is being sued for placing yard signs in the yards of registered sex offenders.  These signs warn local children and parent not to trick or treat at these homes. 




Local laws provide a unique insight into the problems of local municipalities face.  Students often have a hard time understanding that for every law there has been a problem either real or perceived. Are these laws the result of grumpy neighbors who are tired of kids being on their lawns or the result of pranks?  Were these proposed by large homeowner associations where trick or treaters are bused in by the hundreds?  Analyzing local laws is intriguing and can capture the attention of our students just as easily as a fun size candy bar. 


This year how are you incorporating the politics of the season into your classroom? 


Join the conversation:

  • How do you incorporate local laws into your classes? 
  • Do you have students research outdated yet “still on the books” laws?
  • Do they compare laws by state or city size?



National Retail Federation – Halloween Spending

Weird Halloween Laws, Law Depot