In Utah, during the 1970s, Halloween was the first time we went into the night on purpose. Dressed as little ghouls, goblins, ghosts and witches, we braved the dark in wild, shrieking packs, fearless behind our masks and make-up, secure that this night was ours. We belonged in the chilly fall air, the breeze creaking the skeletal trees, leaves crunching under foot. On this night, we were in league with the things that go bump in the night and the shadowy creatures lurking under our beds and in our closets. We junior demons could stride to our neighbors’ porches to demand candy with the threatening incantation: “Trick or Treat!”— which meant, “Give me some candy, Brother Jorgensen, or I will vandalize your home.”

But somewhere along the line, like so many rites of childhood that flirt innocently with danger, Halloween—this reckless, daring, exciting Halloween—was tamed. Maybe it was the mythical razor blades in the apples or the poison Pixy Stix that made the roaches of anxiety run in our mothers’ minds and led us to the era of the Trunk or Treat.

What, you may ask, is a Trunk or Treat? Here it is: Instead of running around the neighborhood banging on doors, all the ward kids gather in the church parking lot and trudge from car to car, gathering their approved weight in candy. It’s safer, you see. But the Trunk or Treat exorcises all the thrill and darkness out of one of the most riotous good times of childhood.

It’s also exclusionary. Halloween was truly an ecumenical event. Every door was fair game, Mormon, Jewish, Catholic, Islamic, and each knock held the promise of more candy—the great leveler. It was the one time that, yeah, you could take candy from a stranger. I suspect, as the ward circles its wagons in safe solidarity, there are many gentile youngsters forlornly walking night streets, sad little pillowcases facing darkened porches. Where are the packs of children to join common cause with? At the church house, circulating from trunk to trunk, under the lights of the parking lot. And what of the adults with children all grown? Isn’t Halloween as much a time for grown-ups to enjoy the laughter of children as it is cause for kids’ laughter and delight?

Sigh. So go to the ward parking lot with your little princesses and pirates. Put them on the treadmill of obligatory holiday celebrations and, above all, make sure they are safe. I’ll be waiting for a knock on my door and that sing-songy threat from the daring little ghosts and ghouls out there running in the night.

Read this article, along with dozens of spooky ghost stories in our Haunted Beehive in the October 2011 issue of Salt Lake magazine, on stands now.