FROM THE DEEP END: A guide to Halloween’s sweet nothings

Brenda Kelley Kim. Photo by Stevo Rood

“There is a child in every one of us who is still a trick-or-treater looking for a brightly lit front porch.” —Robert Brault.

It’s almost here! Pretty soon, there will be a magical dawning of a new day — joy will come back to our daily lives. Places we thought we’d never return to will welcome us again, and the underlying stress that’s been nearly constant will disappear. That’s right, in just a few more days, we’ll all be able to drive in or through Salem without throwing a clot.

Oh, wait, but before that happens, there are costumes to be made or purchased, pumpkins to carve, and candy to buy. What are you giving out to the goblins knocking on your door? If you need help deciding, a consumer-research panel comes out every year with the top ten list of favorite candies.

I always wonder how they know — are market researchers wandering the streets on Halloween, asking kids what they like? Hopefully not; that sounds scarier than any ghost, “Psst hey, kid, come here, we have a survey, it will only take five minutes.”

Sales numbers can’t be that accurate; I deliberately buy candy I don’t like to eat because I am an undisciplined mess if Skittles or some fun-size Three Musketeers bars are within my reach. Many of my friends do the same. I think we’re all keeping Smarties and SweeTarts in business.

I feel bad, though, being the house that gives out crappy candy, but we don’t get that many trick-or-treaters anyway. Hmm, there may be a connection there.

There are some brands of candy that even I will not buy, though, because I don’t hate Halloween or children. Based on no data other than my own habits, here is my list of the worst treats ever.

1) Circus Peanuts — Can you even buy these in fun-size packages? Probably not, because there is nothing fun about them. No one wants anything to do with fake Styrofoam nuts and it’s time we all learned this life lesson.  

2)   Good & Plenty — What emotionally damaged monster came up with these? The shell is hard enough to crack your jaw, and underneath, they stick a hunk of black licorice. Just say no to this heartbreak.

3)   Hard Candy — Yes, butterscotch, Starlight mints, and Werther’s, I’m looking at you. Even the nursing homes that open their doors to trick-or-treaters don’t give these out. Keep these with the half-used Kleenex in the bottom of that purse you never carry.

4)   Bit-O-Honey — You might be a Bit-O-Honey fan if you’ve ever thought that the dried gum stuck under a middle-school lunch table would taste good if you rolled it in almond dust. Don’t take your childhood trauma out on the next generation.

5)   Dots — These naked gumdrops are so bad the makers decided they didn’t even deserve a sugar coating. How could the same company that created my beloved Tootsie rolls come up with this atrocity?

We all have our favorites, too. Want to be the popular house on your street? Get some Reese’s cups, Sour Patch Kids, and Snickers — the big ones, not the minis. There’s something magical about a full-size treat on Halloween, so be the change you want to see. No one eggs the house that gives out full-size candy bars; it’s a rule, and all the little pranksters know it.

Happy Halloween to all who celebrate, and remember, it’s only one night, so make it fun.

Brenda Kelley Kim has lived in Marblehead for 50 years, and is an author, freelance writer, and mother of three. Her column appears weekly.