Thinking beyond monsters and munching

Fun! All the young neighborhood ninjas, clowns, princesses, pirates, ghoulies and ghosts come traipsing in duos or bands to the door as twilight falls with the traditional Halloween call: “Trick or treat?” “Trick or treat?”

“Treat,” we often say and in return get blank stares, as in “Huh?”

Have they forgotten the meaning of this question, we wonder, as we take turns opening the screen door and admiring the costumes and the paint, handing out what snacks express our answer.

Kauai keiki generally don’t play nasty tricks, as back in our own youthful days. The real meaning of what’s being said has been lost; the words have lost their clout. I doubt that any trick-or-treating child analyzes what exactly it is that they are saying at the doors as they hold forth expectant bags for goodies. It’s Halloween; porch lights are on; nice grown-ups or bigger kids are going to answer the door, and they’ve stocked up on treats. That’s all.

We’ve also found that the keiki love it if grownups get in on the act. Think of the folks down the block who erect gravestones R.I.P. with skeletons seeming to rise from the plot, or hang ghosts dangling under eaves, play eerie sounds to accompany the theme of the night and set out their lit-up jack-o-lanterns, and appear in costume. We go as far as draping fake spider webs across the front porch and lowering a hidden tarantula after the trick-or-treaters have called out. That gets an “Oooh” from the littlest ones, and a lot of laughs from bigger sisters and brothers. Whoops — I forgot to mention my husband’s “crazy Einstein” wig he dons, far more of an attention getter than my witch hat.

In the wait time between our young Halloween visitors, I’ve often contemplated how it is that humans actually like to be scared. In personal polls taken over the years, monsters and devils and Draculas far outweigh Minnie Mice and fairy and “Frozen” princesses. It seems the dark side — at least in costuming — comes forward on this holiday in keeping with the original meaning of All Hallows Eve, when people were afraid of evil spirits and needed to protect their very souls … which leads me to think further on how and why we “love” to be scared.

The air around haunted houses fills with screams not unlike what we’ve heard in the vicinity of carnival rides. Think of the shouting as the wild bull or bronc bursts through the gate and a rider drops onto its dangerous back. We recall the moments of held-in breath that used to bond a circus audience gripped in terror as the lion tamer cracked his whip and held off a great, slavering beast with a three-cornered stool. And when the lady with the parasol slipped off her wire, or the aerial acrobat missed his mark.

There isn’t room here to go into the chills and adrenaline flood thrills of parachuting, bungee jumping, and all the virtual dangers that comes via adventure gaming warfare and blood-sucker and end-of-the-world movies, but one thing is for sure: Members of our species enjoy coming close to the feeling of their individual deaths, but only when they know it’s not really imminent.

After all, people exit the haunted house talking and laughing; same with the carnival rides. Rodeo riders mostly get patched up and mend. We knew during circus days that it was actually a lion-taming act, not a true jungle encounter, and there was a net into which the high wire walker and aerialist could bounce and, after bowing and smiling, walk away from undamaged. Same for most peacetime parachutists, and bungee jumpers: the odds are for survival, and repeats. No need to explore all that’s virtual …

Unlike real war. The type of war that is possible in today’s world.

My husband and I are both children of World War II. That terrible war deprived me of having a father and brought untold personal ruin. Similarly, it caused my husband’s family to be deprived of all they had worked hard to establish and tossed them into internment camp for the duration, and a different fate. Like other lucky ones of our generation, we survived and recovered; we strove to make things better for our children and grandchildren and, hopefully, great-grandchildren.

To read headlines such as appeared on page A3 of The Garden Island on Oct. 17: “North warns: Nuclear war at any time” brings deep-level chills. This is the real ghoul knocking at every door of the globe, for nuclear war will be all-encompassing, no safety net in place to allow the bounce-back, to clear the poisoned earth and air and waters, no real recovery possible. No one on Earth will exit such a “trick” laughing.

We send all our support to former President Jimmy Carter now, who at the advanced age of 93 years, has been said to volunteer to focus his best life energy and mediation skills on peace-making with the North Korean leader. We support him fully in his upcoming attempt, with others of sound mind, to come to an accord that translates to life rather than its opposite.


Dawn Fraser Kawahara, author and poet, made her home on Kauai in the 1980s. She and her husband, a retired biology teacher, live with books, music and birds in Wailua Homesteads. The Kawaharas share a passion for travel to sacred and awe-inspiring sites worldwide. The writer’s books may be found in local outlets and on Amazon. For more information,


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