Halloween was always the start of the best time of the year for me when I was a kid. In October, we got candy (I never got candy), then in November I had my birthday, then in December we had Christmas. But Halloween was what I looked forward to because it was such a mystery as to what costume I’d be making and what candy I’d be getting.
THE LEGEND OF THE HALLOWEEN CHOCOLATE BAR HOUSE
When I was in 4th grade, there was a famous rumor going around my friends & classmates about a house in the neighborhood that gave out “full size chocolate bars” for Halloween as opposed to the “fun size” smaller snacks. This was the 1.55oz bar that ran about $1 each, I think.
That was enough incentive for my friends and I to chart out the neighborhood in search of the fabled “chocolate bar house”. We strategically organized every year covering each block and reporting back what we’d found by meeting in a central location.
Over the years, we continued to search every Halloween but we never found it and I began questioning after all these years if it even existed – or if may be the family that did it, moved away.
RESURRECTING THE LEGEND
It’s been 40 years since then & I still remember how much fun Halloween was:
- Sorting my candy into 3 tiers of quality (Take note: You tootsie roll, Jolly Rancher, & lollipop houses are bottom tier)
- Judging houses & families based on the quality of their candy (And make no mistake: The kids JUDGE)
- Trading candy amongst friends & bringing your stash to school the next school day (And you better have the goods)
I also remember how important that “house” search was each Halloween & how much fun it was to passionately *believe* in the legend of the Chocolate Bar house.
About 8 years ago, after living in condos most of my life, I bought a house in a suburb of Los Angeles right around Halloween and was sitting in my sparsely furnished living room, thinking about how much fun Halloween was going to be for my son, when it dawned on me:
“HEY… I COULD BE THE CHOCOLATE BAR HOUSE.”
I thought about the candy I could give out, the thrill the kids would get, etc.
MARKETING THE LEGEND
But it dawned on me that our house is on a street that doesn’t have a lot of families… mostly older, less active folks that didn’t turn their porch lights on during Halloween.
Honestly, we are in the middle of our block and our street was easy for kids to skip – you kids-at-heart know what I’m talking about: A lotta time, as a kid. you would look down a street at how many houses had their lights on, how long the block was, and wonder if the “juice was worth the squeeze”. With a lot fewer porch lights on our street & a reputation for being filled with Boomers, I felt I had to overcome that.
So we decorated the tree on our curb with orange Halloween lights – LOTS OF LIGHTS – powered by a portable battery secured to a car we have parked out in front. It was bright enough that the Intl Space Station could probably see our house’s tree from orbit. No kid could miss the big orange tree and at least not wonder, “What’s goin’ on there?”
Our house had, well, no decorations. I kept the entire house 100% black as night except the entryway to our front door which was lit in very bright orange light. Simple but effective.
THE CHOCOLATE HOUSE LIVES
Over the years, our house went from ~20 visitors to ~300 and it really never gets old watching the awe & smiles on the kid’s faces wearing Captain America outfits & many many Harry Potter Wizard/Witches costumes.
Additionally, our video security system out front constantly catches spoken comments from the kids (and parents) outside:
- “Dudedudedude, shut up, I think this is it.”
- <whispering parent> “Jeannie just texted me that it’s the house with the orange lit porch.”
- “Mom, can you hold my chocolate bar in your purse? It’s too big for my pumpkin.”
- “OMG I’m never going to be able to finish this [bar].”
- “BOYS, I BELIEVE WE’VE FOUND THE MOTHERLODE!”
- “Bro, remember Tim talked about this place. We gotta ‘gram this house.”
- “Mom! Mom! C’mon! There’s a line forming! He might run out! Hurry!”
- <parent> “They really do this every year? Jesus.”
- “Awyeah, achievement unlocked! LET’S GOOOOOOOO!”
- “Fix up your costume… he doesn’t like if you have a sloppy costume…”
(Every year there’s a few parents that take photos of our house to text to their friends, which I guess I should expect, but what’s funny is that they usually try to photograph the front which, remember, has an extremely brightly lit entry way – and no other light. Try it some time… it’s really hard to take a recognizable photo with this level of contrast.)
These are enormous – particularly for grade school kids. They are the size of actual books for many of them and their eyes grow wide when I hand them out. I get less of a reaction from the jaded high schoolers but it’s still hilarious to hear them say, “Brooooooo” – that’s what’s up!”
COSTUME REQUIRED – THAT’S FAIR, RIGHT?
That comment above about “needing to fix up one’s costume” is a relatively recent one. I started to institute a simple, informal rule that seems to have been shared:
- No costume = no candy.
(The corollary is: Lousy costume = lousy candy.)
Why? We’ve been doing this now for 7 years, and around the 3rd year I had a problem with high schoolers (and some adults) walking up in little/no costume at all. Their little brother/sister told them our address and so their gang just showed up on a lark, basically wearing street clothes.
So I keep backup candy. Small fun size candy that I hand out to folks that simply don’t put in the effort. I still remember the last kid (no costume) I handed a fun size candy to:
“What the… aww maaaaannnnn”
I realize I risk an egging of my house – but I still have hope that kids know the unspoken covenant of Halloween: “No costume – no candy”.
THE DARK SIDE OF BEING THAT HOUSE
And then there’s always the 1% that wanna ruin it for everyone.
Sure, there’s a small set of kids that try to go for another pass, trying to double up. I usually give them a small item the 2nd time around which is their signal to move on.
And then of course, adults always fuck it up.
- Rude kids with parents that don’t teach them any manners (there’s always the “gimmes” & smart talk, attempts to grab the candy out of my hand, kids that actually try to ENTER my house, etc.)
- Costumeless parents that are entitled enough to ask for candy for themselves – sans costume
- Adults without kids that randomly walk up without a costume, saying “Trick or Treat” (This last one is full on creepy)
This has been on the rise in the past couple years but the happy ending is I’m judge, jury & executioner: Piss me off & you might get demoted to “fun size”… or may be nothing at all. Believe me – the threat is all that’s necessary.
THIS HALLOWEEN… I’M CHANGING IT UP
I’m not doing the chocolate bar this year. Some folks will be disappointed but I’ve got something different planned. It’s costing me a decent amount of money but I think it’ll be better.
For the chocolate critics, and yes, I’ve had a few folks that bitch about the “quality” of Hershey’s chocolate vs other brands (you can see what I deal with), this change will probably make them happy. You can see where I’m going with this.
I’ll add more once we hit October 2021… which will be like the revenge of Halloween after this miserable pandemic that we’ve all gone through.
Happy early Halloween!