Haunting day

Published 8:17 pm Thursday, October 30, 2008

Today is Halloween.

Many children will dress in spooky costumes and trick or treat.

Many others will opt for the Fall Festivals that have replaced Halloween of old.

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Dr. Milton McPherson, professor emeritus of history at Troy University, said there is reason why.

“October 31 was once a day of dread in Europe,” he said. “November 1 was All-Saints Day and October 31 was, therefore, all hallow evening or Halloween.”

McPherson said it was widely believed that witches and other evil spirits were active on Halloween. Europeans locked their doors and pulled their blinds and prayed that no witches would call on them during the night.”

Of course, much of the darkness of Halloween is associated with witches and wizards, McPherson said. “Belief in superhuman beings associated with the devil and evil goes back to the ancient Babylonians, who were the first to invoke the death penalty against witches.”

According to popular belief in the Middle Ages, witches met once a week in a coven, which consisted of 12 witches and the devil.

“That was a travesty of the 12 disciples and Jesus,” McPherson said. “Four times each year, including October 31, all witches and the devil met in a terrifying witches’ sabbath held in a frightful part of the countryside. The witches arrived on milking stools and brooms and a fearful orgy would follow.

“At the height of the sabbath, the devil would appear, large and hairy with a tail cloven with hooves and horns. He would initiate new witches and punish those who had not been wicked enough by whipping them with thorns and scorpions.”

America was not void of witchcraft hysteria. The most spectacular instance occurred in Salem, Mass. in 1692.

“Several young girls, inspired by tales of voodooism and black magic, began to have fits and accused several townspeople of have bewitched them,” McPherson said. “A local doctor concluded the evil hand of the devil was on them. The governor established a special court to punish those responsible.”

Eventually, more than 200 were jailed, 55 were tortured and 19 people and two dogs were executed as witches.

Today in America and Pike County, though, Halloween is associated with trick-or-treating for children.

And that is why the Troy Police Department is reminding drivers to do their part to make sure they get their treats home safely.

“Halloween is a fun night for both children and adults, but I simply want to remind parents, drivers and children that it is important to be safe,” said Chief Anthony Everage of the Troy Police Department.

Parents and children have a responsibility to be safe this Halloween. The Centers for Disease Control found that the number of deaths among young pedestrians (ages 5-14) is four times higher on Halloween evening than any other evening of the year. The United States Department of Transportation reports that fatal collisions between motor vehicles and young pedestrians (under the age of 15) happen most frequently between 4:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., prime trick-or-treating time.

Below are tips parents, children and motorists should keep in mind before heading out the door this Halloween.

The Troy Police Department’s mission is to ensure the safety and general welfare of the public.


Tips for Motorists

Slow down. Watch for children walking on roads, medians and curbs.

Be extra alert when pulling in and out of driveways.

Be especially alert for children darting out from between parked vehicles and from behind bushes and shrubs. They’re excited – and they are not paying attention.

Do not pass other vehicles that have stopped in the roadway. They could be dropping off children.

If you are driving to a Halloween Party, put your mask on after you park the car.

Never drink and drive – tonight or any night.

Tips for Parents

Adults should accompany children at all times and supervise their “trick or treat” activities.

Teach children to “stop, look left-right-left, and listen” before they cross the street.

Instruct children to stay on sidewalks and to cross only at corners or crosswalks.

Use a flashlight and wear reflective strips or patches on your clothing or costume to be more visible to motorists.

Be certain that the mask does not obstruct vision or hearing.

Ensure that costumes do not impede walking or driving ability.

Tips for Pedestrians (children and adults

Before crossing a street, stop at the curb or edge of the road and look left, right and left again to be sure no cars are coming. Continue to check for traffic while on the street.

Walk – never run – from house to house or across the road and only trick-or-treat at houses where the front door light or the front porch light is own.

Cross the street only at intersections and crosswalks.

When crossing at an intersection with a traffic light, be sure to watch for turning cars. Obey all pedestrian signals.

Walk on sidewalks whenever possible. If there are no sidewalks, walk on the left side of the street facing traffic.