A Night of Terror for Halloween-O-Phobes

On this special holiday, humorist Brian Unger goes undercover to reveal the secret life of Halloween-a-phobes — people with a crippling, often incurable fear of trick-or-treaters who on this night are virtual prisoners in their own homes.

Copyright © 2005 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

NOAH ADAMS, host:

In the Unger Report today, Halloweenophobia. It's a crippling, often incurable fear of trick-or-treaters. And for this story, the Halloweenophobics interviewed asked to remain anonymous for fear of having their houses toilet-papered tonight. Here is Brian Unger.

BRIAN UNGER reporting:

Halloweenophobes I spoke to manage their conditions on beggars' night by playing possum. When the doorbell rings, it's...

Unidentified Woman #1: How can I fake that I'm not here? How can I turn the TV off really fast, turn the lights off really fast and get out of the room so that those little rug rats don't know I'm in here?

UNGER: Halloweenophobes usually suffer alone, in silence, prisoners in their own homes.

Unidentified Man #1: I am there usually in the dark, usually with the television on mute, usually crouched and checking on the bowl of candy that I have in front of the house so hopefully the young ones will do the mathematical equation in their head, `Oh, a crazy shut-in, but he's left us candy. So we won't throw a rock through his window.'

UNGER: Racked with paranoia, Halloweenophobes, in houses and apartments, will tonight face their ultimate fear.

Unidentified Man #2: There are kids in my building--and I've done the smart thing, is I've never made eye contact with any of them. So they don't know who I am. They're not going to come to my door 'cause if they see me, they'll go, `Oh, that's the guy to stay away from.'

UNGER: Typically, a panic response is triggered by a doorbell.

(Soundbite of doorbell)

Unidentified Man #2: You know, I don't think there's any worse sound to a human than the sound of a doorbell. It means intrusion. It means change of plans. And on Halloween, it's just this dingdong, dingdong, dingdong "Tell-Tale Heart" thing that I really can't stand.

UNGER: For others, beggars' night is more than annoyance for out of the darkness comes a horror dressed as a little Spider-Man.

Unidentified Woman #2: If they ring the doorbell, something horrible happens.

UNGER: What happens?

Unidentified Woman #2: I have dogs and they make noise when doorbells ring.

UNGER: This Halloweenophobe allowed me into her private hell. As the sun set, she showed me the path terror will take when it visits her tonight.

The little trick-or-treaters would presumably approach the door here...

Unidentified Woman #2: Right.

UNGER: ...and then do what?

Unidentified Woman #2: Ring the doorbell, which is when all hell breaks loose. Should I unleash the hounds?

(Soundbite of dogs barking)

Unidentified Woman #2: And your ears are bleeding on Halloween.

UNGER: As daylight dwindled and the sound of Chihuahuas pierced an eery calm, I wondered what made Halloweenophobes tick.

Unidentified Man #1: I'll be honest. It's selfishness, 'cause my wife buys candy. There's candy in the house. It just doesn't quite make it near the door on the night of the 31st for the kids.

UNGER: But what would Freud ask?

Do you like kids?

Unidentified Man #1: They're small people, and they're adorable. I just don't like any sort of contact on that level where some sort of exchange has to occur when I'm home. I just don't like it.

UNGER: This reporter found little hope in Halloweenophobes' ability to help themselves.

Unidentified Woman #1: If you go to the store and you buy candy for trick-or-treaters, it is guaranteed no trick-or-treaters will show up at your house and you will then be living in a candy prison, shoving baby Three Musketeers bars in your face until Christmas.

UNGER: Cynically, one Halloweenophobe offered this advice; not to fellow sufferers, but to the children.

Unidentified Man #3: The best day really is November 1st because then the candy's all on sale and then you can have all the candy you want.

UNGER: And that is today's Unger Report. I'm Brian Unger. Happy Halloween.

ADAMS: And if you've just got to hear those dogs again, the Unger Report is now available each week as a podcast. Find out more at npr.org. And you'll also find holiday-themed recipes there and a sampling of truly annoying Halloween music.

(Soundbite of music)

ADAMS: DAY TO DAY is a production of NPR News with contributions from slate.com. I'm Noah Adams.

Copyright © 2005 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.