Halloween Returns To Oil City, Pa.

This year, Oil City, Pa., will allow nighttime trick-or-treating for the first time in 16 years. The town banned the practice in 1992 after an 11-year-old was abducted and killed just days before Halloween. Trick-or-treating is now allowed again after 10-year-old Elizabeth Roess (race) collected petitions and presented her case to the City Council. She and her mother, Lisa Roess, talks about their efforts.

Copyright © 2008 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

Now, a seasonal item, a spine-chilling but heartwarming story of a town that outlawed Halloween and the 10-year-old girl who made her elders see the light. Time was that would have been made into a movie. Nowadays, there have to be some chainsaws involved. In any case, the town is Oil City, Pennsylvania, and it didn't really outlaw Halloween, just trick or treating after four in the afternoon. And the 10-year-old fifth grader in question is Elizabeth Roess, whose mother, Lisa, joins us on the phone from Oil City. Welcome to the program, Lisa Roess.

Ms. LISA ROESS: Thank you.

SIEGEL: And first, what turned your daughter into a Halloween rights activist?

Ms. LISA ROESS: Basically, it was not wanting to go into other communities at night to trick or treat. She wanted to do it in her own community at night.

SIEGEL: Now, you have to explain. There's a history, and it's not a pleasant history.

Ms. LISA ROESS: No, it's not.

SIEGEL: To Oil City's ban on nighttime trick or treating.

Ms. LISA ROESS: Right. There was an abduction and a murder of a little girl. It was, I think, 16 years ago, they said.

Ms. ELIZABETH ROESS: 1992.

Ms. LISA ROESS: Yeah, it was in 1992 when they had.

SIEGEL: You're being cued there by your daughter.

Ms. LISA ROESS: Yes. She knows what year it was.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIEGEL: Right.

Ms. LISA ROESS: Yeah. And they had abducted her and had killed her very, very close to Halloween. Therefore, they took our Halloween and put it to daytime hours, which were between the hours of 2:00 and 4:00 in the daylight, for safety reasons.

SIEGEL: So at some point, I gather, this year, there was a conversation between you and your daughter, Elizabeth, about trick or treating this year.

Ms. LISA ROESS: Yes, there was. She had brought it to my attention that she did not want to go to a different community and trick or treat, that she wanted to do it here. And I explained to her at that time what had happened with the little girl and why we didn't have trick or treat at night, and she basically asked if maybe we could do something to change that. And I said, that I think we could. ..TEXT: SIEGEL: Well, perhaps Elizabeth could join us now and perhaps.

Ms. LISA ROESS: Sure.

SIEGEL: Why don't we put the phone on?

Ms. ELIZABETH ROESS: Hello.

SIEGEL: Hello, Elizabeth.

Ms. ELIZABETH ROESS: Hi.

SIEGEL: I'd like to know what you did after you had that conversation with your mother, how you went about trying to fix the situation.

Ms. ELIZABETH ROESS: We went to a city council meeting, and we told them that we had 175 signatures, and I read my paper saying the reasons why I wanted it to be back to night. And the reasons were that me and my sister have never gotten to go trick or treating in our own community. And the second reason was that there aren't as many people at home in the day time. And the third reason was that you couldn't see the Halloween decorations and lights on the porches and everything.

SIEGEL: At four in the afternoon.

Ms. ELIZABETH ROESS: Yeah.

SIEGEL: It's bright out, and it takes much of the effective way. And Elizabeth, what's the lesson that you learned here about your town and its government in trying to change the law about something that's important to you?

Ms. ELIZABETH ROESS: I learned that no kids should ever go alone by themselves and that they should always take a parent or a guardian with them.

SIEGEL: Are you excited about trick or treating in your own town this year?

Ms. ELIZABETH ROESS: Yes, I am. Actually, I have a ton of friends that has been coming up to me and saying thanks and giving me hugs and...

SIEGEL: Yeah.

Ms. ELIZABETH ROESS: Yeah, it's pretty awesome.

SIEGEL: You could probably be elected school president on that basis.

Ms. ELIZABETH ROESS: Yeah.

SIEGEL: Yes, quite an achievement that you have. Are you interested in politics?

Ms. ELIZABETH ROESS: Yeah. My school has been encouraging me for it and telling me that I should run for president when I grow up and be in the political stuff and everything with that.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIEGEL: OK. Well, we're going to write your name down and keep track of you and see what happens.

Ms. ELIZABETH ROESS: OK.

SIEGEL: In about 30 years, OK?

Ms. ELIZABETH ROESS: Hmm.

SIEGEL: Well, congratulations on your success.

Ms. ELIZABETH ROESS: Thank you.

SIEGEL: That's 10-year-old Elizabeth Roess and her mother, Lisa Roess. And Elizabeth will be trick or treating after dark in Oil City, Pennsylvania for the first time in her life this Halloween, and she'll be doing it dressed as a monster bride.

Copyright © 2008 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, and will be moderated prior to posting. 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.