What better time than Halloween to point out the obvious: fear sells.
Almost every advertisement tells us a purchase will alleviate some form of fear.
Worried about getting old? You need funeral insurance, retirement planning advice, hair implants and various prescription pills your doctor will prescribe if you ask him about it.
Concerned others may think you're not successful? You need new clothes, shoes and maybe a car in the driveway with a big bow on it so the neighbors know you can afford it.
Fear may move merchandise, but Halloween itself has gotten less frightful.
As a kid, I remember dressing as a ghost, gun-toting cowboy and Atlanta Falcons player.
As anyone who watched the local NFL team in the 1970s or last weekend will tell you, my miniature football uniform frightened no one except season ticket holders.
I was a pretty convincing ghost and cowboy, but in today's political climate I don't advise putting kids in a sheet or letting them run around firing realistic-looking cap guns.
My sisters dressed as witches. This should have served as a warning, but they got husbands anyway.
Nowadays, the most popular costumes for kids are all superheroes and princesses. Adult costumes have replaced scary with sexy.
Not spooky at all.
Halloween used to mean walking through the neighborhood at night, visiting creepy houses and having to knock on a door covered with spider webs and ask complete strangers for candy.
Now kids are driven to "Trunk or Treat" events by their parents where friendly adults hand out candy in well-lit parking lots.
Not much fear, or exercise, in that.
The scariest part about Halloween used to be going home and letting mom "inspect" the candy. Apples were immediately tossed. Then she'd look over each Jolly Rancher and Tootsie Roll to make sure some psychopath hadn't inserted a needle or razor blade.
Nowadays the kids are scary is different ways. A few years ago I had to run down an un-costumed 15-year-old who started eating candy on my porch and then fled with my skull-shaped bowl filled with Gummy Worms.
"Trick-or-Treat" used to be about tricks, which, if you think about it, has first billing. Now it's all about the treat.
It wasn't always this way.
In college, after forgetting about Halloween, I played a trick on the treaters who came to my undecorated door by handing them dusty cans of vegetables. When one mother complained, I showed her the label clearly denoted the yams were "candied."
One of the older kids didn't much like his English peas and returned to egg my house. Thirty years later, I can respect that.
Since today's youth may not be up to the challenge of making Halloween fun again, it's up to the parents. The following tricks are guaranteed to entertain and reduce foot traffic.
- Put the family dog in the front yard in a "drug-sniffing K-9 officer" costume.
- If a kid shows up without a costume, put junk mail like campaign fliers in their bag and tell them "today's treat is Democracy!"
- If a parent dares knock on your door, clutch at your chest and ask them if they can they get you to the hospital FAST.
- Today's candy: licorice.
If none of those appeal to you, you can always turn off your lights, live in darkness and not answer the door for a few hours.
But why do that? During Halloween, a little bit of fun is nothing to fear.