William O'Boyle: Beyond the Byline: At Halloween, beware the Headless Horseman

·4 min read

Oct. 24—WILKES-BARRE — Fourth grade at Central Elementary School just might be my favorite year of being in school — ever.

After all, we had Miss Strongoski as our teacher and she had a bunch of us over to her house for a party to celebrate our winning a spelling bee. I can't recall what words we were asked to spell, but I can tell you the cake at that party was delicious. And I wore, perhaps the worst sweater ever made — which eventually resulted in my disdain for sweaters. I don't own any to this day.

Anyway, fourth grade was awesome. We had a great class and a great teacher. We learned and we had fun.

And it was perhaps the only year I actually enjoyed Halloween and dressing in a costume. Usually, I would go along with my pals to walk through the neighborhood to get candy and maybe a few quarters and we would sing the same silly song: "Trick or treat, smell my feet, give us something good to eat."

It was awful, I know.

Ahhh, but fourth grade was different — much different. My mom asked me what I wanted to be for Halloween and I blurted out, "The Headless Horseman!"

FYI: The Headless Horseman is a fictional character from the 1820 story "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" by American author Washington Irving.

And a scary sight he was, that Headless Horseman guy. And little did I know how difficult it would be to make this costume, but my mom came through.

She managed to make the costume and it really did look like I was a Headless Horseman — the kids at Central Elementary loved it. So did I. The whole day and night I really was the Headless Horseman. I didn't want to take that costume off.

So as we approach Halloween — it's this Sunday, by the way — the American Red Cross is offering tips and more to help keep you and your loved ones safe.

The Red Cross says that trick-or-treating is back this Halloween — however, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic means there are extra factors to consider when planning your activities.

"Halloween is one of the most popular holidays in the U.S. and with most communities returning to normal activities this school year, people should expect a higher volume of visitors in search of tricks and treats," said Sherry Nealon, Executive Director, Northeastern Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Red Cross Greater Pennsylvania Region. "Whether you're handing out goodies or going door-to-door, with just a few simple considerations you can make sure your family and those around you are safe and sound."

Here are the Red Cross' top tips for parents to keep in mind while getting their kids ready for Halloween this year:

—Make your cloth mask part of your costume. A costume mask is not a safe substitute for a cloth mask. Avoid wearing a costume mask over a cloth mask as it can make breathing difficult.

—Plan outdoor activities and avoid indoor events where the risk of virus transmission is higher.

—Bring hand sanitizer with you while trick-or-treating and use it after touching objects or other people. Wash your hands when you get home.

—Avoid trick-or-treating in large groups, and social distance from others around the neighborhood.

—Make sure trick-or-treaters can see and be seen. Give kids a flashlight to light their way and consider adding reflective tape to costumes and trick-or-treat bags.

—Plan the trick-or-treat route in advance and make sure adults know where their children are going. A parent or responsible adult should accompany young children door-to-door.

—It's not only vampires and monsters people have to look out for. Be cautious around animals, especially dogs.

—Walk only on the sidewalks, not in the street. Avoid running. Look both ways before crossing the street, and cross only at the corner. Don't cross between parked cars.

—Only visit homes that have a porch light on, and never go inside.

—Make sure a grown-up checks the goodies before eating. Make sure to remove loose candy, open packages and choking hazards. Discard any items with brand names that you are not familiar with.

For those planning to welcome trick-or-treaters to their homes, Red Cross suggest you follow these safety steps:

—Give out treats outdoors, if possible.

—Avoid direct contact with trick-or-treaters by setting up an area with individually bagged treats for kids to take. Wash your hands before handling treats.

—Maintain social distancing and wear a cloth mask.

—Light the area well so young visitors can see.

—Sweep leaves from your sidewalks and steps. Clear your porch or front yard of obstacles someone could trip over.

All good tips.

And beware the Headless Horseman — he may come riding through your town!

Reach Bill O'Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle, or email at [email protected]

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