Des Moines has a tradition that researchers say no other town in the United States does. It started in the 1930s when the city listed the names of vandals every November 1 and the list kept getting longer and longer. This was disturbing to everyone - what to do?
In order to stem the trouble being caused on Halloween, the city’s parks and recreation director, a woman, said that homes should turn on lights and do the things we all know about on Beggars' Night/Halloween, but she also said adults shouldn’t give out treats to children unless the children either told a joke or did a trick like a cartwheel or sang a simple song.
It began to work and within a few years, the vandalism problems were significantly reduced.
This is still a tradition around Des Moines. Some other towns in Iowa have apparently gotten in on it, but typically you'll hear people from other towns say they'd never heard of it before.
I think it is genius. This is the reason I turn on my porch light.
I give less candy to any children who won't participate. I first offer a simple joke they can repeat. Then I suggest something like can they cross their last two fingers instead of the first two. If they won't do it...well, the trick's on you. I know, I sound like an evil person, don't I?
Well I am not. I do not torture little children with this. It's the older kids I pick on. Hey, if they can't join in, they shouldn't be out trick or treating!
This year is different for me, though. I get to take my niece out trick or treating. If we get back to my MIL's house in time, I get to hand out candy. Then I can put my evil plan to work. [rubs hands expectantly]
Last Wednesday night on the way to church, I asked the kids if they had their jokes ready. They did. Poor Ernest, though. He got the interrupting cow joke wrong and said: