That's part of the pleasure and pain of Halloween on the streets. You don't know who you will meet or how a child will react. Parents usually have a "sensitivity meter" to their children and know who likes an adrenaline burst and who hates it, she said. "Always, as parents, watch your kids and see where they are hitting their tolerances. Also, don't expect your kids to be like you."
Speckhard recommends preparing young children for what they might see. Take them trick-or-treating before they do a gory zombie walk. If you decide something would be too much for a chid, talk to them about it and why. And talk about what you might see.
"I think kids do best — even little, little kids — if we tell them what expectations are of the event: 'We're going out and may see some scary guys, but we're just going to laugh because they're not real.' If you laugh, they take their cue. You have created an expectation and protected them in some way," she said.
It is unlikely, added Speckhard, that seeing something scary at Halloween will do much more than create a couple of nightmares. But why do that?
Barber opened Nightmare on 13th with a college buddy 24 years ago, with no great plans to do it for a living. He offers practical advice for parents who aren't sure a child is ready to be scared. Look with the child at a haunted attractions website and see how the child does with the pictures or videos there.
"If that's spooking them, don't come." If they make it past that, he suggests checking out the 7-foot-6 pumpkin monster in the parking lot. If a child or adult heads the other way, hop in the car and move on.
Screams, said Barber, are actually a pretty decent good-time meter. "Most screams are fun. People who are really scared, to the point they shouldn't be going, are not usually screaming. They are freezing, panicking, have gone quiet or are looking for a way to get out of this."
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