The Candy Grabber: Halloween in Hyde Park, 2023

While we saw there was some possible flurries for today, we weren’t prepared for what Nature had in store. We saw some very light flurries during the day… but as it closer to dusk, the skies darkened. And things really let loose.

Around 4PM, we started getting some fat, wet snow. And it started to really stick.

We’d sweep the steps, and then a few seconds later… it was like nothing ever happened.

I went up and down a few times, and wasn’t really careful about my footing. I ended up slipping on the wet steps and fell down on my butt and right arm. Thankfully it was more of a slow slide, as opposed to a straight fall. Still, I think it could have been a bad fall, had things gone the other way.

Was definitely humbled, and reminded of the ladder incident, circal 2019.

A view of the Candy Grabber, open and ready for business. If you’re curious to see the construction process, check out the “Related” links, below.

Behind the scenes. Our goal with this Halloween project was very simple and very low-tech. Participants would be invited to pick one of the holes, stick their hand in, and reach for their candy. And as they did so, we’d grab their hand as a surprise.

Hence the name: “The Candy Grabber.” Does what it says on the tin.

The idea is we wouldn’t do this for everyone, but every once in a while. And for the folks we though needed a little extra scaring (read: adults), we put an impact driver nearby (sans bit). We’d trigger the mechanical sound as an extra unexpected “scare.”

Our marketing materials, courtesy of DALL-E.

Ready and waiting for customers.

We got some early visitors right around 4:30 PM, and it was two younger, middle-school aged girls. I had them reach in, and I grabbed their hands… and they were pretty non-plussed. One of them looked at me and said “Oh,” and then just walked away.

Reader, I was despondent after this. I started to worry that this concept was wholly flawed, and it was going to be a disaster of an evening.

The next group of visitors we had were two very young kids. They more or less stuck their hands in, grabbed some candy, and barely registered that I grabbed their hands. It was like they were customers at a bank, and just walked away after I broke a $20 for them. Again, super depressing.

Over the course of the next 30 minutes… I figured some things out. I slowly got a bit of banter going, and realized I needed to set the stage a bit more.

I started talking about the “device,” and offered visitors a choice between an easy version and a scary version. And in doing so, I planted the seed that there might be some danger involved. That they might have some reason to be concerned.

Once I started to set the stage for visitors, I think that really helped. And it especially helped for the older kids (and adults), whose imaginations did all the work for me.

My spiel went something like this:

So *this* is the “Candy Grabber.” You have two options: there’s the easy version, or the scary version. Which one would you like?

I’d also sprinkle in a few things, like: “Most people don’t really need their right hand” and “Most people get all their fingers back.” I also threw out a few “Don’t worry, we have a lot of band-aids.”

I am surprised how gullible the kids we got were, but I’m not complaining. I did a decent deadpan delivery, and most of them paused or hesitated because they couldn’t tell if I was joking or not. It worked out really well.

I’m not sure why most kids couldn’t guess that my hands were on the other side of this thing. But the way we built things, it was just enough to “hide” the mechanics of what was going on.

Here’s a bit of video from the evening, taken by Liz and our neighbor Betsy:

The weather really influenced our turnout, as we had a fraction of visitors this year versus years past. I found myself still on the porch around 8:30 PM, looking (hoping) for some late night visitors to stop by. I had a hard time calling it a night.

Still though – I cannot tell you how much fun I had, as the evening progressed. Once we got the banter and intro down, we were able to really pull folks in.

Depending on the group that showed up, sometimes I wouldn’t do anything and let the person freak themselves out. Or just have a “Oh, that wasn’t so bad moment.” Mostly so we could get the next person in line, who got lulled into a sense of security.

We got some screams, which was fantastic. And we even got several folks who outright refused to put their hands in, and said “It’s not worth it.”

The very best moment of the night for me, though? It was when a young kid was walking by our house again, after visiting. He was with his parents, and he shouted out to us “That wasn’t cool what you did to me!”

Best. Comment. Ever.

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