Cartoon scariness replaces real fear

Real fear yields to playful fright

Halloween: After sniper terror, getting back to normal includes buying costumes and candy.

October 30, 2002|By Jason Song and Gabriel Baird | Jason Song and Gabriel Baird,SUN STAFF

Across Central Maryland, families are relieved to be able to stop worrying about snipers and start fretting about cavities.

As sniper fears receded, families began trying to resume normal lives by shopping for pumpkins, trying on costumes and stockpiling candy for Halloween, which many had feared would be affected by the rifle attacks.

"People were scared to death and you can almost hear them sighing in relief now," said Paul Thompson, the owner of A Little Bit of Country, a pumpkin patch in Columbia's Hickory Ridge, as customers inspected potential jack-o'-lanterns.

Before Thursday's arrest of two suspects in the sniper shootings that terrorized the area for three weeks, officials, especially in areas near Montgomery County and Washington, had been considering curtailing or canceling Halloween events.

In Charles County, the La Plata Town Council voted to "strongly discourage" trick or treating and canceled the annual town party. In Anne Arundel, plans for the annual children's party in the Glen Burnie Town Center were shelved. And Main Street merchants in Howard County's Ellicott City considered pulling the plug on their annual Halloween event.

"I'm so relieved. If the sniper hadn't been apprehended, people weren't going to participate because they didn't think it was safe," said Vickie Goeller, who has organized the annual event for the Ellicott City Business Association for about 15 years.

After the Thursday arrests, parents who had been worried about letting their children trick or treat returned to costume shops and pumpkin patches.

The Party City in Pasadena was crowded Friday with dozens of relieved shoppers such as Viki Cain of Severna Park, who brought her two sons, 5-year-old Zack and 7-year-old Conor, to hurriedly purchase costumes.

The family had been considering not going trick or treating.

"I feel like we can go out safely again," said Cain as Zack tried on a ghost costume, raising his arms above his head in an attempt to scare his mother.

In Howard County, Cheryl Decker and her two children, Maggie and Zach, braved a cold drizzle to pick out three pumpkins at A Little Bit of Country.

Maggie, 11, said she would feel safer going trick or treating since sniper suspects had been arrested: "I was scared that someone else would get hurt."

The arrests came too late for some organizations to revive canceled Halloween plans. La Plata's "Great Pumpkin Halloween Party" was scheduled for yesterday before being canceled, and town leaders did not have time to reorganize the event.

"At least we have trick or treating back," said Douglas R. Miller, the town manager.

In Prince George's County, the Bowie Baysox had shelved plans for "The Panic Asylum, a Haunted Adventure," scheduled to run this and next weekend.

Although Thursday's arrests were too late to save this weekend's festivities, Baysox officials decided to hold the haunted house event at their stadium Halloween night through Nov. 3.

"It's a good thing we didn't tear down the stages" for the event, said Jon Danos, Baysox general manager.

In Ellicott City, Main Street merchants were particularly anxious because last year's Halloween event had been shelved over anthrax-related concerns.

"Canceling two years in a row may have signaled that maybe it's not safe for people to be out in any place," Goeller said.

"It would've been a shame if we had to cancel because the kids would miss out ... and they've lost out enough these days," said Pauline Jacobs, a partner in the Yates Market.

Sun staff writers Maria Blackburn, Laura Loh and Liz F. Kay contributed to this article.

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