Outdoors

Warren’s World: An Unverifiable Halloween History

Lurching from one near disaster to another ...

Leipzig, Germany 1747. Wolfgang Hoopengarner had graduated from the best dental school in Germany and learned all of the tricks. Bloodletting to reduce the swelling, applications of leeches to combat the fever, knee in the chest to hold down the patients that hollered the loudest, the correct kind of pliers to use to pull which teeth. Important things like that.

His wife, Brunhilda, had gone to candy-making school and her business was growing rapidly while his dental business was not. As his business dwindled to almost nothing he began to notice that the few patients that he had were all kids in the neighborhood who stopped by after school to help his wife lick the candy pots. “Could there be a link between so much candy eating and so many holes in the kid’s teeth?” No one had thought up the name cavity yet.

Novocaine had not yet been invented and so the few patients who came to the good dentist’s office were whining a lot. “Wait in the whine hall,” he would tell them. Only the neighborhood kids would be in his whining room waiting to get their teeth full of holes pulled out. After three years of this, he changed the name from the whining hall to The Hall of Whining because he was on to something: Give kids candy and it rots their teeth.

Wolfgang wrote a paper about it and read it at the dental convention in Nuremburg in 1759 while his wife gave out candy samples, labeled with the sugar content and which kind of candy made cavities the quickest. As the word spread about dentists giving candy to kids to stimulate their business, parents became embarrassed to take their children to the Hall of Whining.

In 1804, George Schumacher of Scarsdale, New York was the first parent to put on a costume and a mask to take his child to the dentist. He was out of work at the time and did this on the last day of October after spending all day with nothing better to do than muck around up to his elbows in a smelly pumpkin.

George was dressed as Robin Hood complete with his bow and arrow and mask so no one in the neighborhood would recognize him while he walked his son to the dentist’s office. He dressed his kid up like the Lone Ranger and there was magic in the air. An event was happening that George didn’t realize as he knocked on the dentist’s door. No one has at yet researched why he said those fateful words, “trick or treat” but those holiday-inventing words were uttered on that cold October 31st evening.

The dentist and his wife had gone out for the evening and so George and his son wrote a message on their window with a bar of soap. As they stood back and admired dad’s handwriting on the window, his kid said, “Hey pop, my tooth’s stopped aching.” On the way home George and his kid in their weird looking costumes ran into a neighbor. The neighbor recognized George because he only had one leg.

Later, as they sat in the local tavern with a midget Lone Ranger and drained a couple of brews their conversation went something like this.

“Maybe there is some link between your kid eating too much candy and having to go to the Hall of Whining and have a tooth or two pulled. I think we might be on to something. What if we offered the dentists of the world a chance to double their business by getting kids hooked on candy?”

“Good idea. We could dress up our kids and walk around the neighborhood and beat on people’s doors hollering ‘trick or treat’. If they didn’t have any candy we could tip over their outhouses, or throw rotten eggs at their front doors. It wouldn’t take more than a couple of years to get every young kid in town hooked on candy.”

“Yeah, we could sell the idea to the American Dental Society and get some front end money and percentage points on the back end for any increase in their overall business.”

And so, over half a dozen cans of Coors in 1804, The Hall of Whining name was changed to Halloween and dressing up in weird clothes started an entire industry of dressing up like who you fantasize you really are and going to a party where everyone else is dressed even dumber so you can spend the evening making small talk while your rented costume is making you sweat a lot.