Some local customs come and go, while some stay put. Mandatory Milwaukee is all about the latter. Join us as we revisit beloved and well-worn local customs with fresh eyes, and explore how they might figure in the city’s future. This week: trick-or-treating during the middle of the day for some reason.

Halloween. Trick-or-treating. Costumed kids scurrying through autumn leaves under the cover of darkness. Shadows. The moon. The night air. Magic.

Except in Milwaukee, where trick-or-treating takes place during the day. Like, the early afternoon. On the Sunday before Halloween. Usually during a Packers game.

Yes, on Sunday, October 31, 2021, the City of Milwaukee will continue a longstanding tradition and officially get its trick-or-treat on during the witching hours of 1-4 p.m. That’s kind of strange, right? Trick-or-treating during the day? I recently brought the subject up on Twitter, asking:

“Is trick-or-treating during the afternoon a Midwest thing? I’ve never known it any other way, but folks from other parts of the country seem to think it’s strange.”

I received some interesting responses. Among them:

“I grew up in California and we only ever did it at night. Milwaukee was the first place I had encountered daytime trick-or-treating.”

“Dude when I was growing up in IL, we couldn’t have fathomed trick-or-treating before nightfall. I never saw it happen in daytime, or on another day, until moving to WI.”

“I’m from Chicago and something different up here in WI is kids trick or treating not on Halloween. Kids would always go out on the actual evening of Halloween even if it fell during the school week. I had never heard of kids going out on the closest weekend to Halloween instead.”

“Childhood in Kansas, always on Halloween night, regardless of day of the week. Sundown until usually 9ish? or when homes turned off lights; one small town ran the tornado siren, the “witch’s wail”, to let you know to wrap it up and go home.”

I grew up in Mayville, Wisconsin, which always had daytime trick-or-treating, too. Despite that, many folks on Twitter assured me that getting candy door-to-door at 2 p.m. was a Wisconsin or a Milwaukee thing, and not a general Midwest thing:

“Minnesota during the 90s and early 2000s was always on Halloween at night. Even went out in a blizzard. Not sure if it changed since. But scheduled during certain days was new to see when I moved to Wisconsin.”

“I grew up in Wisconsin (Beloit) and it was always at night on Halloween. So Milwaukee is strange to me.”

“Not a Midwest thing…a Milwaukee thing, and I hate it.”

And yet a few Midwest folks had similar daytime trick-or-treating experiences:

“Where I grew up in Ohio it was always the Sunday afternoon before Halloween. When I moved to Bay View I was elated to learn it’s held at night (even though not on Halloween proper)!”

About that last part: Many Milwaukee neighborhoods ignore the city’s daytime hours and observe trick-or-treating at night. Bay View, for example, is all set to go on Saturday, October 30, from 5-8 p.m. Brewers Hill typically does nighttime trick-or-treating, too. Outside the city limits, communities like Shorewood, St. Francis, and Cudahy often push things to 7 or 8 p.m. on Halloween night proper. (The Milwaukee Independent has an article about the racial implications of conflicting trick-or-treat hours.)

But why the city’s official daytime hours? Sadly, there’s a likely reason: On Halloween night in 1973, a 9-year-old Fond du Lac girl, Lisa Ann French, was sexually assaulted and murdered while trick-or-treating alone. Fond du Lac and many other Wisconsin cities responded by instituting afternoon trick-or-treating hours. Nearly 50 years later, the horrible and heartbreaking crime lingers.

Of course, no matter when you and/or your kids go trick-or-treating, being safe and sticking together is always the best policy. The ongoing COVID pandemic has added plenty of wrinkles, too; Milwaukee has some COVID-related safety tips HERE. Wondering when your city officially observes trick-or-treating this year? You can find a list HERE.

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About The Author

Co-Founder and Editor

Matt Wild weighs between 140 and 145 pounds. He lives on Milwaukee's east side.

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