Twisted Ding Dong Ditch (Reverse trick-or-treating the Halloween Heroes)


You know who they are.

In a time when Halloween as a neighborhood event seems to be slipping in popularity, these are the folks who are keeping the tradition alive. Some of them create a whole haunted experience in their yards and sheds. Some carve and display multiple or elaborate Jack-O-Lanterns. Others are less flashy but equally enthusiastic. Maybe they have an elegant little display and give out the very best treats. Maybe — because trick-or-treaters don’t visit the area where they live — they do other things to celebrate the holiday. They throw a party. Or volunteer at a church or school or retirement home.

Don’t you think it’s time that we — the true Halloween lovers of the world — start showing our gratitude? Here’s one (kind of elaborate) way to do it, but feel free to pick and choose from these elements to enhance your Halloween celebrations.


twisted ding dong sitch halloween heroesLast year, my daughter, Pooka, came from North Carolina to Minnesota for much of the Halloween season. While talking before her arrival, she and I were mourning the fact that The Boy is no longer young enough for us to take him trick or treating. (Pooka’s trick or treating years were extended by the 10 year age difference between her and her brother.) Over the course of several late-night instant messaging sessions, we came up with a substitute. We decided to reward households that did a nice job with their outdoor decorations. She designed a limited edition button. I decided we needed a poem. (But she mostly wrote it, because I suck at poetry.)

We’re past the age for treats and tricks.

No TP rolls, nor eggs to pitch.

The giving urge trumps prankster itch.

And so our twisted ding dong ditch!


After she arrived in Minnesota, between other events, we crafted several of these:


When I was thinking about the game ding-dong-ditch (which I never played as a child, btw) I kept envisioning a flaming paper bag full of, well, you know. I was determined to find a prize format that would be a little reminiscent of that, and this paper bag tree fit the bill nicely.

  • 1) weight the bottom of the lunch-size, brown paper bag with a variety of fun-sized treats
  • 2) flatten the bag again and cut strips from the bag opening to the base, as shown above
  • 3) open the bag carefully, gather all the strips at the very bottom, and start twisting them together tightly to create the trunk
  • 4) after the trunk is formed, separate the strips into 3-5 sets which will become the main branches
  • 5) twist one set of strips at a time to form branches
  • 6) a main branch can be further divided to end in 2-3 smaller branches if desired
  • 7) add stickers (found at a craft or dollar store) to emphasize the “treeness” of your creation
  • 8) (optional) hang or pin a Halloween Hero button to a branch (see below)
  • 9) DO NOT set fire to it, no matter how tempting it is

The key to making this project work is to twist the trunk and branches tightly. It can be a little tiring for the hands, but it’s mindless enough that you can do it while watching a Halloween movie or a great old horror classic.


To deliver our goodies, we wanted to wear costumes that were nostalgic and harmless. When we found a GIANT plastic trick-or-treat bucket, in the classic shape of a Jack-O-Lantern, we were reminded of the old-fashioned ghost costume.


The night before our adventure, we found some old sheets. We cut large holes out for the eyes and lined the holes with some sheer black fabric I had around the house.

The “kids” (18 & 27) put on the darkest pants they had, and draped themselves in ghost-sheets. We pinned a big bow to the head of Pooka’s ghost.  Then we went out into the night armed with a pumpkin bucket filled with 13 little trees.

I drove around the neighborhood and we pulled over whenever we saw Halloween decorations we appreciated. Some of the displays were elaborate; some were simply charming and elegant. Here’s a shot of the kids running up to a door.



  • 1) we found that many houses we wanted to hit were actually unoccupied — this year we will probably do it on Halloween night itself
  • 2) the tree is small and folks don’t automatically look down when they answer the door — this year we may attach a glow stick or an eye-level floating balloon
  • 3) if you don’t want to deal with the uncertainty of your gifts being found, simply walk up, ring the bell and present the award (we did that too)
  • 4) be prepared to explain what you’re doing — no one we spoke to had ever had anyone GIVE them something for Halloween
  • 5) understand that folks will react to your actions. Some may press some treats into your hand in return for the gift; some will be disconcerted; many will be THRILLED you noticed their hard work. (One group  offered us beers and really tried to get us to stay at their bonfire. At one house, we fear we may have freaked out some kids who were home alone — they were very confused about why grown-ups were out … and on the wrong night to boot.)

We were looking for a way to enjoy a whole evening of being out reverse trick-or-treating, but your situation might be different. Pick and choose whichever elements of our adventure that suit your available time, energy and funds.



If you’re interested, Pooka has just listed this year’s limited edition Halloween Hero button at her Etsy shop, Pooka Creations:

Halloween Hero 2014 Finished Collage PNG

This 1″ button design is available in either pinback ($1.25 + shipping) or magnet ($1.75 + shipping) | Click the pic to go to the listing.

This little button is a great addition to any kind of prize that you decide to bestow on a Halloween Hero you know. There is still plenty of time to order a batch if you live in the continental USA.




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4 Comments on “Twisted Ding Dong Ditch (Reverse trick-or-treating the Halloween Heroes)”

  1. Lucien says:

    Ooh, fun! Except, you know, now I kind of want to set fire to one. I think attaching a glowstick is a fantastic idea.Thanks for the movie ideas! I’m moving on the 27th, so I’ll have to work to pull together a Halloween celebration this year. I favorited Pooka’s Etsy shop so I can come back to it after we move. thanks again!

  2. I’ve long been under the impression that Halloween continues to gain in popularity year after year. I hope that’s the case. I appreciate all the Halloween heroes out there (and was one myself for many years, when I had the room (and yard space)).

    • I think it depends on what you mean. Certainly, the grown-ups are doing more (and spending more) on the holiday, but I think that trick-or-treating is falling out of fashion.

      I suspect that’s partly about the neighborhood where one lives. It’s my own darn fault that I moved first to the country then to an apartment, but I’ve gone back to my old stomping ground (Anoka, Halloween Capital of the World) and seen a reduction in both kids and houses that look ready to give out treats.

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