Halloween 'boo' mysteriously appears

Been “boo'd”?

No, not the mean kind.

We're talking about a pay-it-forward, modern Halloween practice carried out on front doorsteps around the Charlotte region.

Neighbors leave candy and treats on the hush-hush, along with a note instructing the recipient to do the same to two or more neighbors. Recipients also receive a ghost to stick on the door so they don't get boo'd again. Gift-givers stay anonymous.

It's unclear how the trend kicked off. People who moved from other cities to Charlotte's suburban neighborhoods say they heard of the practice for the first time here.

A spokeswoman for Hallmark, which has sold kits for two years, said the greeting card company's inspiration was the May Day idea of anonymously leaving flowers and gifts at someone's door.

Boo'd newbie Wendy Berglass didn't know about the practice until a couple of nights ago, when someone rang the doorbell at her Piper Glen home in south Charlotte.

Left behind was a plastic sack of chocolates – and a note to pass on the favor to even more neighbors.

So who'd she boo back? Berglass now knows that's part of the mystery: “It's all a secret.”

Kids cheer those who do your basic boo – i.e., leaving lots of candy. But those creative boo-ers who give away Halloween hand towels and candles? Well … let's just say parents are the bigger fans.

There are other boo do's and don'ts. Specialist Ally Holding, 14, learned the importance of leaving the note attached on the outside of the goody bag instead of the inside, after she boo'd a skeptical new neighbor in her Park Crossing neighborhood. Ally ducked in nearby bushes to watch the resident answer her door – only to hear the neighbor express wariness about finding and eating candy that mysteriously appeared. Ally had to come out of hiding and explain herself.

Then there's the possibility of getting re-boo'd. The Kammerer children tricked mom Jenny by slyly taking down their ghost sign from the window so their Providence Country Club neighbors would think the 5-, 8- and 12-year-old kids hadn't been boo'd yet. They got boo'd again.

Dr. Peter Judge, chairman of the department of philosophy and religious studies at Winthrop University, said it's nice to see a Halloween ritual reflective of the celebration's roots. Ancient Celtic traditions held that ancestral spirits visited at the end of the harvest. People cleaned their homes so the spirits would feel welcome and bring good luck.

“(Halloween) has become distorted to the point where we have these Halloween movies and grotesque costumes that emphasize the evil, without paying attention to the real point,” Judge said.

“This new tradition I suppose is a nice way of reviving the idea that there's this anonymous spirit looking out for you.”