In St. Louis, Trick-Or-Treaters Have To Do A Little Something Extra For Their Candy

by Colleen Dilthey Thomas
Originally Published: 
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I live in St. Louis, Missouri, where Nelly is our pride and joy and the Cardinals are royalty. We have some local foods that are pretty famous like toasted ravioli and gooey butter cake. Oh and don’t forget Imo’s pizza with its provel cheese. (Go ahead and Google St. Louis-style pizza.) And we also celebrate Halloween better than anywhere else. You do not simply trick-or-treat here. Oh no. You must work for that Snickers.

Where I come from, Halloween is just as much about the entertainment as it is the candy. You see, in order to get a sweet treat in the STL, you have to tell a joke. And you better bring out your best material, because the competition is stiff. Kids plan their trick-or-treating jokes for just about as long as they plan their costume. No two in a group can have the same joke and each one gets better than the last.

Don’t even think about recycling a stale pop culture joke from Halloweens past, or trying to get by with a standard chicken crossing the road, either. Adults expect to laugh. And laugh we do. Trust me, there is nothing better than a little kid coming up to your door and making something up on the spot, or the littles getting nervous and simply repeating their older brother’s joke. It is truly a joy to watch.

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Sometimes things don’t work out the way you expect and your joke just doesn’t land. Adults will still laugh and tell you that you did great job, and toss you a Hershey Bar or two. Kids can be a bit more fickle. One year my nephew, about four years old at the time, heard a joke that didn’t impress him. Instead of passing out a quick Twix, he put his arm elbow-deep into the kid’s bucket and took a handful. It stands as one of my all-time favorite Halloween moments. I’m telling you, it’s serious here. (Don’t worry, the kid got his candy back and a few extra pieces for his troubles, and there was no love lost.)

There has been a time or two that a kid’s joke landed in that “inappropriate” zone. Mostly they don’t know what the joke is actually about, or a friend puts them up to it. When my son was seven, he became a neighborhood legend after being convinced by his older brothers that a certain off-color joke was a good one.

So what kind of jokes can you expect on Halloween? It’s a variety. Some kids stick to a knock knock joke, while others like a spooky theme. The jokes vary by individual. Here are a few of my favorites throughout the years.

What do you call a bear with no teeth?


Ham sandwich walks into a bar. Bartender says, “Sorry pal, we don’t serve food here.”

How do you make a Kleenex dance?

Put a little boogie in it

Knock knock

Who’s there?

Interrupting cow



What’s a ghost’s favorite dessert?

Booberry pie

Did you hear about the haunted KFC?

It was terr-i-fry-ing

Why couldn’t the spicy pepper dress like Robin Hood for Halloween?

He didn’t hab-an-ero

What do you call a magic dog?

A lab-ra-ca-dab-ra-dor

Have you heard about the elephant with diarrhea?

It’s all over town

Corny? Absolutely. Positively endearing to see a teeny tiny witch or a scary monster try their best stand up routine? Without a doubt. I wish more people could experience this because it is amazing. But it’s more than just local, it is almost obscure. My husband grew up 30 minutes away and had never heard of it before living here. As for me, I can’t imagine Halloween any other way.

So where did this come from and why do we do it? Legend says it came from the strong Irish settlement in St. Louis. According to St. Louis Historian Dr. John Oldani, more than 100 years ago people dressed up for a festival in Ireland where they would travel from house to house, costumed and unrecognizable, and had to tell a joke or do a trick to earn a gift that would keep evil spirits away. The Irish brought this tradition to St. Louis and incorporated it into their Halloween fun.

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No matter how or why it started, it is one of the most time-honored traditions of growing up here. It would truly be lovely if this caught on in other towns because it makes the night so special and memorable for kids and adults alike.

Trust me, there is one way to level up your Halloween celebration this year and that is a good, wholesome zinger from a kid. Every city has its own unique and fun foods and traditions. As much as I love the local fare and a Red October baseball playoff season for the birds, nothing beats our October 31st celebration.

Now just in case you want to start a new tradition in your town this Halloween and try to impress your neighbors with your humor and charisma, this one is always a hit.

How does Batman’s mom call him for dinner?

Dinner Dinner Dinner Dinner Dinner Dinner Dinner Dinner . . . Batmaaaan!

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