As children become more tech-savvy and adults become more willing to appease their every whim, trick-or-treaters are demanding more than just sweets from their neighbours this Halloween. Now they want computer accessories, especially USB drives, and they are willing to pull some pranks if they don’t get them.
Robbie Domhnullach, a ten-year-old lad from Scotland, said he is “guising” for USB drives this year. “I’ve a dizzen eggs, and a dizzen houses,” he said. “And I can throw.”
Some say this situation has been coming for a long time, as Halloween customs have been gradually developing since the 1940’s, when the extortion known as “trick-or-treating” became widespread across the United States.
Mrs. Tucker, a quiet old woman who lives in a cottage in the woods, described the changes thus:
It used to be, I could make some caramel apples, tie them up in plastic wrap with a cute little bow, and the kids would eat them all up. Then they said we were poisoning them1, so we had to buy the manufactured candies… Then it had to be in Halloween-themed packaging… Now I have to buy these USB thingies loaded with ‘virtual candy,’ whatever that is.
But USB drives, while not physically poisonous when used as directed, still carry risks akin to those of improperly-packaged candy. They can be infected by computer viruses, which often do more harm than real diseases, killing not just people but computers and even entire economies (think “kill all” commands). Children are therefore urged to inspect every drive for needle-holes and signs of previous connection to infected computers — missing caps, fingerprints, teeth marks, etc. Other out-of-place markings, such as non-Halloween themes, are also red flags. “A Christmas USB drive at Halloween is just as likely to be rotten as last year’s figgy pudding,”2 states NSA employee Ethan F. Stein.
In the United States, the NSA and the FBI are gearing up for the holiday this year with both preventive and medicative measures. “In some neighbourhoods, we are staging agents with test-bed computers which can scan USB drives for potential threats before the kids take them home,” said one top official, who spoke to us anonymously in a breathy voice over the telephone. “We are also staffing our offices all night to scan the entire internet for suspicious activity following the usual trick-or-treating times, with our own virtual weapons to cure these things before they get out of control.”
So go to your local gadget store and get some USB drives, before the kids come calling. And to calm your nerves, here are a few lines from an auld favourite poem by Robert Burns.
From “Halloween,” by Robert Burns, 1785:
Upon that night, when fairies light
On Cassilis Downans dance,
Or owre the lays, in splendid blaze,
On sprightly coursers prance;
Or for Colean the rout is ta’en,
Beneath the moon’s pale beams;
There, up the Cove, to stray an’ rove,
Amang the rocks and streams
To sport that night;
Amang the bonie winding banks,
Where Doon rins, wimplin, clear;
Where Bruce ance rul’d the martial ranks,
An’ shook his Carrick spear;
Some merry, friendly, countra-folks
Together did convene,
To burn their nits, an’ pou their stocks,
An’ haud their Halloween
Fu’ blythe that night.
- See, for example, http://www.snopes.com/horrors/poison/halloween.asp and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poisoned_candy_myths ↩
- Here’s a recipe! ↩