Halloween Scared Away This Year?

10/19/2001 AT 11:01 AM EDT

Some local and state authorities wish to ban trick-or-treating at the end of this month, reports Friday's Wall Street Journal. The officials, says the paper, fear that emergency response teams, already overworked from having to hunt down reports of anthrax and other contaminants, would be overwhelmed by Halloween pranks and genuine threats. "We're working on the answer to the question, 'Do we have Halloween?' " said Stephen C. Robinson, director of the Indianapolis Emergency Management division. Besides the recent anthrax contamination in network news offices in New York, where Gov. George Pataki's Manhattan office was also struck, Congress has also received letters laced with anthrax. Around the nation, notes the Journal, thousands of false alarms -- instigated by mysterious white powders that have ranged from soap detergent to talcum powder -- have been reported. Crisis experts fear that 911 lines could be overrun come Halloween. This week, Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee asked parents in his state to limit children's celebrations of the holiday to strictly supervised parties. Federal authorities are said to mulling over a similar proposal. "I know that the subject is in the air, and that people are considering it," said Campbell Gardett, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Also noted Rex Archer, director of the Kansas City health department and chairman of the bioterrorism committee of the National Association of City and County Health Officials: "Canceling Halloween would be a good way of saving dental cavities."

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