INTERLUDE: WHO ARE THE "EXTRA 13"?
A 1997 study originating from the University of Northern Wisconsin yielded some unexpected results when researchers went looking into trick or treating. Janet Kline and Penny Roberts, both graduate students from the Sociology Department, collaborated on the study with the assistance of students from the University of Miami Beach, Florida, and the University of Monterey, California. The study's intent was to guage the popularity of trick-or-treating on a regional basis to determine if local attitudes on religion, morality, superstition and hcild rearing influenced this Halloween tradition. In each of the three states, researchers conducted pre-Halloween interviews with families in "average, middleclass neighbourhoods" and then monitored their trick-or-treating activities, if any. Part of the students' data-gathering process was counting the number of potential trick-or-treaters (defined as children between the ages of 5 and 12) in each neighbourhood.
But the students found an odd discrepancy in their numbers.
"In the Florida neighbourhood," stated Kline, "there were fifty-four children of trick-or-treating age. We therefore surmised that no more than fifty-four children would be trick-or-treating that night. But when we took a census on the street, we counted sixty-seven children."
Skeptics would simply point out that the additional thirteen participants were either children from surrounding neighbourhoods not included in the study; teenagers out to score some easy candy; or adults in costume. Kline and Roberts disagree.
"In the neighbourhoods in California and Wisconsin, the exact same results were found - thirteen additional trick-or-treaters each time," Roberts said.
Puzzled by the findings, Kline and Roberts repeated the survey in 1998 and 1999, using six new locales. The results remained consistent - in each case, thirteen unidentifiable trick-or-treaters were discovered.
The 1998 and 1999 studies revealed something more.
"In all the cases, not one of the thirteen mysterious trick-or-treaters could be identified or tracked back to a family or household," Kline said. "Additionally, not one of these masked and costumed figures ever approached a house for candy. Instead, they simply wandered up and down the streets - either singularly or in pairs - and seemed to be 'tailing' the legitimate trick-or-treaters."
Photos taken of these "strangers" revealed nothing outwardly unusual. In all cases, the figures were child-sized, had their faces completely covered and would sometimes carry "props" such as empty candy bags or pillowcases. Their costumes were usually of the nondescript, store-bought variety. They never interacted with the neighbourhood children, although they were extremely curious about their activities.
"In most cases," Kline reported, "these strangers were on the streets until the last child was safely home, then they would vanish. Even when we followed them, we could never track them back to a point of origin and would typically lose them once they were out of line of sight."
To this day, the Phenomenon of the Extra 13 has not been explained. Will they be in your niehgbourhood this year?
(c) Jonathan Nolan 2002, 2012, all rights reserved worldwide.