New Halloween Ritual Emerges
By Brady Darvin

It’s a quiet evening in October, and the whole family is lounging in the living room. When the doorbell rings, the little girl leaps up and runs to the foyer, with Mom right behind. She swings open the front door, and standing there is…no one. But sitting on the porch is a basket full of candy, a few little toys, and a note that explains her house has just been “booed.”
Most commonly known as “booing,” but also referred to as “ghosting,” “reverse trick-or-treating,” or even “hobgobling,” this scenario has come to be played out in neighborhoods throughout the country during the weeks prior to Halloween. The origin of “booing” in the United States is unclear, but it appears to have begun to spread in the late 1980s, with a rapid increase in popularity in the past three years.
Recently, 12 members of the “Gatekeeper Moms” Insights Panel, interviewed by custom novelty, packaging and premiums company Strottman International, discussed the practice and shed light on opportunities it may provide for candy makers and retailers. Within the group, half of the Moms knew what “booing” was, and four had participated in the practice.
A typical “boo basket” is a bag containing candy, small toys, school supplies, and other miscellaneous “dollar store” items. Every basket also contains a booing note or poem and some sort of image to be stuck on the recipient’s door to let others know the house has already been booed. Typically, the note suggests keeping the tradition going by booing other friends or neighbors. According to the Gatekeeper Moms, some boo baskets not only contain items for the kids of the family, but also something like dark or premium chocolate or even a bottle of wine for the adults.
Some Moms love booing and feel that it promotes a feeling of community in their neighborhoods. “I think people thoroughly enjoy it,” one Mom said. “It makes them feel connected to other families, being able to do something simple and giving.”
However, while most of the Moms said they would make up their own boo baskets or bags, not every Mom welcomes the tradition and the effort that goes into preparing a boo basket. For some, it’s just one more thing to add to their already-full “to do” lists. One such Mom revealed a potential gap in the Halloween candy marketplace with the following comment.
“I would absolutely [consider buying a pre-made booing kit],” she said. “The problem is, they couldn’t sell just one boo kit; you’d need one for boys and for girls, and for different ages. Like when we got booed, the basket included things that had been thought out. So if I bought a ready-made boo kit, I wouldn’t want it to look cheap and tacky because I’d be the only one who hadn’t gone to the trouble to think it out. So could they make a boo kit without it looking totally mass-produced?”
While the tradition is primarily associated with Halloween, two “Gatekeeper Mom” panelists said they had also participated in this tradition around Christmas, during which time it is commonly referred to as “Elving.” Most Moms said they could envision a similar activity done at either Valentine’s Day or Easter, so who knows where the “booing” phenomenon may lead.
Brady Darvin is Senior Director, Consumer Insights, for Strottman International Inc., a full-service agency that creates and manufacturers custom novelty items, interactive packaging and in-pack premiums for the candy, packaged goods and foodservice industries. For more information on Strottman, contact him at 949.623.7929 or