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Snickers, princesses and pillowcases: A look at Halloween statistics

The average kid will haul in 91 pieces of candy Wednesday night when ghosts, comic characters and princesses share the streets. And parents will be poised to share the bounty when the scamps get home. On average, the parents snag about a third of those 91 pieces.

An estimated 60 million American kids under the age of 18 are expected to trick-or-treat across the country. And this is the time of year when strange and creative costumes compete with strange and creative fact finders to tease out what's unusual besides that parade of kids in costumes.

For instance, did an in-depth analysis of how much candy would fit in a pillowcase, which it concluded after comparing all sorts of containers was the most capacious and durable choice.

After figuring out a fairly typical hierarchy of candy — Snickers and Butterfinger mini bars outrank hard candy and gumballs on the "desireability" list in this scenario — and mixing it up, the project's creator determined a pillowcase will hold nearly 48 pounds of candy, or roughly 1,690 pieces. That's a lot of doorbell ringing, but we'll get to more on that later.

The National Confectioner's Association, purveyors of much that's sweet in life, offer bits of history and tradition about the holiday, intertwined with trivia that is itself a treat. Did you know, for instance, that chocolate candy bars are the most popular treat and that Snickers sits at the top of the list, with Reese's Peanut Butter Cups at No. 2?

Or how about this? The first carved Jack o' lanterns were in Ireland and they weren't pumpkins, but rather hollowed-out turnips, potatoes and big rutabagas. You can almost picture that early Irish immigrant looking at the expanded artistic possiblities of a pumpkin.

The National Retail Federation did a top costume survey and crowned, appropriately, princesses as the No. 1 favorite costume of 2011, followed by witches, Spider-man, pirates and pumpkins.

Loved or left

Kiddie Academy compiled its own set of facts and concluded that there are favorite and not-so-loved non-candy treats going into Halloween bags. The best, it said, are glow bracelets, fake tattoos, mini Play Doh, stickers and erasers. Under other, you can file raisins, Fig Newtons, pencils, carrot sticks and "saltines from the pantry."

The group also notes that the largest-ever pumpkin reportedly grew in 1993 to a weight of 836 pounds, the prize veggie of a guy named Norm Craven.

And speaking of pumpkins, the confectioners offer this "history" of the Jack o' lantern: It "began with a fellow named Jack, who was too stingy to be allowed into heaven and too mischievous to join the devil in hell. As consolation, the devil threw Jack a lighted coal, which Jack placed inside a turnip he was eating. It is said that Jack continues to use the coal to light his path as he searches for a final resting place."

What do kids do first when they get the treasure trove of goodies home? They sort, savor, stash or swap, in descending order of popularity.

Of teeth and calories

According to a survey by PopCap Games and the American Dental Association, there's a bit of a yearning for some non-candy treats to feed the pirates and chipmunks who show up at the door, though. When the groups teamed up for a survey, three-fourths of respondents said they'd prefer their child receive a free video game instead of a piece of candy on Halloween. It's not clear whether they thought the average door opener wanted to spring for one for each of the kids who come knocking.

In the survey, about 94 percent of children participate in trick-or-treating of some type and 65 percent of them say that Halloween is the best holiday of all. But two-thirds confess that they eat too much candy.

Dads were more likely to say candy is what makes Halloween fun, at 86 percent vs. 77 percent for moms. Nearly nine out of 10 kids said they'd still like the holiday if it wasn't candy-focused, but instead was geared to other types of fun.

The parents of kids who have had multiple teeth fillings pine for non-candy treasures more than other parents.

The best part

Ask the kids and the best part of the date is trick-or-treating (75 percent), dressing in a costume (71 percent) and getting lots of candy (66 percent).

Younger moms and dads, those under 35, like dressing up in costume more than older parents do.

The survey also asked parents how childhood had changed since they were kids and found that most believe that it's not as safe as it used to be (61 percent) and that fewer households participate (52 percent). Coming in a close third is that Halloween has lost some of its innocence (47 percent). About one-fourth of the adults believe there are more activities for adults, more to do than just trick-or-treat and more social atmosphere. Only 23 percent believe it's "all about the candy now."

They also found that the views on Halloween didn't seem to have any geographic bias; they were pretty much the same across the board.

Covering ground

Back to the pillowcase project. The "researcher" noted that an ambitious kid who wanted to fill that pillowcase would be required to get candy at every house in a .42-square-mile, pretty densely packed neighborhood in Campbell, Calif. That's based on a 50 percent success rate and about 2.5 pieces of candy each time, with doorbell ringing at 1,352 houses.

In the Midwestern town of St. Peters, Mo., the assumption is that more people are giving out candy, so the success rate goes to 75 percent and they're more hypothetically generous, too, each giving an extra piece. But the houses are further apart, so it would require .6 square miles to fill that pillowcase.

Knock knock. Who's there? Open the door and find out.

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