Mr. Stinkpants was in an uncharacteristically good mood. He grinned, showing his yellow crooked teeth to the third-grade students seated quietly in front of him. Halloween was coming and he was delighted. He could almost smell the candy in the cool, crisp air, and his enormous belly rumbled at the thought of it.
“There will be no homework this week,” he said to the chagrin of his students.
“Why not?” a thin boy named Franklin asked. “Normally you hand out more homework for one night than we can do in a whole week.”
“Yes, that’s true,” Mr. Stinkpants said. “But this week Halloween is coming and I want you to be ready. I’m sure you’ve got costumes to make and pumpkins to carve.”
“Sure we do. But—“
“But nothing,” Mr. Stinkpants bellowed. Then he smiled and patted the boy’s head. His voice became calm and eerily friendly. “I wouldn’t want anything to come between you and your Halloween candy. In fact, I hope you get more candy this year than ever before.” He giggled at this thought and then continued, “I just hope none of you let the Creeper keep you from going trick or treating.”
“The who?” asked Charlotte, a red haired girl seated in the third row.
Mr. Stinkpants shook his head. “Oh, it’s nothing. Forget I mentioned it.”
“Tell us, Mr. Stinkpants,” Charlotte persisted. “What’s the Creeper?”
Mr. Stinkpants approached the little redhead and spoke in soft voice, almost a whisper. “You really want to know about the Creeper, Charlotte, my dear?”
“I’ll tell you. The Creeper is a creature not of this planet. It’s the size of a grown man, but I believe it’s more closely related to a praying mantis than a human. It’s a monster that comes out on Halloween night.”
“You’re just making that up,” a chubby boy named Scott said. “There’s no such thing as a giant praying mantis.”
“There isn’t?” Mr. Stinkpants asked.
“No,” Scott said.
“Believe what you want,” Mr. Stinkpants said. “I didn’t believe it either until I saw it for myself.”
“You did?” Charlotte asked.
“Yes.” Mr. Stinkpants scratched his black beard, removed a crumb of cheese from it, and popped it into his mouth. “I was taking out the trash one night and I saw the Creeper digging through my neighbor’s garbage can. It glared at me with glowing yellow eyes and I dropped my trash and ran. The next morning, I found strange footprints in my yard and all the garbage cans along the street were overturned.”
“What was it looking for?” Scott asked.
“Candy,” Stinkpants said.
“Candy?” the kids asked.
“Yes, that’s the Creeper’s favorite food. Which is why you’re at such a risk on Halloween night, carrying bags of candy.”
“I’m going to ask my parents if the Creeper’s real,” Charlotte said.
“Go right ahead,” Mr. Stinkpants said. “They will tell you that there is no such thing as the Creeper. They’ll say this because they don’t want to frighten you. But trust me, they know all about it. That’s why they make sure their kids come home before dark.”
The children fell silent and many of them looked pale and sick to their stomachs.
“Don’t worry, though,” Mr. Stinkpants continued, “If you stay together, you’ll probably be fine. He can’t go after all of you at once.” Mr. Stinkpants laughed and it echoed outside the room and down the hallway, frightening children three doors down.
All week leading up to Halloween, the kids in Mr. Stinkpants’s class talked about the Creeper and the story spread throughout every class in every grade level in the grade school. Some believed it was real and others didn’t, but real or not, the Creeper was not going to keep them from trick or treating. By the end of the week, kids were busy making costumes and plans for getting lots of candy.
On Halloween night, children all over town left their houses dressed as witches, vampires, ghosts, pirates, princesses, and superheroes, and among them were the students from Mr. Stinkpants class. They knocked on doors, collecting candy, and as the night wore on, their bags became heavy.
“Do you think we should go home now?” Franklin asked. “We’ve got enough candy.”
“What are you talking about?” Charlotte asked. “You can never have enough candy.”
“He’s just afraid of the Creeper,” Scott said.
“No, I’m not,” Franklin said. “It’s just that my arms are getting tired from carrying all this candy.”
“Sure they are,” Charlotte said. “You’re letting Mr. Stinkpants’ story scare you.”
“Cool it,” Scott said. “We’ve got a bunch more houses on this block. Are you coming with me or going home?”
The kids marched up to the next house in a tight group. As they approached the door, a four-armed shadow appeared in the moonlight. “GRRAAAAARRRR!” It roared at them.
“It’s the Creeeper!” the kids screamed, dropping their candy and running for their lives. The Creeper laughed loudly. Had the kids listened carefully, they would have recognized that laugh and known that it was not a monster but Mr. Stinkpants instead.
When the kids were gone, Mr. Stinkpants removed a homemade paper maché praying mantis head off his shoulders. “Ha ha ha ha ha,” he chortled, picking up sacks of candy strewn over the lawn. He loaded all of the candy into his car, filling the trunk and the back seat.
“What a bunch of suckers.” He laughed and popped a sucker into his mouth.
When Mr. Stinkpants reached his house, he dumped the sacks of candy onto the floor, covering it with chocolate bars, licorice, taffy, bubble gum, caramel apples, lollipops, gummy worms, lemon drops, peanut butter cups, mints, and cookies. “Ho ho,” he said. “Happy Halloween to me.”
This candy was far too yummy to be wasted on children, he thought. He sorted it into neat piles and counted every piece before eating a single one.
As Stinkpants counted candy, the children stopped to catch their breath. “What was that thing?” Franklin asked.
“It was the Creeper, you dope,” said Scott.
“Do you really think there are monsters like that roaming around?” Charlotte asked.
“You saw it with your own eyes. It was real, all right,” Franklin answered, shaking with fright.
“If it’s real, why haven’t we seen it before? We go trick or treating every year,” Charlotte said.
The kids nodded. “You’re right. Maybe it was a trick.”
“But who’d dress up like a monster just to get our candy?” Franklin asked. Suddenly it dawned on him. “Stinkpants! He told us about the Creeper, so he’s the one who did this to us. He’s got our candy.”
“Let’s go to his house to see for ourselves,” Scott said.
The kids raced to Stinkpants’ house and peeked in through the window. There he was with all of their candy neatly stacked in piles on the floor. “He’s got all of it,” Charlotte whispered as they ducked their heads down below the window.
“How are we going to get it back?” Frankin asked.
“I have an idea,” Charlotte said. “Let’s scare him into giving it back.”
“How?” Franklin said.
“Follow me,” Charlotte said and grabbed an empty garbage bag out of trashcan. The kids loaded it up with leaves, then collected branches and poked them into the bag until it looked like a spider with eight black legs. Next they tied two strings to it. “You guys take this end of the rope and hide behind the car, the rest of us will take the other rope and hide behind the bushes. When he comes out, we’ll pull it back and forth and he’ll think it’s a real monster.”
“That’s brilliant, Charlotte,” Scott said.
“Do you think this is going to work?” Franklin asked.
“Stinkpants is afraid of spiders, so it has to work,” Scott said. “Come on, let’s try it. Franklin, go knock on his door.”
“Why me?” Franklin said, trembling.
“Just do it,” Scott said.
The kids waited as Franklin crept up to the door. He knocked on it twice and then raced back to hide behind the car in the driveway.
Stinkpants opened the door. “Who’s there?” he asked. No one answered. “Kids,” Stinkpants said. “Halloween pranksters.”
Before he could close the door, Charlotte said, “Now.”
The kids behind the bushes pulled on the rope, dragging the giant spider across his yard. Then the kids behind the car in the driveway pulled it the other way.
When Mr. Stinkpants saw that big fake spider, he jumped with fright. “A giant spider,” he shrieked and slammed the door.
From his living room, he heard something that scared him even more. The kids sang out, “Stinkpants, Stinkpants, how do you do? The Halloween Spider’s gonna get you.”
He closed his blinds and plugged his ears to tune out that dreadful singing coming from outside. But he still heard it. “Stinkpants, Stinkpants, how do you do? The Halloween Spider’s gonna get you.”
Mr. Stinkpants stuffed the candy into pillowcases and carried it upstairs to his room. He hid in his bed, shivering with fright.
“Stinkpants, Stinkpants, how do you do? The Halloween Spider’s gonna get you.”
As the kids sang, something marvelously wicked happened: a real spider crawled onto Mr. Stinkpants bed. It walked over his feet and then crawled up his legs and up to his waist. Then it crawled over his enormous belly and moved toward his neck.
He didn’t know what was worse, the spider in his room, or the haunting chant from outside: “Stinkpants, Stinkpants, how do you do? The Halloween Spider’s gonna get you.”
The spider crawled onto Mr. Stinkpants’ beard and he shrieked, “I can’t He can’t stand it anymore.” He jumped out of bed and danced around the room, swatting at his face, and tugging at his beard “Get off of me you creepy spider.”
Mr. Stinkpants opened his window and yelled, “Leave me alone, Halloween Spider.
But the kids kept singing: “Stinkpants, Stinkpants, how do you do? The Halloween Spider’s gonna get you.”
Mr. Stinkpants screamed and ran to his candy. The next thing the kids knew, candy was raining out old Stinkpants’ window, and it soon covered his yard.
Stinkpants yelled, “Go away spider,” slamming his window shut.
And as he lay under his covers, shaking with fear, the kids gathered up their candy and called back, “Happy Halloween, Stinkpants.”