Up until now, Halloween has been just about the candy. Well, also the costumes, but costumes aren’t unique to Halloween here, so what really sets it apart as a holiday is not the costumes so much as the buckets full of free candy.

But just this year, Ruby has been very into the spooky side of it. She and her new best friend, our three-doors-down neighbor, ran shrieking into our house last week.

“You do it,” she yelled.

“No, you do it,” he yelled back.

“We’ll do it together,” she said, and before I could even inquire as to what the hell was going on, they had slammed the bathroom door, turned on the water in the sink, and were chanting, “Bloody Mary! Bloody Mary! Bloody Mary!” and then shrieking some more.

I think I was just a tiny bit older than her when I got my first Oujia board (“weegie board,” as we used to spell it in notes we passed before anyone had actually seen the word written out) and maybe a couple of years older than that when we all played Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board at slumber parties.

And I remember my first haunted house very clearly: I was 10, and I went with a boy to Sheriff Foti’s haunted house in City Park. I was actually convinced that this was a date, which in retrospect makes me want to simultaneously go back in time and slap myself silly while delivering a firm warning against growing up too fast and also lock both of my daughters away until they are past the horrifyingly awkward tween years. But at any rate, I was pretty excited about this “date” and had told all of my friends about it, and we thoughtfully sipped our Capri Suns in the lunchroom and discussed exactly how I would pretend to be scared and grab his hand or maybe even throw my arms around his neck.

This … this did not come to pass. In what was to be good practice for many disappointing real dates in my future, this young man set foot in the haunted house – and promptly let out the highest-pitched scream I have ever heard and took off running, screeching and flailing, until some kindly adult stopped him and escorted him out through a secret door. Bemused, I calmly walked through the rest of the haunted house by myself and rejoined him outside.

“That wasn’t what I expected,” he said.

“Yeah, me neither,” I said.

We walked back to my house in silence, and his mom picked him up, and I never saw him again (although last I heard, he was wildly successful and making shit-tons of money).

Ruby has been begging to go to a haunted house for the past few weeks, and if Sheriff Foti’s were still open, we would be there in a second because, other people’s experiences to the contrary (ahem), I never found it all that scary. (The scariest part was the stories we would make up in line about how it was fully staffed with actual convicts who might have managed to slip a real chain on the chain saw.)

But it has been closed since Katrina, and I am not in a million years taking my 7-year-old to House of Shock, even if I did feel like coughing up $50 for two tickets and waiting in an hour-long line. Ruby is not easily scared, but I definitely feel like House of Shock is waaaaaay too grown-up for her.

And she has all the time in the world to grow up. Right now, I am loving her innocent little forays into being delightfully, thrillingly scared by things like Bloody Mary, but I am not eager for her to discover the whole other side of Halloween with gory movies and slutty costumes … and perhaps scariest of all, actual dates.

Are there any kid-friendly haunted houses you’d recommend?