Fright Night


Just when you think you ken everything there is to ken about living in Scotland, you get a rude awakening. Last night the doorbell rang and we argued half-heartedly over who would extract themselves from the couch to answer.

“Go on, you get it.”

“No you get it! I know like two people in this town. It’ll be someone for you.”

“But it will be good for you to interact with the locals.”


I stomped off and pressed the intercom button.


“Gggzahhs!!” came a chorus of small, garbled voices.



“WHAT?” I shouted over the screech of static.


I wasn’t going to ask a third time and admit I’d been defeated by another bizarre strain of the Scots accent. So I pressed the Open Door button and let the voices in, hoping if they were axe murderers they’d just bypass our flat and pick on someone upstairs. But they didn’t, I could see their outlines through the frosted glass of our front door.

It was three little costumed kids. A girl with ginger curls springing out from a black witches hat, a boy with a ghost mask, and another wee boy who just seemed to be along for the ride. They all took a shaky breath then started chanting some sort of incomprehensible song with the bored, rushed tones of someone who has performed said song many times before.

Then they stopped and looked up at me expectantly.

I gawked back with great confusion. Were they trying to sell me something? Was it a walk-a-thon? Did they have raffle tickets? “Ummm…”

“Trick or treat!” said the masked one.

“Trick or treat?”


I frowned. “It’s a bit early for Halloween isn’t it?”

“It’s only four days away,”

“Well it’s more like five…”

They kept staring.

“Well, crikey,” I said. “You’ve caught me unprepared! I’m really sorry… I don’t have anything to give you.”

“Oh.” The little one pulled his mask down, his bottom lip coming with it. “That’s alright.”

They slinked back outside into the rain.

“Well you wouldn’t believe that,” I announced to Gareth. “It was kids! Trick or treating! Four days before halloween! I didn’t have anything to give them. How was I to know they were going to spring that on me? They just mumbled some shit at the intercom!”

“Did they say they were guisers?”


“Yeah, guisers.”

“Guisers. Rings a bell. The word did start with a G. But I couldn’t understand…”

“They were guisers! Trick or treaters. They were guising!

“That’s not a real word!”

“It is.”

“So that’s why they were singing?”


“But! But! I didn’t even know you went Trick or Treating in Scotland!” I spluttered. “I thought only Americans did that on telly! Nobody told me!”

“Well, we do! We go guising!”

“Oh. So in effect, those kids actually did state their purpose at the door.”


“And I let them into the building… so they’d have thought, woohoo, we’re going to get candy!”


“And I stood there and let them sing their little pleading-for-candy song, and then I said, HA HA HA THERE IS NO CANDY!”


“Oh my god! They must think I am the most evil bitch in the world!”


“Nooooooooo! Nooooooooo!” I curled up into a ball and howled while Gareth laughed.

“Shut up!” I thumped his head with a cushion. “This is all your fault! I TOLD you that you should have answered the door! YOU would have known what a guiser was! Now there’s three little kids out there hating my guts!”

“Why don’t you just run after them and give them something?” Gareth joked.

“But I don’t have anything!”

“What about your Finland stash?”

I gasped. Gareth recently went to Finland for work and returned with a generous selection of Finnish chocolates. I became obsessed with Fazer brand chocolate after visiting Helsinki last year. It’s not posh like 70% Valrhona with rare Venezuelan cocoa beans handpicked by monkeys, but for commerical everyday chocolate its craps all over your Galaxy or Hershey bars. I keep the stockpile in the back of a cupboard and carefully ration it, sometimes just getting it out to look at the pretty wrappers with all those crazy Finnish vowels. Precious Finnish chocolates. All for me. Not for grotty little children.

But the guilt was overwhelming. I sprang up from the couch. “We have to go out there find them.”

“Are you serious?”


“They’ll be long gone now!”

“They can’t have gone far. They’re only on little legs!”

“They’re probably at home, greeting* on their mother’s shoulder as she tries to convince them that not all people are as cruel as that mean old lady up the road.”

“Just get your coat!”

It was quiet outside. I scanned the empty streets for pointy hats, feeling the weight of guilt and 200 grams of Geisha bars in my pocket.

Then we heard a faint knocking in the distance.

“Follow that knock!”

I found them huddled in a little alley, gazing plaintively at someone’s unanswered door.

“Hey,” I shrieked. “Little kids!”

They slowly turned and regarded me with their saucer eyes.

“Are you the little kids who knocked on my door just before?”


“Well! You have to let me explain!” I gushed, “You see, I’m Australian! I didn’t even KNOW that you did Halloween over here, I thought it was just the Americans, so you totally caught me off guard, you know what I mean?”

They continued their bewildered stare.

“So I had to track you down and explain that I’m not evil, just ignorant, and here’s some chocolate for you!” I shoved the bars at the Ginger Witch. “I’m really sorry, it’s all I had.**”

“Thank you,” they chorused.


* greeting – it’s Scottish for crying.

** Not strictly true, but I was hardly going to surrender my entire stash. Who knows how long it will be until I or someone I know is in Finland again, or one of the Baltic States where Finnish chocolate is also sold. I bet they didn’t even appreciate the delicate hazelnutty praline goodness of the Geisha bar; they were probably cursing That Weirdo Australian and wishing they’d got some mini Mars Bars. Och well.

About Shauna Reid

Ahoy there! I’m Shauna, an author, copywriter and content mentor. I love telling stories about life and helping others to tell theirs.

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25 thoughts on “Fright Night

  1. “guising” sounds so much better than halloween…do you think it’s short for “disguising?”

  2. I had no idea that you don’t Trick ot Treat in Australia… What a bummer! Nothing better than paying 12 dollars for a highly flammable costume with an air-restricting mask and collecting candy and goodies from a thousand people you wouldn’t even bother to say “hi” to normally.

    Actually, now it does seem rather American…

  3. *giggle*

    I love the Scottish language. Today at work, they were telling me jokes that only make sense if you speak Scottish (according to them at least), and a lot of them were really funny… once the slang is explained.

    I’m telling ya, I will only understand it just in time to leave.

  4. You’re the nicest scary Aussie lady ever. I certainly wouldn’t care if a coupla McBrats hated me for not fronting with the sweeties.

    We do trick or treat in Australia, we do! My mum used to have to call all the neighbours and explain before we got there every year, but we do do do it.

  5. Hmmm…just called Trick or Treating over here, lol – never heard of the term “guising”, but now I know πŸ™‚

  6. ooooh it is like torture reading about your stash of Finnish choccies, I only get them once a year, at Chrissy when all my rellos take pity on us poor fazer-deprived Aus/Finns and send us a few in our Xmas parcel.

  7. Actually Halloween is taking off in Australia too. There are costumes for sale and kids actually do the door knocking-begging for candy-thing. They get a few odd looks and the occasional “that’s only for yanks” comments but overall it’s gaining popularity.

  8. Yup, same root as “disguising”.

    Fortunate for you that it’s not quite the same as trick-or-treating, no? I believe on the other side of the Atlantic, if you don’t give them sweeties, they’re allowed to take messy revenge on you (eggs thrown at car, silly string over garden).

    We used to mostly get given nuts and apples.

  9. Actually, never a good way to start a sentence, when you go guising you shouldn’t say trick or treat, you are expected to do a turn,basically tell jokes or sing a song or some other crap thing in treturn for an apple with a razor bklade in it.

    the trick or treat thing is an american import that no one seems to understand.
    It is a choice/extortion “Either give us some sweeties or we’ll egg your house””

    THinking about it it’s just as well that it isn’t understood or scotland’s doorsteps would be littered with the remnanats of dog shit in burnt paper bags.

    pol x

  10. Spot-on, pol x.

    Although I think most Edinburgh weans are too douce to extort sweeties with actual menaces, there’s no doubt a hard core who would have no problem with this.

    (Alternate comments – how sad is that?)

  11. Yeah, an attempt to call it “trick or treating” gets you killed in my home town. It is most definately guising, we had to do it that everyone did a different party piece, no group singing in the West Coast. And you always got nuts and apples, dooking for them in some cases, which meant that mother had huge amounts of fruit and nuts, the fruit all bearing teeth marks. AND another thing, no pumpkins in the Scottish Halloween, it takes guts and pride to hollow out the turnip for the lantern. If you start now you might have a lantern ready for next year’s Halloween, but only if you don’t sleep.

    Hey, Kim! No, no, go here:
    hemp chocolate? “Celerie truffel”? “Beer and rice chocolate”? Or coffee-mustard perhaps? All handmade.
    All apparently fantastic.
    All as mad as a sack full of cats…

  12. I’m going back home over Christmas. Do you want me to pick up some Fazer chocolates for you? πŸ™‚

  13. well they didn’t say trick or treat until after they sang their song, when it became evident i didn’t have a clue what they were going on about.

    actually now that i think about it, i think I may have used the phrase first, by way of question, trying to figure out what the hell they were doing. There’s always a bit of poetic licence/ forgetting of precise dialogue round here… it’s never more than 90% accurate… so my apologies!

    ooh kristi, you are kind… but it’s probably best that i don’t eat anymore, since I just ate my way round australia πŸ™‚

  14. Hey Shauny, I well remember going guising during my Fife childhood in the (ahem), seventies. We would dress up as ghosts and trawl round the estate singing whatever unlikely song we all knew the words to. There was never any mention of “trick or treating” and no intention of wreaking havoc if we didn’t get anything. Usually our haul was sweets, monkey nuts, and small coins. We used to spend all the cash on fireworks for Guy Fawkes night a mere few days’ later, that was of course in the days when 11 year olds could buy fireworks with impunity. Actually I grew up thinking that the word was Guysing :-), and when I realised that Trick or Treating happened in America I assumed the yanks stole the rough concept from the Scots.
    Now that I am in Oz I await with bated breath what may or may not happen on Monday night…

  15. That was fun to read – luckily no one has been trying to guise me during my years in Edinburgh just yet.
    And geisha is my absolutely favourite chocolate!!! Am getting a new delivery next week, as some friends are coming from Estonia. Want some? :)))

  16. Things get well organised in my street for Halloween. Over the weekend we had a note posted through the door with an oragne balloon. The note outlined the ‘rules’ for guising. If we are happy to have little guisers knocking on the door to sing or perform jokes, then we are to blow up the balloon and display it on our gate. The kids will only call at houses with balloons… which presumably means we can take it in when we’ve had enough… or run out of sweets!

  17. ow my girl, you had me pissing my pants again. you are the bloody best. oh dear. make up all streaked and messy again. thank god you’re back!

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