Wal-Mart scares the bejeebus out of 2-year-old

Wal-Mart scares me on the best of days, but not quite like this. Seems there was a two-year-old who "had a fit" when he came across a Wal-Mart Halloween display that came to life before his innocent little eyes:

The tot was with his grandmother on Tuesday night at the Hendersonville [N.C.] Super Wal-Mart when a Halloween display seemed to take on a life of its own.

As Hendersonville resident Jan Overcash and Tucker were leaving the store, an employee directed their attention to the display, said Overcash, 47. It seemed harmless at first.

"The head was still on it, but then the arms raised up and lifted the head off the shoulders," she said. "My grandson had a fit. I tried to make it funny for him, but he was terrified. He thought it was a real man because it had a shirt and tie on. I can't get him to go back there anymore. There was also a big sign on it saying 'This is a Wal-Mart disgruntled employee,' and I thought that sent the wrong message as well."

The store in question just happens to be the closest Wal-Mart to our little corner of western North Carolina, so I decided it was worth drawing my wife's attention from her morning routine to read the item in our local paper's online edition. Her first and only response was "Wuss."

I agreed, hoping that our 10-month-old won't be as easily frightened a year from now. Not that we're planning on taking him to Wal-Mart next Halloween -- or any time in the foreseeable future, for that matter. Of course, one could wax on ad infinitum about how Wal-Mart is full of scary things -- guns, toys made from slave labor, that sort of thing -- and I was about to ponder assembling a satirical comment. But the Hendersonville Times-News online forum had already attracted some feedback, including this insightful offering from someone calling herself Friday (I suppose it could be a male commentor, but I suspect the writer was inspired by Robert Heinlein's super-spy character and novel of that name):

Hallowe'en is a holiday that originated from human curiosity about morbidity. Morbid fascination is not new, although we do have newer mediums (cheap plastics and special effects- television) that represent it in a new way.

In my opinion, you take opportunities such as this to talk to your child about the way the world and humans work. Morbid fascination is natural, but obsessing about any aspect of life is not healthy.

It is important to protect our children, but it is equally (if not more) important to give them "tools" to deal with life.

It was a nice change from the usual knee-jerk conservativism that pervades the forum. And a welcome reminder that there is a constituency out there beyond ScienceBlogs that understands how to turn even the oddest circumstance into an opportunity to teach children about why things are the way there.


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A Halloween display in mid-September? I thought there would be too many Christmas displays already to leave room for Halloween stuff.