xx Friday, October 29, 1999

Belief in ghosts and witches up this Halloween

Public Pulse

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Do you believe in witches?
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 WASHINGTON (AP) -- Is Halloween getting scarier? More people apparently believe in ghosts and witches than two decades ago.

 A third of the people surveyed in a new Gallup poll said they believe in ghosts, three times the number who said that two decades ago. One of five said they believe in witches, twice the rate of the late 1970s.

 Almost nine of 10 people in the new poll said they have no objections to Halloween on religious grounds.

 In medieval times, and in some countries today, the souls of the dead were thought to return to their homes on the eve of All Saints' Day -- or Halloween. Halloween customs were brought to this country by Irish immigrants in the 1800s.

 The macabre and sometimes destructive trappings of Halloween have periodically raised concerns among church, school and government officials. They have led many to take children to supervised Halloween parties rather than letting them roam neighborhoods unsupervised to ask for candy.

 Two-thirds of American parents in the poll said their children will go out trick-or-treating, slightly more than in 1978. More than four out of five parents say their children will wear costumes this Halloween.

 The most popular costumes for trick-or-treaters this year will be Batman, Star Wars characters, witches and Pokemon and Disney characters, according to the poll.

 The telephone poll of 1,005 adults taken Oct. 21-24 had an error margin of plus or minus 3 percentage points.