We know a Scarlet Letter is the historical, puritanical, mark of an adulterer.  Do you find the modern day Maryland “Scarlet Pumpkin” below to be enough of a warning against pedophiles and violent sex offenders to be effective on Halloween eve?

ANNAPOLIS — Sex offenders in Maryland have begun receiving paper signs in the mail that read “No candy at this residence,” which they must post on their front doors or possibly face a parole violation.

The signs began arriving last week in the mailboxes of the about 1,200 violent and child-sex offenders across Maryland. The signs were accompanied by a letter explaining they must stay at home, turn off outside lights and not answer the door on Halloween.

Does the Scarlet Pumpkin strike you as a good deterrent against bad behavior or not?

Will the Scarlet Pumpkin have the opposite of its intended effect: The cartoon is inviting to children and, in order to even begin to read the text, you have to come close — closer… Closer… CLOSER!… — to read all those words and try to make sense of the funny, orange, pumpkin face and all those strange, green, all-capitalized words.

Does the pumpkin’s gaping mouth semiotically suggest a sexual sucking?

How many young children trick-or-treating alone will know enough to avoid the house with the strange pumpkin writing in the window?

How many young children understand the word “residence” means house?

What happens if a child, wanting to get as much candy as possible, begs a parent to visit the Scarlet Pumpkin home on the corner?  Will the parent say, “Sorry, kid.  That’s the pervert’s house!”  Is sex education now regulated outside the home and remanded into the gutter as a pumpkin in a picture window?

How could the Scarlet Pumpkin idea be made clearer, and more effective, in the mean city streets surrounding pedophilia suburbia?


  1. This sounds like one of those “well intentioned” ideas that has not been thought through very well and could end up in disaster.
    The best way for this whole scenario to be avoided is for children to be accompanied either by their parents, a sibling over 18 or another “suitable/responsible adult”
    Parents should be responsible for their children – full stop.

  2. Why not have a year-round red circle with a line through it in the window, Nicola? That way the warning is in the same context all the time and not just on holidays. A pumpkin, to a child, means something fun — and that’s the totally wrong message the misguided politicos in Maryland are sending in this Scarlet Pumpkin scam.
    I agree a parent is necessary — but in many communities the kids police each other without parental involvement.

  3. This is horrendous. While the crime the perps committed is itself wrong, wrong, wrong, they should not be branded for life or should at least be given the option to put up their own signs as some people of certain religions do, stating that there will be no candy found at their home. The scarlet pumpkin is, indeed, not right.

  4. Oh, if you’re a convicted child molester, you are purposefully marked for life, Gordon. Your neighbors are alerted. You are followed by the state. You are now allowed to really even move without permission and then you are only allowed to live in certain places that are not near schools, etc.
    Here’s one national registration database:
    Here are the registries by state:

  5. If you bomb a building and kill five people and then do your time, when you get out, you are basically a free man.
    This sounds like imprisonment for life, only even worse, because you are out and about yet you aren’t.

  6. You make an excellent point, Gordon. I hate to be put in the position of defending sexual predators, but they are obviously broken in the mind and in need of serious help, and deriding them in public and marking them for life seems like a governmentally sponsored wish for their death and not their healing.
    I understand children need to be alert and warned — but there more dangerous, ongoing, predators on the street like drug dealers and executioners that demand even more severe public treatment than the Scarlet Pumpkin brigade.

  7. David,
    I agree with Nicola. Children should be accompanied by a parent. To me, the scarlet pumpkin sign would be tempting to a child’s innate sense of adventure.

  8. What do you do, Dananjay, when the parents are absent and only the children are tending each other on Halloween night? Will there be dares to approach the verboten house? Is that tempting fate or asking for trouble?

  9. Exactly, David. I think that’s a distinct possibility. Reminds me of To Kill A Mockingbird.
    In case the parents won’t be around perhaps they can make sure than their children go with other children and maybe one of their parents can accompany them.

  10. We live in more dangerous times, Dananjay — or do we? Are children more vocal today about the abuses they have to deal with than, say, 50 years ago?

  11. I love the dark look – lots of purple 😉
    I like the idea of an all year around sign – one that is known in culture as DANGER/NO ENTRY – one that should be extended in all areas.
    I have to say as a parent I did not let my kids out at night into our nearest town unattended by myself or another adult until they were 16.
    The only place they were allowed to go on their own together was the beach – and then they were on strict timetables.
    I would feel uncomfortable letting them out in an urban area with just their peers for company.
    I suppose mobile phones have negated the need for ” a responsible adult” to a certain extent – but I still believe that parents should not let their kids out unattended. I certainly would not in the USA with all the gun and knife crime you have there – let alone the risk of pedophiles.

  12. Hi Nicola!
    We have an “even purple-er Cityscape” coming your way soon… SMILE!
    Vegas is sort of an appropriate Cityscape for today’s article about sexual corruption, I think. Heh.
    Growing up in Nebraska, we kids were given a lot of room to roam. We had bicycles. We ran and walked everywhere… but one solid rule we all had to obey was “when the streetlights come on, you come home.” So we’d be playing baseball or running around and when it got too dark, the streetlamps would light up and we’d all race home. If we didn’t — then our parents went out on the porch and yelled our names into the twilight.
    It’s so good you tended your children for so long — that’s just what we need everywhere in the USA.

  13. Sadly I think there are just too many people in the world to allow our children to do that kind of thing any more.
    Woot – can never have enough purple!

  14. I think you’re right, Nicola, that the world is getting more crowded and our children are quickly getting lost in the storm of shuffling feet.
    I’m with you on purple. It’s a fab-o color!

  15. Hi David,
    I think children shouldn’t be left alone to wander freely with friends before certain age. It’s tough and heart wrenching to rob the kid’s childhood by making them understand the potential danger – they need to be gurded till it can be done.

  16. Hi David,
    It depends on lots of variables – how matured the kid is, his/her socio – economic status, location etc.
    The most important thing is only the parents can decide the right time to introduce it to their children.

  17. In that case I don’t think they should be having kids, David – it’s absolutely a waste of life.

  18. You’re right, Kathat — but these parents see having kids as their necessary birthright. How can we stop ill-prepared parents from having children?

  19. I don’t know David, half of the parents seem to be ill-prepared these days.
    Having wide ranging education should provide a matured attitude.

  20. God..no David! Those parents need counselling and help, this entire “dumping thing” gets on my nerves…

  21. What safety nets should be in place, Katha, when parents fail their children? Foster Care can’t be any worse than dumping in Nebraska — because that’s precisely where the dumped end up.

  22. Hi David,
    I doubt if there is any simple answer for that. Generating awareness is one and it can’t be done in a day.
    If the parents are just oblivious about the kids probably constant counselling will help, but if they as parents make their kid’s life miserable by being abusive (emotional, physical) – then removing the kids from that scenario is best. But the million dollar question is “where”?

  23. That is the million dollar, question, Katha — and that’s why I think prospective parents should be required to be licensed before actually having any babies.

  24. Implemented a couple hundred years ago and the world population would have been half by today!
    Very interesting proposition though – what do you think should be the benchmark?

  25. Yes! Population containment has always been an important factor in any sort of government providing for its people. I think we should re-establish the blood type testing and from there we teach basic parenting skills like providing food, shelter, caring and love and if you don’t get 100% in every area, you have to retake the class before you can earn a ticket to have a child. No medical intervention would be allowed to stanch the multiple births problem we have now.

  26. I think “the core set of values” to be ingrained a kid would be another area to be tested, David!
    Why blood types?

  27. What would the core set of values consist of, Katha? Any religion allowed?
    In the USA, there was a time when — if two people wanted to marry they have to be type tested for blood compatibility because, the assumption was, you were marrying to have children — and if your blood types were incompatible, the child would die or never provide a live birth. If your types were incompatible, you could not marry for the welfare of your future children.
    Today, with differences in RH factor and typing, doctors can fix that with medication, but as recently as the mid-1960’s, RH incompatibilities between parents could still lead to birth defects, blindness or Deafness. Most parents could get away with having a couple of kids and not get struck, but the third or fourth child is where the RH factor really became magnified — especially without medical intervention.

  28. Hi David,
    I think some basic rules of ethics would do – mostly, live and let live sort of. Inserting religion at such an young age seems kind of brainwashing to me – kids should be left alone to choose their own belief about religion.
    Ok, RH factor – now I know! Yes, very important!

  29. That makes sense to me, Katha. If we rely on religion to provide core values, we risk an “RH Factor incompatibility” with the rest of the world!

  30. Hi David
    Moreover, my basic priciples of life has got nothing to do with my religios belief – it’s best to be left compartmentalized.
    I have seen lots of corrup people in my own religion to be religious when needed – so, religion doesn’t guarantee anything!

  31. For me these will be –
    Not stealing, not harming others, being responsible, accomodative, adjusting and respecting others, understanding,tolerant, forgiving, not backstabbing, being trustworthy and so on…
    I follow this not because my religion tells me to do the same but I would like to see this “me” in the mirror every morning – that’s why.

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