Macabre Mall-evolence at Shopping Centers

Times Staff Writer

They'll be giving away candy sticks at See's and dinosaur erasers at the Imaginarium. If you held out your bag last year at Nordstrom and Robinson's, you got perfume. The lingerie store gave away sachet. Godiva's is iffy, though. And forget Ralph Lauren.

Welcome to trick-or-treating in the eyes of at least one county 11-year-old, well accustomed to the malling of Halloween.

"You get more candy here and you're safer," Anjuli Bijlani said Sunday as she and a friend, Tara Larsen, helped younger children fish for prizes in a fountain at MainPlace/Santa Ana as part of a pre-Halloween carnival. Tonight they will be among about 3,000 trick-or-treaters going from store to store with open sacks at the mall.

With jugglers, a costume contest and a $1 Halloween movie, "It's much more funner than going out on the street," Anjuli said. It may also be more lucrative, candywise. If they hit all the stores that give out prizes and candy, that will be 144 of 170 shops.

In her El Toro neighborhood, by contrast, many houses are dark. And in some, the folks are "grotchety," Anjuli said.

"You know these stores won't risk their reputation (with bad candy). And it's safe here. They don't have motorcycles driving through here."

Also, her mother, Judy Bijlani, is marketing director for MainPlace.

Most county malls are opening up for Halloween, a practice that has been spreading nationally for 6 years as an alternative for worried parents, Bijlani said. At the mall, security guards check to assure that only those wearing official "Happy Halloween" buttons are passing out candy.

Huntington Center in Huntington Beach is expecting about 400 young trick-or-treaters.

"They come in a steady stream, like a train going from store to store," said Karen Miller, who works at the mall's information booth. "It's just like a neighborhood."

"We get a lot of parents," said Kathy Allen, manager of See's at MainPlace. "We always try to give what we can. We give them an orange crispie in a wrapper."

Rising adult interest in Halloween has made Oct. 31 a monster holiday, second in commercial sales only to Christmas, according to mall officials. But Bijlani said sales are a factor secondary to community service: "It puts the personal touch back in. Two and three families will come together and make a party of it."

Toddie Barbarogh, shopping Sunday at MainPlace with her 4-year-old son, Brian, said they will return from their Yorba Linda home to trick-or-treat at a local mall tonight.

In their own neighborhood, although they know the neighbors, small children "get scared of witches and the dark," she said.

Barbarogh grew up in Garden Grove at a time when there were orange groves and you could trust your neighbors to hand out popcorn balls that would not hurt you, she said.

No longer. She said she advises friends to take advantage of free trick-or-treat X-ray service offered at Anaheim Memorial Hospital. "It's sad," she said. "You can't trust everybody."

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