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Maybe it was the stubble on his chin or his deep voice that gave it away.

But last Halloween, when Scott Blackwell went trick-or-treating at one particular townhouse in Calgary, he didn't get the Tootsie Roll he was hoping for.

Mr. Blackwell - who turns 32 today - got a cold stare.

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"You're too old," said the man with the candy.

"What a joke," mumbled Mr. Blackwell on his way down the staircase, seconds before the homeowner burst through the front door in his stocking feet to chase him far down the street.

Tonight, when preteen ghouls and goblins take to the streets, they won't be the only ones looking for a share of October's annual candy haul. They will be joined by cleverly disguised teens and adults who would rather go a-knocking for candy than dish it out at home.

These senior trick-or-treaters are practised in the art of subterfuge, opting for costumes that help them "fully hide," says Faten Hodroge, the owner of Oya Costumes in Montreal. "They wear the ghost style, full mask, heavy makeup and green wigs for somebody who doesn't like to show their face."

Mr. Blackwell hides behind an orange mask, sunglasses and tuque. He wears an orange cape, black dress pants and a sweatshirt emblazoned with a pumpkin, which is wired with blinking LED lights.

He calls his costume Pumpkin Hood, a sort of Santa-inspired Halloween superhero he conjured up in 2004, who snags candy from suburban homes and later gives it away to the bar-and-club crowd.

"The older you get, the more fun this is," he said. "Let's face it, you can blow by kids faster and yell 'trick-or-treat' louder."

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But for Mr. Blackwell, the candy collection is incidental. "The purpose is fun," he said. "If you're just getting candy and you're not having fun, you're not participating in Halloween."

A waiter by day, Mr. Blackwell starts trick-or-treating at the local mall at noon (he never works on Halloween), hits up homes after dinner, and by night's end his bursting pillowcase weighs up to 20 pounds.

"I consider it a sport to see how many houses I can do. I am fairly breathless when I arrive at people's homes," he said, but notices more and more that "they just judge you by your size and your voice."

Lillie Alexandra Afriat, a 19-year-old public relations assistant in Toronto, typically trick-or-treats with her friends while on their way to Halloween parties.

"Every single Desperate Housewives-style woman that would turn us away would laugh in our face and say, 'Aren't you a bit old for this?' " says Ms. Afriat, who often dresses up as a blood-drenched zombie.

"If you've got the costume and you've got the spirit, how can [they]say no?" she asks. "Halloween is for everyone."

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Holly Grice, a 13-year-old from Toronto, thinks the hunt for candy has no expiry date.

"I still trick-or-treat because no matter how old you are, you should still be able to do stuff that little children do," she said.

But others, such as Helen Ward, the president of the Kids First Parents Association of Canada, think it's just for the kids.

"Going out to trick-or-treat, eating candy and bubble gum, is babyish," said Ms. Ward, a mother of two based in Burnaby, B.C.

She said the cutoff age should be students in middle school. "But some kids are shorter and are taking advantage of that," she said.

"It's an inappropriate extension of childhood. Let the kids have their candy."

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While some homeowners turn away senior trick-or-treaters, most are used to accommodating them.

"The fear factor is something. You're afraid of them," said Karen Korody, the treasurer of the Lakeshore Woods Residents' Association in Oakville, Ont. She turns off her lights around 8 p.m., when the young kids head home. But if trick-or-treaters still come knocking, Ms. Korody will dish out candy to the older crowd, as do many homeowners in her neighbourhood, "so they don't come back to throw eggs, or whatever." She can tell their age by their height, she said. "It's been an issue, for sure."

It all goes back to the tradition of trick-or-treating: If boys and ghouls are refused a treat, they are allowed to play a "trick" on the homeowner (which usually involves vandalizing their property).

But the homeowners may fight back in other ways.

In recent years, Mr. Blackwell's pillow case has been filled with toothbrushes, dinner mints and cans of pop in place of candy.

Still, Pumpkin Hood doesn't complain.

"You got to step up and be an adult," he says.

Spooky scamming 101

If you are of dubious trick-or-treat age, keep these tricks in mind:

Cover as much of your face as possible. Going incognito is a must for hiding your age.

Cake on the makeup. Blood gashes and gore can distract people from noticing your age.

Go cute - think Paper Bag Princess or SpongeBob SquarePants, not strippers or pimps.

Wear sneakers, not dress shoes. (You may need to run.)

Men, shave before you leave the house, especially if your mask exposes your chin.

Unless you can keep your voice up at a prepubescent pitch, keep your mouth shut while others holler "trick-or-treat!"

Nadja Sayej

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