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West Philadelphia children celebrate Halloween by trick-or-treating in fraternity houses turned into Haunted Mansions Credit: Carmela Aquino

Batman's leaving Gotham City this Wednesday and heading over to New Jersey.

He'll be joined by a slew of other superheroes, princesses and monsters.

What's attracting all these oddities across the Delaware River? Candy, of course.

Second-grader Adam Dwyer, who plans to dress up as Batman for Halloween this year, and his mom, Marcella, are one of many families living in University City whose Halloween plans are complicated by the number of college students living in the area.

Bruce Andersen, a board member of the Spruce Hill Community Association, said that as he takes his kids closer to Penn's campus, it becomes more difficult to find good trick-or-treating.

Others have tried to stay in the neighborhood when Halloween comes around with little success.

"When we first moved here, we went trick-or-treating, but most housing with students didn't have any candy," said local resident Richard Palmer, who has a six-year-old son.

It may seem that students are the Grinches of Halloween, but in most cases, it comes down to sheer laziness.

"Nah, we're probably not going to buy any candy," a surprised Jake Ratner, a College sophomore, said when asked about his preparation for Halloween. "Why? Do you think we should?"

Families worried about safety when spending Halloween in University City often pick alternatives to door-to-door trick-or-treating.

For example, Andersen is in charge of planning an annual Halloween parade for the Spruce Hill neighborhood that attracts about 300 kids. The parade began 10 years ago in response to safety concerns after Penn researcher Vladimir Sled was stabbed to death on Halloween night on the 4300 block of Larchwood Avenue.

Andersen also pointed to other activities on Halloween that cater to families with young children: a block party near Clark Park on Regent Square, school parties and a variety of other private parties scattered throughout neighborhoods.

Many Penn students would say, however, that families don't take full advantage of their willingness to shell out candy to costumed youngsters.

College senior Paul Bottone said he hopes to have the opportunity to give candy to all sorts of little monsters and princesses on Halloween.

"None of us lived here last year, so we don't really know what to expect," said Bottone, who lives on the 4000 block of Spruce Street.

And though the options for trick-or-treating on Halloween may be slim on Penn's campus, many University organizations do their best to show some Halloween spirit.

Last Friday, a number of Greek organizations with houses on Spruce Street hosted a Halloween trick-or-treat and haunted house extravaganza for West Philadelphia kids who participate in a number of Penn-affiliated programs.

Beta Theta Pi president and College junior Jason Cali, whose fraternity organized the haunted house for Friday's festivities, said all his brothers really enjoy putting on a show for the trick-or-treaters.

"It's not one of those things we have to pull guys together to do," Cali said. "They're all pretty excited to set up their corner and get dressed up."

For Dwyer, it doesn't matter if it's Penn students or New Jerseyians greeting him at the door so long as he satisfies his sweet-tooth.

The 30-minute drive doesn't faze him, he says, because "they have so much candy over there, I eat it until I feel like I'm going to barf!"

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