Winchester man creates candy cannon for socially distanced trick-or-treating

"Please hold, your candy is on the way."

Neighborhood kids from left Ethan Murtie, 5, Torran Archer, 9, Sula Archer, 5 and Ione Archer, 5, watch candy as it drops down into a chute after they attended a nearby halloween party on Friday evening. John Downs of Winchester created the candy chute that delivers candy into people's hands by pressing a button. The fully automatic candy delivery system took him about 10 days to build and sits on his front lawn. It's a safe way to celebrate trick-or-treating in the age of COVID-19.
Neighborhood kids from left Ethan Murtie, 5, Torran Archer, 9, Sula Archer, 5 and Ione Archer, 5, watch candy as it drops down into a chute after they attended a nearby Halloween party on Friday evening. John Downs of Winchester created the candy chute that delivers candy into people's hands by pressing a button. The fully automatic candy delivery system took him about 10 days to build and sits on his front lawn. It's a safe way to celebrate trick-or-treating in the age of COVID-19. –Erin Clark/Globe Staff

Hoping to lift spirits and keep traditions alive this Halloween season, one Winchester man constructed a unique plan to make sure neighbors could still curb their sweet tooth while keeping the experience contact-free. 

John Downs’ candy delivery system, as featured in a video posted on Facebook, is over nine feet tall and powered by a vacuum. 

With flashing green and purple striped lights flickering through the delivery tube, and fog pumping out of the contraption’s chimney, the candy cannon serves as a socially distanced way for kids to safely trick-or-treat.  

“Please hold, your candy is on the way,” the machine announces after a visitor has pushed its glowing green button. Then, a computer releases a treat and the vacuum uses air to shoot it down the tube for whoever is waiting on the other end. 

John Downs of Winchester stands next to the candy chute he created that delivers candy into people’s hands by pressing a button. The fully automatic candy delivery system took him about 10 days to build and sits on his front lawn. It’s a safe way to celebrate trick-or-treating in the age of COVID-19. —Erin Clark/Globe Staff
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“Since it’s been out last week, I come out here every day and load the candy and we pretty much go through a 120-piece stack each day,” Downs told WBZ-TV, adding that the project took more than 80 hours from start to finish. “When it’s something like this, something that’s like a passion project, those hours don’t even matter anymore.” 

Steps away from Downs’ creation is a small donation box dedicated to the Boston Resiliency Fund. In a letter to neighborhood visitors, Downs said the cannon will continue to be operational for the next few weeks. And while it is, he said he’ll be collecting donations to give directly to the city’s fund. 

“This neighborhood has always had a longstanding tradition during Halloween, and we hope that we are able to provide that little bit of encouragement during this 2020 Halloween season,” the letter read. “With COVID-19 changing how we all live our lives, we hope that you will feel comfortable coming by for a piece of candy delivered to you by the Candy Cannon. No matter the time of day or Halloween or not.”


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