Fun Halloween Ideas from the Past


The night wind whispers — Ghosts !
They are waiting for their hosts;
The waning moon is weary and will not be up till late ;
Already there are shadows at the gate.
A word, half heard, that is whispered in your ear,
And a presence that is felt when no one else is near.
Have you been along the corridors alone — all alone —
And listened to the wind up yonder making moan?
Have you thought about it all,
The footfall in the hall
That comes and goes — comes and goes —
With the measure of a heartbeat of a life that ebbs and flows ?

The poem above was the first item in a nearly 200 page book, Hallowe’en Festivities  by Stanley Schell, put out in 1903, that was devoted to giving suggestions on how to celebrate Halloween. It includes everything from examples of invitations to the party, decorations, songs, a play, pantomimes, costumes, dances, and twelve ghost stories. There are also recipes, like the following. (Notice the 1 gold ring)


One lb. butter, 2 lbs. sugar, 3 lbs. flour, 1 lb. currants, 1 lb. 
raisins, 6 eggs, 3 teaspoonfuls powdered saleratus, 1 teaspoon- 
ful ground cinnamon, \ nutmeg, 1 gold ring. Beat butter to 
a cream; add sugar after rolling it fine, add well-sifted wheat 
flour, well-beaten eggs. Dissolve saleratus in little hot water, 
add it. Also add cinnamon and grated nutmeg. Wash and 
dry currants thoroughly and stone and cut raisins in two; 
flour them all together with the ring and work them all in 
the dough. Put into large buttered tin and bake in moderate 


Consists of upper and lower crust of dough and looks like 
any large deep pie. Dish is deep and round. Bake under 
crust and upper crust. When cool, fill with sawdust and 
dainty knick-knacks. Have knick-knacks evenly scattered 
throughout sawdust. Then put on top pie crust and sprinkle 
with powdered sugar. Knick-knacks should consist of things 
pertaining to occasion, as witches on brooms, tiny jack-o'- 
lanterns, ghosts, apples, etc., — souvenirs of the occasion. 

It also lists 60 different Games to play at your party. Here are just a few:

Hide ring, thimble and penny in room. To one who finds ring speedy marriage is assured; thimble denotes life of single blessedness; penny promises wealth.

Place lighted candle in middle of floor, not too securely placed; each one jumps over it. Whoever succeeds in clearing candle is guaranteed a happy year, free of trouble or anxiety. He who knocks candle over will have a twelve- month of woe.

Float in tub of water a half walnut shell with tiny sail made of a tooth-pick and slip of paper. On paper each one writes his initials and another’s ; revealing name to no one. Boats are all launched at same time; water is agitated to make miniature waves; those whose boats are overturned will not win their lovers and sweethearts, but owners of boats that override the troubled seas will get their hearts’ desires.

Hostess enters with small round pumpkin on old pewter platter. On pumpkin are carved all letters of alphabet. One guest is blindfolded and given a hat-pin, then led to pumpkin, where she is expected to stick pin into one of the letters on the pumpkin, thus indicating the initial of future life-partner.

The dragon consists of half a pint of ignited brandy or alcohol in a dish. As soon as brandy is aflame, all lights are extinguished, and salt is freely sprinkled in dish, imparting a corpse-like pallor to every face. Candied fruits, figs, raisins, sugared almonds, etc., are thrown in, and guests snap for them with their fingers; person securing most prizes from flames will meet his true love within the year.

At one end of stick 18 inches long fasten an apple; at other end, a short piece of lighted candle. Suspend stick from ceiling by stout cord fastened in its middle so that stick will balance horizontally; while stick revolves players try to catch apple with their teeth. A prize may be in center of apple.

A raisin is strung in middle of thread a yard long, and two persons take each an end of string in mouth; whoever, by chewing string, reaches raisin first has raisin and will be first wedded.

Suspend horizontally from ceiling a barrel-hoop on which are fastened alternately at regular intervals apples, cakes, candies, candle-ends. Players gather in circle and, as it revolves, each in turn tries to bite one of the edibles; the one who seizes candle pays forfeit.

HALLOWE’EN SOUVENIR GAME. Suspend apples by means of strings in doorway or from ceiling at proper height to be caught between the teeth. First successful player receives prize. These prizes should be Hallowe’en souvenirs, such as emery cushions of silk representing tomatoes, radishes, apples, pears, pickles; or pen-wipers representing brooms, bats, cats, witches, etc.

Each one places handful of wheat flour on sheet of white paper and sprinkles it over with a pinch of salt. Some one makes it into dough, being careful not to use spring water. Each rolls up a piece of dough, spreads it out thin and flat, and marks initials on it with a new pin. The cakes are placed before fire, and all take seats as far from it as possible. This is done before eleven p.m., and between tha.t time and mid-night each one. must turn cake once. When clock strikes twelve future wife or husband of one who is to be married first will enter and lay hand on cake marked with name. Throughout whole proceeding not a word is spoken. Hence the name “dumb cake.” (If supper is served before 11.30, “Dumb Cake” should be reserved for one of the After-Supper Tests.)


If you are planning a party and want to look at all the suggestions-this book is free from the  Open Library.

By the way, If you want something to read to put you in the mood for the holiday–Uneasy Spirits, the second book in my Victorian San Francisco Mystery series, (with spirits, seances, murder and  a Hallowe’en Party all its own) is Free on Kindle October 30-31.


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