Tricks and Treats, Pranks and Parties: Alaska Historical Newspapers Celebrate Halloween

Happy Halloween, everyone!

On this Halloween, like many other holidays, it’s fun to ask: what did people do to celebrate one hundred (or so) years ago? I’d like to share a few findings from Alaska Historic Newspapers that demonstrate differences and similarities.

Notable in news coverage is the association between specific vandalism involving the theft of wheels and taking the hinges off gates:

This Eve is One of Mirth: This eve is Hallowe'en. Upon this night mirth and revelry among the younger people is supposed to prevail. In the past it has been the custom of those more mischievously inclined to remove gates, wagons or anything movable, to distant parts from their original location, leaving the owner the pleasant task of finding and restoring them to their proper places.
Image credit: The daily Alaska citizen. (Fairbanks, Alaska), 31 Oct. 1918. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <>
To Celebrate Halloween: As usual the people of Skagway will tonight "haud their Halloween." The imps will be out, of course, playing their pranks and causing those who have front gates, or back ones, signs, etc., to have feelings of apprehension. There will be fairies, also, probably, to reveal the future and indulge in match making and other pleasing things, but they will certainly not be so ubiquitous as their uncanny and unholy cousins of the unknown.
Image credit: The daily Alaskan. (Skagway, Alaska), 31 Oct. 1906. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <>

As Smithsonian Magazine points out, children pulled Halloween pranks due to the mischievous nature of the night, the one day out of the year when ghosts and goblins haunted the streets freely:

“Witches, Goblins, Fairies and Imps Tonight: Tonight will be Halloween, the one night of the year when the supernatural beings that occupy the invisible world about us are permitted to materialize themselves and to play their pranks upon the credulity of mortals, with impunity.”
Image credit: The daily morning Alaskan. (Skagway, Alaska), 31 Oct. 1902. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <>

These pranks, which still manifest in the form of plastering houses with eggs and throwing toilet paper rolls up on tree branches, co-mingled with tamer activities.

Many papers report masquerade balls and parties held, not unlike the current custom of dressing in costume and attending themed festivities:

Great Crowd Enjoys Halloween Dance: There was a very large attendance at the Halloween dance given by the Ladies of the Maccabees last night, which was one of the choicest affairs of the year. The hall was elaborately and appropriately decorated. Chinese lanterns, the colors of the order, and black cats, bars and other symbols of the mysterious darkness of the night were everywhere present. The first dance was in sheets and pillow cases, and a fortune teller gave her patrons glimpses into the future. At midnight the guests were presented with the pictures of their future husbands and wives. Delicious refreshments were served at midnight.
Image credit: The daily Alaskan. (Skagway, Alaska), 01 Nov. 1906. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <>
The managers of the Hallow-een Masquerade Ball have decided not to furnish any lunch at their ball as they will be crowded for room, and have reduced the prices of admission to $1.00 for gents and 50 cents for ladies. Supper will be prepared by the various cafes.
Image credit: The Alaska prospector. (Valdez, Alaska), 30 Oct. 1902. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <>
Honoring Mrs. W. G. Powell who left last night on her way to Vancouver, B. C., Mrs. W. L. Landsborough entertained at bridge on Friday afternoon last. This was a Halloween party and a very beautiful little function. All the decorations were in Halloween colors and the favors, cards and tally sheets were in the color plan. The dining table where a delicious repast was served was appropriately decked and the afternoon was one of pleasant memories for honor guest, hostess and those other guests who were fortunate enough to be invited. The hostess was assisted by her sister, Miss Evangeline Cook. Mrs. W.G. Gable took first honors and was suitably rewarded. Mrs. Powell was given a "guest" prize as a souvenir of this delightful occasion. The guests were Mrs. Hugh G. Weir, Mrs. Hermann Miller, Mrs. E. J. Shaw, Mrs. W. G. Gable, Mrs. N. E. Black, Mrs. P. H. Ganty, Mrs. W. C. Blanchard, Mrs. Hazel C. Kirmse, Mrs. A. C. Blanchard, Mrs. L. H. Johnston, Mrs. F. J. Van de Wall, Mrs. P. H. McClelland and the compliment guest, Mrs. W. G. Powell. Mrs. S. Hill Barrington of Dawson was the out of town guest.
Image credit: The daily Alaskan. (Skagway, Alaska), 03 Nov. 1917. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <>

However you choose to celebrate Halloween night, whether with a costume, a party, trick or treats- or all of these, please do so safely.

Happy haunting!


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