Halloween Parties a Hundred Years Ago

18-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Friday, October 31, 1913: At last this old house sees a party. It was fun to see the guests arrive. There were gowned in many crazy ways. One fellow wore a skirt with hoops and looked too silly for anything. We also had a clown, a ghost, and a witch. The rest were dressed in any old way. As for the false faces, they were about as ugly as could be. There were twenty-one in all and made quite a merry company.

As it was Halloween, one of the guests caught it. Someone unhitched his buggy and carted it away, but it was found at last.

Picture Source: Ladies Home Journal (October, 1913)

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Boo! What a fun party!

Here’s the description of a Halloween party in the October, 1913 issue of McCall’s Magazine:

The house is dark as the guests arrive. A black-robed figure silently opens the door, and mysteriously points them up the staircase, illuminated by a single Jack-o’-Lantern, to a dark room above, where they may remove their wraps. A mysterious something, swathed in a sheet, assists them. . .

As they leave the room voices have dropped to whispers and timid ones stay close together. They follow a series of pointing hands, cut out of black paper, which are indicated by the yellow splotches of candles along the dark hall.

Finally, they come to a large room, dark save for one orange light, where an icy hand takes theirs and leads them to seats. The hand is a glove filled with ice, which the hostess extends. Before the silence becomes oppressive; light appears at the far end of the room behind a sheet. Then begins a shadow pantomime. The real figures are between the light and the sheet, so that the audience sees only their shadows thrown upon the latter.

The pantomime may be anything you choose: not more than four people should be in it, and they will have no end of fun, the week beforehand, working out any scheme they devise.

Some rehearsing will be necessary to regulate the lights, as their distance from the curtain determines whether the shadows will  be large or small. The last picture must show witches with capes and high-pointed caps, singing weird incantations over a caldron. They are still there when the sheet is drawn aside and the guests rush forward, to recognize in one of them their hostess. As the lights are raised, the tension breaks and the merriment runs high.



19 thoughts on “Halloween Parties a Hundred Years Ago

  1. Sounds like it was quite a party with 21 in attendance. I like the description of the party from the magazine, especially the bit about the cold hand( glove filled with ice!).

  2. Grandma didn’t say how she was “gowned”. I like the way she told of what I take she meant a prank. “As it was Halloween, one of the guests caught it. Someone unhitched his buggy and carted it away, but it was found at last.”

  3. I swear people were more inventive and creative before the internet! And this sounds so much more fun than what passes today. What I am doing later–case in point here 🙂 –is avoiding the trick-or-treaters! I know, “Boo-humbug!”

  4. What caught me off guard in this diary entry was the mention of unhitching the buggy. It was a reminder of how long ago the diary was written.

    1. It definitely was a different time. The party sounded like so much fun – unhitching buggies and all. I learned so much about my grandmother and her times when I was posting her diary entries.

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