Halloween stories from the past
I thought it would be fun this week to share some New Mexico newspaper articles dating from the 1920s to the 1950s about Halloween. These articles vary in subject, sharing some history of Halloween and how it was celebrated and ending with a bit of a ghost story. I hope you enjoy these historical Halloween anecdotes.
Vision editor’s note: The following newspaper articles are reprinted exactly as they were published at the time.
Carlsbad Current Argus
Oct. 21, 1948
Old Superstitions Persist In Celebration Of Hallowe’en
“The history of Halloween might well have been brewed in a bubbling cauldron by a chanting, black robed witch — for Halloween is an unbelievable mixture of ancient festivals, medieval superstition, and Christian belief.
“According to the World Book Encyclopedia‘s research experts, Halloween is the direct descendent of a harvest festival eve celebrated in Britain by the Druids before the Christian era. The night before the festival was called ‘All Soul’s Eve,’ and on this night ‘Saman,’ the Lord of Death, called together all the souls of wicked men who had been condemned to inhabit the bodies of animals. The druids believed that Saman then decided the forms the condemned souls should take for the next year. (Vision editor’s note: According to the Oxford American Dictionary Saman is also referred to as Sawen or Mac Samthainn, Samain or Samhain.)
“The belief that evil spirits roam among men on Halloween can be traced to this druidic ‘gathering of the souls.’
“The World Book researchers claim that the Druids were responsible for linking the cat with evil on Halloween. The Druids believed that cats were human beings who were changed into animals for some misdeed. This superstition took many forms, and later, cats were standard equipment for anyone who practiced witchcraft.
“When Caesar’s legions invaded Britain, the Roman Feast of Pomona mingled with the Druidic celebration. Pomona was the goddess of the autumn harvest — and nuts and apples were eaten at her festival. To this day, nuts and apples have a place in Halloween festivities.
“‘In an effort to curb the pagan aspect of the evening, the early Christian Church set aside November first as ‘All Saints’ Day.’ The evening before was then called ‘Halloween Evening’ — which was corrupted to ‘Halloween.”’
“Throughout the years the legends and superstitions grew. The origin of the jack-o’-lantern can be traced to Ireland. The legend says that a man named Jack was barred from Heaven because he was stingy. When Jack got to Hell the devil refused to admit him, because, as a human, Jack had played practical jokes on Satan. So, the stingy practical joker was condemned to walk the streets with a lantern until Judgment Day.
“Waxing windows comes from the British ‘Chalk-Back’ day. Street ruffians would chalk the backs of adults with circles to indicate that the rule of the summer sun was over.
“Children in ancient times were quick to see that Halloween superstition offered many opportunities for mischief. If gates disappeared and horses and cattle were mysteriously turned loose, the townfolk blamed it on spooks and ghosts. At the time, it was believed that wicked souls took the form of adults, so the children began dressing as grown-ups. If anyone saw the costumed youngsters engaged in a prank, the spook would be blamed. The World Book researchers say that this was the beginning of costumes for Halloween.”
Jane Dunnahoo note: Merriam-Webster Dictionary has following description of Halloween: “The spelling of Halloween derives from its earlier name All Hallows Even or Eve which took place the night before All Hallows Day, now known as All Saints Day. All Hallows Even was shortened to Hallowe’en, and later to Halloween. …”
Roswell Daily Record
Oct. 31, 1930
A Beautiful Party
“Mr. and Mrs. P.D. Wilkins opened their beautiful home on E. 2nd St. to the Fairview club for a Halloween celebration.
“The home was artistically decorated by Donald and Arlene Wilkins and Ruth Gibbany.
“The living room walls were lined with stalks of corn and a dim campfire glowed in the corners and at the fireplace while jack-o’-lanterns, made of huge pumpkins with electric bulbs for light, were placed at random. Festoons of orange and black ribbons hung from the chandeliers. Silhouettes of the day were generously used all through the house. An exquisite basket of mums was artistically arranged with candles on the dining table and quantities of mums were used in the various rooms.
“The ladies of the club under the direction of Mrs. J.E. Chambers served a bountiful supper of hot rolls, chicken, mashed potatoes, vegetables, salad, whipped cream on pumpkin pie and coffee. More than fifty guests were seated at small tables which were beautifully decorated.
“After supper Mrs. Earl Hitchcock at the piano played ‘Ase’s Death’ by Greig (Vision editor’s note: It should say Grieg as in composer Edvard Grieg) as a prelude to, “A Gruesome Tale,” told by Mrs. Roy Swisher, the gifted story teller. Mrs. Chris Schneadar appeared in ghostly costume and impersonated the Spirit in the story as it was told. After the witch told the fortunes and various games and stunts the happy crowd departed for their homes with a closer neighborly feeling and wished the Kind Spirits to abide with the Wilkins forever after.”
Jane Dunnahoo note: Arlene Wilkins later became the wife of Roy Rogers, the famed cowboy singer, actor and TV star. She died after the birth of their second child, Dusty Rogers.
Oct. 30, 1957
Halloween Carnival Slated at Hawthorne
“Hawthorne Elementary school PTA’s annual Halloween carnival will be held Thursday from 5:30 to 9 PM at the school. Co-chairman Lewis M. Larson reports that classrooms will be decorated as a spook house, fish pond, country store, cake walk, bookstore, and pie walk, and the carnival will also feature games and movies. Parents and children at the carnival can purchase hot dogs, chili dogs, donuts, soft drinks and coffee from stands which will be set up in the school cafeteria.
“‘This is the Hawthorne PTA’s only fundraising event of the school year,’ Mr. Lawson said. ‘From all indications, we’ll have an even better carnival than we have had in previous years.’”
The Clovis News
June 3, 1920
Do Graveyards Have Anything To Do With Million Dollar Wells
(New Mexico Oil Digest)
Do you believe in ghosts?
“This is graveyard stuff and not exactly a ghost story. But, according to certain persons who believe that the spirit of a man runs around nights after a man is laid safely away any story about graveyards must be about ghosts, yet it is not a ghost story. What is it about?
“Well, there’s graveyards and oil wells and a million dollars all mixed up like in it so it’d be hard to tell just exactly what it is about. But here’s the story, you can judge for yourself.
“When the Ranger field first (be)came the Pleasant Grove church and the Pleasant Grove cemetery were right in the heart of development. It was a mooted question for a long time among members whether or not to permit drilling in the graveyard. At last it was decided to drill, and as a result some of the greatest oil wells that ever spouted into the air over the mid-continent fields were found.
“At Desdemona there was a Meriman church and its nearby cemetery. Wells were drilled right along the cemetery fence. They found oil — lots of oil.
“The old-timers scratched their heads.
“‘That’s the way that graveyard up at Ranger done, too,’ they recalled and wondered, if there could be any connection between an oil well and a graveyard.
“Three months ago the Gulf Production company drilled the first well in what is now the Necessity oil field of Stephens county. That well came in making 6,000 barrels of oil and to date has produced more than a million dollars worth of oil for its owners and it is still producing oil. It has made a small fortune, $125,000 for the Crowley estate, since it was drilled on the Crowley farm.
“Turn down the lights now. Let the mournful whisper of the wind as it sighs through evergreens on the hill whine an accompaniment as a ghostly harpist fingers weird chords on his instrument. The Crowley well is only a few feet from the Necessity graveyard.”
Historian Janice Dunnahoo can be reached at [email protected].