Happy Autumn, everyone! I’ve been remiss in posting lately, so here we are in another season already. But with Halloween coming up – one of my favorite holidays – I couldn’t let the blogging fun pass me by.
You know how much I love historical pop culture, so this will be in two parts. Today, we’re looking at the Halloween “tricks” of the 19th century. Next week, we’ll look at the “treats.”
It’s tempting to think of the 19th century as a time of staid decorum. However, the young people of the 19th century were a surprisingly mischievous lot. If toilet paper had been a common household item in the 19th century (check out this post for the reasons why it wasn’t), you can bet the local houses and trees would be littered with the stuff. Of course, a lot of egging and soaping went on, which even today are tried-and-true pranks.
The culprits seemed to be mostly boys:
Wonder what a “tick-tack” is? So did I. I learned it’s a homemade device that creates a tapping sound to make the victim of the prank believe that someone was at the door. It can be triggered from a distance, with the culprit out of sight. Here’s a description:
Boys would make “tick-tacks,” cutting notches in the ends of a wooden spool and winding string around it. The spool would be placed right up against a window, with a nail serving as an axle. When the string was pulled, it made a loud and rapid “tick-tack” noise.
Read more: Halloween Traditions | Infoplease.com http://www.infoplease.com/spot/halloween2.html#ixzz2iSqyEgnV
Those boys were ingenious little beggars, weren’t they?
Sign-stealing and switching seemed to be a favorite prank, too:
That’s probably a tougher trick to pull off these days, when most signs are digital. However, some older movie theater marquees and high school announcement boards are still prone to “re-lettering,” even today!
Here’s a creative (and back-breaking) prank that was pulled on one family:
There’s more to the article, but you get the gist of it. The story ends with some skepticism about how the youths could have managed to move big marble blocks into the yard, especially when it took several burly men to put them back. I love the mention of screaming school teachers. What a mental image!
It seemed that boys didn’t quite grow out of Halloween mischief-making once they went off to college, either. For the tale of the horse in the hall, molasses-smeared chapel pews, and more, check out last year’s post on the subject.
While we’re in “old-fashioned” mode, ever want to make your own candy corn? I haven’t tried this recipe, but it looks interesting:
How to Make Homemade Candy Corn
More Halloween fun
Misterio Press author and former psychologist Kassandra Lamb has a cool post out today about the psychology behind fright-seeking: Why is Being Scared Out of Our Wits Fun? Interesting stuff!
Coming this Friday, October 25th, 4-7pm EDT: for all of you Facebook members out there, please join us for Misterio Press’s Halloween Party!
We’re going to have a blast. There will be mystery trivia games, pumpkin recipes, digital cocktails, ghost stories, and SWAG! The Misterio Press authors (including me!) will be giving away free ebook copies of our mysteries, along with mugs, magnets, keychains, and more, as prizes for the puzzles and trivia contests. Lots of spooky fun – hope you can join us!
Here’s some of the swag I’m planning to give away:
Nothing is to scale, or course, but you get the idea. 😀
Until next time,
18 thoughts on “19th century Halloweens: the Tricks”
Kathy – I had no idea of all of this mischief! Some of the tricks do sound like fun though. That tick-tack idea is ingenious! But – erm – really? No toilet paper? No, thanks…. ;-).
Thanks for the candy corn recipe – it does look interesting.
I just fixed the candy corn link…for some reason it didn’t come out right the first time. I’m with you on the t.p… and I’m thinking about that tick-tack and kids today. Do you think there’s an app for that? 😉
Thanks for stopping by, Margot!
Kathy, the mischievous side of me (the largest side if the truth be known) loved the whole tick-tack idea. I think I might have to rig something up using some modern technology. *wicked grin*
Zack, I’ll bet you could rig any kind of mousetrap your wicked imagination could come up with! I’m giving you a wide berth this Halloween! 😀
I think I’m going to have some fun this year!
You don’t want to stop by??? 😉
I always love your history posts, Kathy! That tick-tack thing sounds like it would definitely get homeowners rattled on a dark and stormy Halloween night.
It’s perfect, right? It’s dark out, you’re already expecting tricksters to try something, and then you hear noises…yep, that’s a recipe for a sleepless night. Thanks for stopping by, Kass!
Loved this. Takes me down memory lane. I grew up in Iowa and while I wasn’t living on a farm, most of my relatives were. The air would be blue with curses over the overturned outhouses or perhaps worse, when they rascals sneaked into the outhouses and cellophaned the toilet seats! No need to explain that awfulness.
Wow, Sharla Rae – cellophaning the toilet seats? Overturned outhouses? Truly evil. Much funnier in retrospect, isn’t it? Nice to see you!
Those rascals! But the tombstone thing is creepy–because, really, how could they have moved them? That needs to be a story.
Hi, Amy! *waves* I’m sure you can come up with something truly worthy of the season…the walking tombstones. 😉
I just started a book yesterday that referred to the mischief on Halloween night as Cabbage Night. I’d never heard of that term, but looks like the cabbage throwing has been around for a long time. 🙂
By the way, great book swag!
Interesting! I’d never heard of Cabbage Night, either, but it makes sense. Thanks Coleen! 😀
What a fun post, Kathy! I love a boy’s imagination! They come up with the best pranks.
I’ll try to make it for the Misterio party. Your swag is very cool!
Thanks, Marcia! It would be terrific to see you there. Costumes are optional!
Oh, I got into a lot of Halloween mischief when I ws a kid, then as a teen, then in college. I was a bad boy , er, ghost!
Love the history snippets! Happy Halloween!
So are you now reformed, Phil? Or still causing trouble? 😉
Thanks for the visit!
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