Tonight We’re Gonna Party Like It’s 1899: Halloween


hallotreats6This year, all the stars are aligning for my son, our 13-year-old Halloween enthusiast:

1. Halloween is on a Friday

2. his school dismisses 2 hours early, because it is the end of a grading term

3. he has a 4-day weekend (because of the aforementioned end of term)

4. this is the last year he’s young enough to respectably go trick-or-treating (he starts high school next year).

As a consequence, Casa Owen will be Party Central on Halloween night. Afterward we’ll all tumble into bed with a sugar coma and regain consciousness sometime on Saturday.

I’ve spent so much time on Pinterest lately, combing through boards for recipes and decorating ideas, that my loved ones may stage an intervention.

How about those blood-spatter cookies...yum?
How about those blood-spatter cookies…yum?

In between all of my Pinterest-ing, I decided to put together another 19th century Halloween post for you guys. I know you all get a kick out of how those crazy Victorians like to party. If you’re new to my blog, or would like to revisit some of my older posts about 19th century Halloweens, I’ve put the links below.

After doing several of these historical Halloween posts, I thought it would be a challenge to avoid duplicating some of the tricks, party customs, and rituals of the holiday, but I found plenty of new stuff! (Apologies for the fuzzy text pics).

Did you know that it’s lucky to propose marriage on Halloween?

At least the Victorians thought so:

Hallo news1 Hallo news2a

 The World (Evening edition), Oct 31, 1890

“The couple…will have the saints to protect them and give them long life.” No mention of zombies, witches, ghosts….

No apple left behind

I learned from another source that Halloween was also referred to as “snap apple night.” We’ve all heard of (and/or participated in) apple ducking, but here’s something I didn’t know about the apple ducking custom:

Hallow news3

The World (Evening edition), Oct 31, 1890

“Whatever semblance of a letter it forms as it drops on the ground is the initial of a future husband or wife.” One wonders what letters an apple peel could form. I’m picturing Ooo. (Not even sure I could peel it in one continuous piece). Maybe the lady nudges it with her shoe a bit.

Eggs: not just for Easter

I’m not referring to egging a house, although that certainly went on, even back in those days. I’m talking about using egg shells as party favors:

hallo news4

New York Daily Tribune, Oct 7, 1900

“Each shell must be carefully broken at the smaller end….” I’ll bet the cook was cursing under her breath at having to break all those eggs at the narrow end and get the goop out of it. And now, let’s put little trinkets in there!

Get a marriage proposal, or die trying

Here’s a fun little “predictor” of whether or not you’ll get a proposal before the next Halloween rolls around:

hallo news5

The World (Evening edition), Oct 31, 1890

Three plates, containing  a ring, water, or earth. Our choices are marriage, travel, or death? That’s harsh.

Ghost stories

Ah, here’s a tried-and-true Halloween tradition that doesn’t require discarded food parts, or dirt.

hallo news6

New York Daily Tribune, Oct 7, 1900

A cool method for timing a story, don’t you think? I’d never heard of setting fire to alcohol-soaked-salt. (And you know you’re going to try it, right?).

How about you guys? Any favorite customs? How about favorite party games? Who knows, it may be on Pinterest. 😉

Want more Halloween posts from K.B. Owen Mysteries? Check out these:


How was Halloween celebrated in the 19th century?

19th century Halloweens: the tricks

19th century Halloweens: the treats

Retro-future: Ouija boards


Pumpkin fudge and barfing pumpkins

Halloween, Gangnam Style


Happy Halloween, everyone!


UnseemlyAmbition small

P.S. – My Unseemly Ambition giveaway is in full swing! Click here for the list of prizes and how to get your name in the drawing (multiple times!).

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10 thoughts on “Tonight We’re Gonna Party Like It’s 1899: Halloween”

  1. StephLoveStephLove

    There’s a good example of the apple peel game in Margaret Atwood’s Alias Grace. The scene takes place in the 1850s in Canada. The whole book is also a marvelous read for anyone interested in details of Victorian daily life.

  2. Kassandra LambKassandra Lamb

    I love your blast from the past posts, Kathy! I think you outdid yourself with this one.

  3. Gloria RichardGloria Richard

    Oooooh! I’m intrigued by those carefully folded bits of paper in the eggshells which, when read aloud, may result in much hilarity. <==== Close enough. I'm too lazy to get it verbatim.

    Might be fun to mix in some British vernacular at an American party. "Keep your pecker up if you want to succeed" springs to mind.

    My work here is done. Aren't you glad I'm back in the social media loop, K.B.? No? I'll try to behave next time, then.

    Sort of.

  4. Kirsten WeissKirsten Weiss

    Hm… that explains all those romantic Halloween vintage postcards I’ve found, as well as the superstitions on those cards about seeing your husband-to-be.

  5. Deborah MakariosDeborah Makarios

    Probably the “saints to protect you” thing is because Halloween is All Hallow’s Eve – the eve of All Saints Day. (All Hallow = All Holy = All Saints).
    Personally, I’d love to have a celebration where everyone gets dressed up as their martyr or angel of choice (St Sebastian full of arrows? St Bartholomew carrying his skin? An angel from Ezekiel, all wings and wheels and eyes?) but I fear the organizers of “Saints and Angels” parties would not look on this with favour…


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