Monday, October 28, 2013



Okay - it was definitely not a Trick-or-Treat prank that left my blog without a post for the weekend. Life simply became overly busy with all the Halloween festivities and I messed up. My most sincere apologies to all.

Today I wanted to write about the joys of Trick-or-Treating. Or, at least, the Trick. I want to save the Treat for tomorrow's post.

In parts of Europe, in days past, a version of Trick-or-Treating involved guisers. People would go out in disguise, with vegetable lanterns, to ward off evil spirits and tricky fairies. This occurred during Samhain, after harvest was complete, supposedly the night most conducive for mischief makers to inflict their trickery. When the traditions came across the ocean, they eventually changed into what we participate in today.

The wildly popular phenomenon of Trick-or-Treating made its debut in the United States sometimes in the 1930s. Originally, it seems to have been more of an opportunity for the young people to prank their elders than a chance to beg candy from their neighbors.

I wasn't around during that era, but I've heard tales from my father and father-in-law, among others, about the tricks they got up to while celebrating Halloween. These antics were all popular for kids living in small towns or out in the country. I don't have any knowledge of what occurred in the city.

One favorite was to wait for the teacher to make a trip to the outhouse, and then nail the door shut. That left the students free for awhile to enjoy an extra recess or two. When hearing this story, I never received a solid answer as to whether or not they always let the teacher out before the end of the school day. Definitely not a good way to expect treats in return, I would say.

Another favorite involved moving the neighbor's outhouse to the top of his barn, or some other unlikely place. This prank was always performed during the late hours of the night, probably because it's pretty hard to hide an outhouse behind your back if someone steps out of the house unexpectedly. 

I don't know what the preoccupation was with outhouses, but it seemed to be a popular target for early tricksters.

The tale I always thought was most interesting was one my father-in-law told me involving a covered bridge not far from his boyhood home. He and his friends would go out late in the evening and wait down the bank near one end of the bridge. They would have already "borrowed" two large hog panels (that's a section of heavy wire fencing that's used to make temporary hog pens) from home or from another nearby farm. They would wire one panel across one end of the bridge. Then they'd wait in the dark for a car to come along. As soon as the car cleared the near end of the bridge, the boys would climb up the bank and wire the other hog panel to that end of the bridge, trapping the car, at least temporarily, in the middle. Then they would run, knowing that the motorist would be busy for a while, unless he happened to carry wire cutters with him.

I'm sure that was all hilarious fun, but those early forays into Halloween revelry didn't seem to include much opportunity for treats. 

Do you have stories of bygone days that include Halloween trickery? I'd love to hear them.

In the meantime, 


Cordelia Dinsmore


Sharon Ledwith said...

I remember some kids (not me!) shovelling dog poop into a paper bag, going to a house, lighting the bag on fire and setting in on the stoop. Then they rang the doorbell and went to hide. You can imagine what happened next...

Cordelia Dinsmore said...

Oh, I can well imagine, Sharon, although I never met up with that one, personally. Aside from yards, soaping some windows, and a few cases of egg-tossing (I was the recipient of THAT one once, the worst I ever saw was when someone put water in a car and then covered it with macaroni. I saw that one, but wasn't in on it. My mother would have killed me if I had defaced anyone's property.

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