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Evening star. [volume] (Washington, D.C.) 1854-1972, October 25, 1931, Image 80

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Halloween Rites Today and in the Past
M rou P °f ashington Light Infantry masqueraders. First row, left to right: Thomas B. Walker~(with barred trousers and savage mustache); John A. Heydler, now
president of the National Base Ball (wearing derby); Charles Slentz, Jesse Grant (wearing white chapeau), Charles Hammond (dressed as Buffalo Bill). Second
rase, standing in front of tent at right: Jesse B. K. Lee and J. Cal O' Loughlin (small figure in white).
WHAT a great comfort and pleas
ure It Is for people of middle
or advanced age to dream of
their childhood when they
were receiving their early edu
cation. Their teachers and
companions, and even the old school house it
self, come vividly to mind and receive a kind
thought or word as the panorama of youthful
happenings recurs to the mind and is viewed in
all its splendor in that great storehouse and
reflection of thoughts—fond memory's lane.
The Sabbath school is not forgotten, nor are
the excursion resorts, the picnic grounds, the
boys and girls who lived in some particular
neighborhood, the unusual characters they saw
or came in contact with, the circuses that came
to town, and all the things and events that
went to make up the joys of early life, not to
omit, of course, the little heartaches which
frequently enter into childhood days.
In the writer’s youth, as he particularly re
calls, Christmas, Fourth of July, the old swim
ming holes in Rock Creek, the big bonfires
on election night and the tricks played on
Halloween stand out most prominently in his
Os course, when the writer was a boy, Wash
ington was small compared with its present
population. In the northern part of the Dis
trict the city then actually ended at about P
street, and north of this there was only a
sprinkling of houses, and many entire squares
were unimproved. To be more precise, so re
cent as 1175 there were few houses north and
east of St. Aloysius Church except the colony
known as Swamp Poodle. East of Eighth street
southeast there were few buildings, and in the
section of Dupont Circle the residences
were few and far between.
Indeed there was then much vacant ground
In all parts of Washington, South Washington
Included, and the little frame, box-shaped, one
story dwelling was considerably in evidence
throughout the city. A few of these may still
be seen, inspiring fond memories of the past.
There was then plenty of open space for
fireworks on Independence day, lots of room
for bonfires, and the kids had acres of fields
upon which to play, where now are blocks of
houses, and where they could perform all kinds
of diabolical and fiendish tricks, if they wished
to, which could not be tolerated or permitted
in a big metropolitan city such as Washington
has since grown to be.
IT is said by some that Halloween was not cele
brated with the same eclat and enthusiasm
following the Civil War as it was prior to that
time. Maybe this is true; but those who were
born subsequent to that event win never be
lieve so—especially the boys who lived in the
sparsely settled parts of Washington and who,
seemingly, roamed at will—like sons of wild
jackasses, as Senator Ifoses would say—and
who had no respect for anybody or anything.
The Police Department was kept busy pro
tecting people’s property. For in the days of
bonfires, which surely did not cease until
around IMS, such detachable things as front
gates were not safe, and anywhere a box, bar
rel, hogshead or other portable wood could bo
found it was added Is the bonfire, the reflec
tion from which at times looked as though
Mat part at ths cfty ware on firs.
Many of the smil frame houses here of M
How Event Was Celebrated in Washington
When City Was Small — Bonfires,
Omnibus Rides and Masquerades.
yean ago and earlier had before the front door
a small stoop of one, two or three steps, as was
required to make access to the home easy. In
many cases these were not nailed to the house,
and when the "foraging" or scouting party
found one that was not, It was quickly carried
away and consigned to the flames, and many
a person almost broke his neck the following
morning when he stepped out of the door and
landed horizontally upon the ground, Instead
of perpendicularly upon the accustomed stoop.
Many of the things the boys did in those
days were really dangerous and had to be
stepped. The writer recalls an Incident where
a rope was tied from one of tlm old, low fire
plugs near the curb to a fence a few feet
away, endangering the life and limb of any one
who might pass along the sidewalk that way.
A night or so before, the Schneiders—who then
lived in the Garfield Hospital property—had
given a dinner at their home, and the caterer,
with a large basket of dishes was the first one,
that Halloween night, to pass that way. When
in the darkness he struck that rope and went
down sprawling with his load of chinaware,
the rattle of which could be heard for a block.
Just as sure as “the thief does fear each bush
and officer,” so did the rapscallions who placed
the obstruction there fear the officers under
Lieut. Johnson, and soon thereafter each one
sneaked into his home and to bed, expecting he
might be awakened anytime before morning
and charged with the offense.
BUT the making of bonfires for the purpose
of celebrating some particular event is not
of recent origin at all, and no doubt was prac
ticed everywhere as far back as pre-historic
days. In the District of Columbia, until pre
vented by fire regulations, it was a common
form of exult ~tlon, and during the early part of
the admlnistirtion of President Tyler, In 1841,
when the repeal of the subtreasury act was
passed, we find it noted that a thousand or
more Jubilant Washington Whigs marched in
procession from Capitol Hill to the White
House, with torches, music, transparencies and
fireworks, escorting a catafalque on which was
a coffin labeled “The Subtreasury.” Also, that,
"the procession moved slowly along Pennsyl
vania avenue,” and that “bonfires were kindled
at the intersecting streets, many houses were
Illuminated and there was general rejoicing.”
But the destroying of private property in
this way was not the only method used, and
as many will recall, others were equally as
The Star was never keen for this kind of so
called sport and the day after the Halloween
celebration of 1882, said:
"Mischievous Fun.—Last evenfhg, AH Hal
loween, the boys throughout the city had their
fun. If mischief can be called so. and crowds
«t them could be seen In all directions bent on
playing some trick on their neighbor. In some
cases, not content with throwing vegetables in
through a door or window, the fronts of houses
were daubed with filth, and even the street cars
were invaded by some youngsters with small
packets of flour, which they bursted so to pow
der the dresses of passengers. About 7 o’clock
p.m. a crowd of boys set on fire an old hogs
head of straw near North Capitol street and
Massachusetts avenue, causing an alarm of
fire to be turned in and a run of engines. The
fire was extinguished with a few buckets of
water before the arrival of the engines, and as
the firemen drew off they were followed by a
crowd of boys, who Jeered them for being
taken in.”
A few years later The Star even more forcibly
expressed itself upon the subject, editorially,
"Halloween, properly employed and enjoyed,
is a noteworthy season. The fun of imitating
the mysteries of divination and noting the
antic combinations they often bring forth is
unobjectionable. There are some sorts of mum
meries, however, which are neither significant
nor otherwise interesting, which have nothing
witty in them, and whleh contribute only to
the annoyance of the community. Last year,
and on other occasions, this sort of horse
play has resulted in serious accidents, some
times in actual bloodshed. There is no reason
why the lives, limbs and property of reputable
citisens should be placed at the mercy of the
hoodlum element for one night in the year any
more than for the remaining 364. In the days
when Washington was only an overgrown vil
lage many things of this sort were overlooked.
But we have now a populous and handsome
city which carries upon her shoulders a certain
special dignity as Capital of a great Republic.
The police regulations which prohibit dangerous
mischief of all sorts in the streets should be
strictly enforced, wlth.no exception in favor of
IUST when Halloween first came into ex
istence the writer does not know, but the
reasons for its establishment are easily obtain
able; for we are told that from the beginning
of the Christian era, and even before, the prac
tice of designating and worshiping saints has
been a religious custom. Most naturally, in this
respect, special days were assigned to the wor
ship of each saint, and as years and centuries
passed by it was found that there were more
saints than there were days in the year, and so
to take care of the overflow, as, it were, Novem
ber 1 was designated as a day to be kept in
honor of all the saints and that it should be
known as All-Hallow mass, or All-Saints’ day,
and that the night of October 31, immediately
preceding it, should be kept as a vigil and be
known as All-Hallow eve.
Poring over the files of The Star of nearly
half a century ago, the writer came across an
item that tells what Halloween means aul
stands for, In addition to what has already been
said. It follows:
“The Night When Fairies Hold High Carnival
and Boys and Girls Dive for Apples.
“This evening is All-Hallow eve night, and tbs
people who have doorbells, and the young men
whose matrimonial fate is still undetermined;
had better be on the outlook, for this is the
night of all the year when danger threatens
both them interests. All-Halloween or eve it
so called because it is the night immediately;
preceding All-Hallowmas, or All-Saints* day.
which is the Ist of November, and is observed
by the Roman Catholic, Protestant Episcopal
and Lutheran Churches as a festival in honor
of all the saints.
“It was said that in the older time all the
spirits, both of the visible and invisible world;
in this evening walked the earth. All devil*
and witches are believed to be abroad and the
fairies are said to hold high carnival. It ig
for this reason that youth and maidens en
deavor to peer into the future and obtain soma
forecast of their matrimonial prospects. Ruts;
apples and cakes are used in these mystic
ceremonies, and a great deal of fun and arnnsn
ment is derived from the signs and omens
- obtained. The boys, as soon as darkness sets
in, begin their celebration, and by mysterious
noises on the windowp&nes, the ringing of door
bells, and then running away before they can
be answered, they have a good deal of fun.
whatever enjoyment their victims may be
to extract from this form of observing the
INDEED, spirits and devils and witches
sorcery existed in the minds of the people
as far back as history and tradition go. In the
Second Book of Moses we find It said: "Thou
shall not suffer a witch to live.” Shakespeare,
we will recall, has Hamlet talking to his father’s
ghost, and It is the exception to find an early;
writer who did not place confidence in the
supernatural. Upon one occasion, In our own
country, as reoent as 1692, up in Salem, Mass,.
19 of toe best people of toe town were executed
upon one occasion far being witches. So U
our Washington boys of a former day were
downright bad, at least they were a colossal
Improvement over our Salem ancestors, and
beside when it is known that one of those who
participated in toe executions mentioned bora
the distinctive reputation of being toe greatest
scholar and author that America had then
produced—it only goes to show that biographies
do not always tell the truth.
Sir William Blackstone in his “Commentaries
on the Laws of England” ends his reference to
the laws relating to witchcraft, conjurative, en
chantment or sorcery, by saying: "Wherefore K
seems to be toe mast eligible way to conclude,
with an Ingenious writer of our own, that in
general there has been such a thing as witch
craft, though one cannot give credit to any
particular modern Instance of it.” And so
to education are we indebted today for not
taking seriously toe tomfoolery of our ancestors,
who evidently were easily persuaded to believe
most anything, and toe poor old feeble woenen
of our midst whom we gladly venerate and
respect are not branded as witches and thrown
into prison, or burned at toe stake, or other**
wise executed, as was formerly toe barbarous
When the writer was a boy there were any

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