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Hobgoblins and Witches Have Enlivened Capital in Halloween History
The old Van Ness mansion, site of the Pan-American Union Building. One of the many to talled haunted houses of Washington. Supernatural Beliefs Possessed Many Who Also Feared Flaunted FFomes Here Old Customs of This Season Preserved Through Ages, With Practices Designed To Forecast Selected Persons’ Future By John Clagett Proctor. Little Orphant Annie's came to our house to stay. An1 wash the run* an' saucers ud. an’ brush the crumbs away. An' shoo the chickens off the porch, an' bust the hearth, an' sween. An' mak* the tire, an' bake the bread, an' earn her board-an'-keep. An' all us other children, when the suoper thines Is done. We set around the kitchen Are an* has the mostest fun A-ltst'nin’ to the witch tales 'at Annie tells about. An' the Gobble-uns 'at Kits you tt you Don't Watch Out! Indeed, there are just as many goblins today as there were in Little Orphan Annie's day. and the time of James Whitcomb Riley, who wrote this beautiful poem, and even cen turies before that celebrated Hoosier poet came on earth, and they are Just as grotesque and diabolical now as ever, and just as destructive, too. And one of the things they do. out of which not even a kid can get j Any pleasure is marking up of j houses and store windows with chalk and soap, which annually costs the owners of property here thousands of dollars to remove and should be prevented. Some years ago The Star print ed an editorial along the lines of the foregoing thought, in which it •aid: -Halloween, properly employed and enjoyed, is a noteworthy sea son. The fun of imitating the mys- ; teries of divination and noting the antic combinations they often bring i forth is unobjectionable. There are some sorts of mummeries, how ever, which are neither significant nor otherwise interesting, which have nothing witty in them, and which contribute only to the an noyance of the community. Last 1 year and on other occasions, this sort of horseplay has resulted in serious accidents, sometimes in act ual bloodshed. There is no reason why the lives, limbs and property of reputable citizens should be placed at the mercy of the hood lum element for one night in the year any more than for the re maining 364. “In the days when Washington was only an overgrown village, many things of this sort were overlooked. But we have now a populous and handsome city, which carries upon her shoulders a certain special dig nity as Capital of a great Republic. The police regulations, which pro hibit dangerous mischief of all sorts in the streets should be strictly en forced. with no exception in ' .vor of Halloween.” Religious Custom. Just when Halloween first came Into existence the writer does not know, but the reasons for Its estab lishment are easily obtainable, for we are told that from the begin ning of the Christian era. and even before, the practice of honoring saints has been a religious custom. Most naturally, in this respect, spe cial days were assigned to the wor ship of each saint, ahd 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. November 1 was desig nated as a day to be kept in honor of all the saints, and it was de cided 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 flies of The Star of half a century ago, the writer came across an item that tells what Halloween means and stands for, in addition to what has already been said. It follows: •ALL-HALLOWEEN “The Night When Fairies Hold High Carnival and Boys and Girls Dive for Apples. “This evening is All-Hallow eve night, and the people who have doorbells, and the young men whose matrimonial fate is still undeter mined, had better be on the out look, for this is the night of all the year when danger threatens both these interests All-Halloween or eve is so called because it is the night immediately preceding AU Hallowmass, or All-Saints’ day, which is the first of November, and is observed by the Roman Catholic. Protestant Episcopal and Lutheran Churches as a festival in honor of ail the saints. “It was said that in the olden times all the spirits, both of the visible and invisible world, on this eve walked the earth. All devils and witches are believed to be abroad and the fairies are said to hold high carnival. It is for this reason that youths and maidens endeavor to peer into the future and obtain some forecast of their matrimonial prospects. Nuts, ap ples and cakes are used in these mystic ceremonies and a great deal of fun and amusement is derived from the signs and omens obtained. The boys, as soon as darkness sets ' in. begin their celebration, and by I mysterious noises on the window- 1 panes, the ringing of doorbells and then running away before they can be answered, they have a good deal of fun. whatever enjoyment their i victims may be able to extract from this form of obse -ving the vigil.” Back in Indeed, spirits tnd devils and witches and 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, i 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 historically recent as 1692. up in Salem. Mass., 19 of the best people of the town were ex ecuted upon one occasion for being witches. So if our Washington bovs of a former day were downlright bad. at least they were a colossal improvement over our Salem an cestors, and besides, when it is known that one of those who par ticipated in the executions men tioned bore the distinctive reputa tion of being the greatest scholar and author that America had then produced—it only goes to show that some biographers occasionally find it convenient to conceal the truth. As an oldster, looking into the past, the writer knows that there is a great deal of innocent and enjoy able pleasure to be had on Hal loween night, and recalls the Hal loween parties of his early days, for then, it seems, everybody knew everybody and such parties were usually of a neighborhood character. Naturally, the girls and boys who attended these events were known to be respectable and to fit in with the rest of those invited. The games they played then, or the tricks they played on others, were always of the harmless kind and quite unlike, in this respect, the pranks played by the boys on the outside, for their games were always too rough for the girls. Applp Bobbing. A very popular pastime at parties was bobbing for apples. A wooden tub was generally used for the pur pose. (Of course, this was in the days before metallic, stationary wash tubs were generally used and when nearly every family used the wash tub for bathing purposes, for the Saturday night bath was then looked upon as a necessity, as was i the rain barrel, from which water for bathing purposes was obtained • However, the stems were taken from the apple and pieces of wooden toothpicks placed on either side. Then the girls and the boys dived for the apples—the advantage always being in favor of the one | with the longest tongue. Some | times the girls would not take part in this sport, because they were afraid they would get their hair wet, and some other diversion was se lected. An amusing trick was sometimes played by the use of two plates, one of which was smutted or marked on the bottom and placed on a table in a dark room. The other, a clean one, was placed on a table in a room where there was a dim light. This trick was usually played on some boy or young man who wanted his fortune told, and, to accomplish what was intended, he was first given a view of the maneuvers of the fortune-teller with the clean plate and was then led into the dark room to imitate the move ments with the smutted one. When he emerged into the light again he was told to look into a mirror and his fortune would be told, and it was then that he realized that his face was smutted all over. Marriage Questions. Of course, many of the amuse ments indulged in had ”to do with the question as to who would be ! married first, or if a person would or would not be married at all. One or both of the questions was fre quently answered by placing as many names as desired in meal balls, which were placed in a re ceptacle of water, and the name that came to the surface first was declared to be the fortunate one. Sometimes added excitement was produced when several names started to come to the surface at once, and the anxiety became more Intense until the race was ended. A similar way of finding out one's I life partner was by writing the! alphabet on a sheet of paper and r\ «»«.<.*>* Snow's Tavern, northwest corner of Pennsylvania avenue and Sixth street, said to have been frequently visited by Beau Hickman, and by his ghost after his death. I then cutting the letters apart and placing them in a vessel of water. The letter that came to the top first was the initial of the future hus band or wife. The apple-paring test is an ex tremely old one. The paring of the apple is removed in one piece and then thrown about the head three times and-riropped behind the one doing the whirling, when it will form the initial of the future husband or wife. Another stunt that was usually tried on the men only was to take a cup of flour, packed tight, and turn it out on a plate; then to place a gold ring on the top of the mound thus formed. The guests then passed by the table and each one cut a slice of the flour away, and this continued until the ring fell. W’hen the person causing it to fall had to pick It out of the flour with his mouth. Naturally he got flour all over his face, and then some one with a concealed wet towel slapped it over his face and added to his discomfiture by converting his floured face into one of dough. Ring in a Cake. The use of a ring in another way was also popular at these Halloween gatherings. Here the ring was put in the cake before it was baked and at the proper time the cake was sliced in the presence j of the entire party, and the one who | got the ring was the one to be mar- ] ried first. He also kept the ring as ' a souvenir of the party. The ring played an important part in determining one's fate when t three saucers were used. Into one was placed a gold ring, indicating marriage: in another ashes, signi fying early death, and in the third water, denoting single blessedness. The one whose fate was to be de termined in this way was blind folded and turned around three times before being permitted to make a choice. While this was go- • ing on. the positions of the saucers were changed and then the person thus hoodwinked was told to put his or her hand into one of the saucers and the fate of the party was revealed. Petticoat Spell. One of the methods of getting advance information upon the fu ture—which, according to present customs, and for obvious reasons would not exactly fit in today—was known as the petticoat spell, tried as a means of finding out who some particular lady's husband was going to be. Upon going upstairs for the night the inquisitive person recited this i verse: "Halloween night I go to bed: I put my petticoat under my head To dream of the living and not of the dead, And dream of the one who I am to 1 wed.” The maiden was then supposed to advance toward the bureau and look into the mirror. Then, after pre- j paring to retire, she must walk to • the bed backward and snugly tuck the garment under her pillow and she was not to speak to any one 1 from the time she entered the room until morning. Ard the next morn ing, if the dream pleased her, she probably told even-body, and if it did not she undoubtedly kept it to herself. In an old book entitled “Ye True Arte to Read Ye Future" is the following: “If a maid would know ye name of ye man she is to marry let her on Allhallow even steal out to a lime kiln and throw there in a clue of blue yarn, still holding to ye other end. Presently ye end on ye kiln will be sharply pulled. Then ye maid must say, 'Who holds?’ Whereupon ye voice of her future husband will pronounce his name, both ye Christian and ye sur name. ’ The only trouble with this method of seeking information is to find a lime kiln around Washington. Years gone by. Edward Godey had a lime plant at Twenty-seventh and L streets, and no doubt there were others not far distant, but now it might be like hunting for a needle in a haystack. Perhaps it would be best to try some other way of getting the desired information. View of Future Mate. Here is one from “Old Father Time’s Bundle of Faggots Neatly Bound Up,” in which we are told that an infallible means of getting a view of your future husband or wife is to go to bed on Halloween with a glass of water, in which a small sliver of wood has been placed, standing on a table by your bed side. In the night you will dream of falling from a bridge into a river Tunnicliff’s Hotel, southwest corner of Ninth street and Pennsylvania avenue S.E., where patrons are said to have heard strange noises. and of being rescued by your fu ture wife or husband, whom you will see as distinctly as though viewed with waking eyes. In another old book called "Ye Mysteries of Ye Wytche Craft’’ there is given a charm "by which a maid may know if ye man she loves be true." To perform this the maid is directed to “pluck at mid night on Allhalloween two monthly roses with long stems, naming one for herself and the other for her lover. She must then go directly to her sleeping room without speak ing to any one and, kneeling beside her bed, must twine the stems of the two roses together and then repeat the following lines, mean while gazing intently upon the rose named for her lover: "Twine, twine and intertwine, Let my love be wholly mine. If his heart be kind and true, Deeper grow his rose's hue.’ “If her swain be faithful the color of the rose representing him ■will . grow darker and more intense." Walnut Ceremony. Of all the many Halloween spells and charms associated with nuts, one of the oldest is that which pre vails in some of England's northern counties, and which Is to the effect that if a young man or woman will go at midnight on Halloween to a walnut tree and walk around it three times, crying out each time “Let him <or hen that is to be my true love bring me some walnuts,” the future wife or husband will be seen in the tree gathering its fruit, i It is said that if a young woman stands before a mirror as the bell tolls midnight she wall see the figure of her future husband. There are several ways suggested for getting the foregoing informa tion. such as standing before a mir ror as the bell toUs midnight and eating an eggshell full of salt. To those in dead earnest, the writer would recommend the latter. Hauntea House. Getting down to ghosts and hob goblins, there have been many houses and places in Washington in the past that have been regarded by persons of a timid and a nervous nature as haunted. Indeed, several houses which once stood on New Jersey avenue, where Is now the House Office Building, and where many prominent people lived from time to time, were said to be infested with the spirits of some of these early residents, who caused many sleepless nights to subsequent tenants, some of whom have told strange tales of the peculiar antics of the invisible beings. Of the Thomas Law house, into which this gentleman moved in 1880. with his wife, who was the granddaughter of Martha Washington, strange stories of the occult have been related. This house stood on the east side of New Jersey avenue between B and C streets, and was sold in 1818 to Dr. Frederick May, becoming the I Refugees Find Release From Horrors of European War in Quiet Voyage to U. S. i By Emily Ericsson When the S. S. Manhattan, flag ship of the United States Lines, steamed into New York Harbor on her memorable last trans-Atlantic trip she carried a “ship's company of nearly 2,500 souls.” The voyage had been calm and uneventful, viewed from the present day of sub marines and air bombings, but not when 2.500 lives are confined to the space of a ship—a small ship built for half that many. I think that we rather lost sight of the fact that there was a death, a birth, a christening, as she made her 100th voyage. That we were able to live in partial oblivion, in a type of release from the horrors that most of us had seen was in a large measure due to the clever handling of our daily routine life. Every ar rangement was new to passengers and crew alike, for never had such a number been carried. I can imagine that some of the things said to me this time were the same as those said to my grand parents three-quarters of a century ago. for danger always brings us back to a less pampered existence. As long as there was co-operation between passengers and crew there would be safety. There w’as water for all, enough to last us for a trip of twice the duration if need be, but there was none to waste. There were life boats for most and rafts for others, according to international requirements, and our drills were a serious matter not attended by the levity that generally prevails. Shakespeare Ignored. There were, of course, amusing and touching incidents. When we were all at our lifeboat stations, one woman who suddenly remembered her two dogs up in the kennels made her husband leave to see what was being done for them. When he re ported that nothing was provided for their safety, she went into a screaming rage. "I knew it, I knew it. If anything happens they’ll just let them drown.” I very much wanted to tell her that “let” or not, the chances were that in an accident about half of us would drown, but I couldn’t give her a good scare with-1 out affecting the elderly ladies. I had quite a following of them and what I quoted to quiet them was not the Bible, nor noble passages from Shakespeare. It was certain clauses contained in the International Con vention for Safety of Life at Sea. My first convert to international law I had found worrying because she was sure that they did not have enough lifeboats. I repeated all I could remember concerning such things and did a little elabora tion on the original theme. She was much cheered. The next time I came on deck she had quite a little gathering for me to address. So I told the story again about how the governments had agreed to furnish boats and equipment, and that no ship could leave a port without com plying with the rules laid down by international law. I even enlarged upon the subject and talked about water provisions and air-space for the crew. And they believed me, every one of them! Representa tives of many governments, they put their faith not only in my Govern menr, but in the word of all govern ments. At a time when they had been most cruelly betrayed, they were willing to believe not only in the omniscience, but in the decency of “governments.” As regards the governments that provisioned and outfitted that ship, I believe that they had kept faith. Of the 1,868 passengers there was not one of us who had escaped real and vivid contact with the war, al though some of us felt almost apolo getic before the cases of real tragedy. What did it matter to me that my bread had been black and bought on a ration card? I did not mind walking into the post office between a double row of guards with rifles en bras (ready to fire). The drone of airplanes along the fron tier sometimes made me read a paragraph twice, but still I was safe. I cannot say that I was snug, for the maximum of 60 degrees Fehren heit allowed by Federal decree does not keep one warm along Lake Geneva—especially when la bise noire (the black north wind) comes down the valley. I - The United States liner Manhattan, Old Glory emblazoning her sides and deck, as she sailed out of New York Harbor to bring ifiOO stranded Americans home from European tear tones. —A. P. Wirephoto. Many of my fellow passengers had not been so favored. The ringing of the doorbell might mean the Gestapo—in the early morning it surely did. There was not enough j bread of any color and the hum of an airplane spelled destruction rather than protection to them, j Yet they did not complain and they did not tell about their experiences. I have been somewhat shocked by the attitude of my fellow country men since my return. First, they either persist in being awed by all of us who stayed in Europe after the outbreak of the war or else they seem to have no understanding of what a war means. Among the lat ter are those who have so far con sidered this a “phony” war. If there ever were any "phony” as pects to the international situation, a thing I very much doubt, they disappeared years ago with the re occupation of the Rhineland. That certain groups of Americans have not realized this proves that the axis powers have some basis for their estimate of us. I have had more than one fight with Germans about American inefficiency and stupidity. Offer Horror Tales. The seconr' hocking attitude is that every one wants us to tell hor ror stories. T it is somewhat dis concerting. It may connote one of two things—a sadistic national dis position or a childlike seeking for vicarious thrills. They know there aren't such things as ghosts any way! Unfortunately, there are not only ghosts but ghouls, and it be hooves us to talk little of the hor rors. We have no energy to spare on adolescent shivers. To the ship’s crew goes much of the credit for our extremely quiet voyage. Very little could be done to entertain either children or grownups because of lack of space Public rooms were curtained off and made into dormitories. My sister slept on a sofa with her feet in an armchair in one corner of our cabin. There were five of us in the space for three. However, what we lacked in dances, pictures, horse races and deck tennis we had manyfold in the dining room service. home of Judge Advocate Gen. Joseph Holt In 1857. Ii was Judge Holt who insisted upon a death sen tence for Mrs. Surratt, and he is believed by some to have been in a measure to blame for her execution. Remorse, we are told, caused him to return occasionally to this earth after he had been transported to realms elsewhere. Other houses on New Jersey avenue to the south of the Holt house are declared to have been visited by supernatural beings also. However, when ground was broken In 1871, for a building to house the Coast and Geodetic Sur vey, an old abandoned sewer was discovered. It led down to the river and was swarming with rats of unusual size, and no doubt this had much to do with the noises the people of the neighborhood at tributed to ghosts. Just when this sewer was built along this avenue no one seemed to know, but its discovery and filling in had the effect also of doing away with the bad spirits that at times annoyed the guests of the old Varnum Hotel, where, when it was known as Con rad <fc McMunn’s, Thomas Jeffer son went to be sworn in as Presi dent in March, 1801. Experiment Failed. Another house where Thomas Ls resided, at 8ixth and N strep S.W., was years ago given a br name by people who believed communing with spirits. After beir vacated by Mr. Law it was occupif by Richard Bland Lee. uncle of Get Robert E. Lee, and later by E. C Wheeler. According to an old ac count in The Star a German mu sician once tried to allay the gho' with piano music all night, but sig nally failed and left inglorious!'. But since this building was close to the river, rats no doubt were also to blame for any strange sounds that might have been heard hereabout At any rate, when the writer visited the house some years ago the oc cupants seemed to be happy and contented. Snow's Tavern, that once stood on the northwest corner of Penn sylvania avenue and Sixth streets, was said to be infested with spooks and it was believed that Beau Hick man. a one-time habitue, used to return and hang over the bar and scrape his shoes on the brass rail. Col. Hickman, as he was called, was a gentleman loafer who was never known to work, but who lived by his wits. He first came to Wash ington about 1833. when nearly 20 years of age. He had some money when he arrived, but he spent it ail within two years. This he had little trouble in doing, since he loved to follow the races, where he could always be seen dressed in the most approved style, sporting a diamond pin, a gold watch and massive fob. a cane and a beaver, which aft erward became so characteristic of j the individual. Van Ness Tradition. The old Van Ness residence is listed in old writings as bein'; haunted, and so was the brick Cap itol, where stands the Supreme Court Building. And in Georgetown we have the story of the “Drummer Boy of the Little Falls” and the “Headless Man of K Street Bridge.' The tradition of the drummer boy is, that during the early part of the Revolutionary War he was drowned in crossing the river while proceeding to a muster on the Vir ginia side. What caused the ap pearance of the headless man on the K street bridge is not stated, though an early writer tells us that if he really did lose his head he never made an effort to supply him self with that article at the ex pense of any of those who have had occasion to pass that locality, and that the only losses of heads which he had been known to have caused have been of a purely fig urative character. After all, however, ghost* will come and ghosts will go. and hob goblins will cut up all sorts of didos and play all kinds of pranks, and the children of today like the children of the past will disguise themselves with hideous false faces resembling witches, wizards and hobgoblins and what not. But for tunately we have arrived at a pe riod of civilization where we well know Just who these little rascals are. But even those who today ara several years beyond the draft age, do love to look back upon their youthful days when they were little devils, too, and dream, as did Long fellow, of those good old days of yore, as he expressed it in the fol lowing lines; “Oh, fruit loved of boyhood! The old days recalling, When wood-grapes were purling and brown nuts were falling! When wild, ugly faces we carved in its skin. Glaring out through the dark with candle within! When we laughed 'round the corn heap, with hearts all in tune, Our chair a broad pumpkin—our lantern the moon. Telling tales of the fairy who trav eled like steam. In a pumpkin-shell coach, with two rata for her team!"