Halloween Pranks during the 20th Century

I remembered there were Halloween traditions, around the 1990s, for teenagers to throw toilet papers, eggs, and other objects, around people's homes as a prank.But I didn't know there were harsher Halloween pranks earlier in the 20th century.

History of Halloween Pranks

It was the Scottish and Irish who popularized the Halloween celebration when coming to America in the mid 1800s. Besides going to people's homes for sweets, there were juveniles pulling pranks on others.

There were a list of pranks that were pulled during the 1800s, but these took place in rural areas:

  • Placing farmers’ wagons and livestock on barn roofs

  • Uprooting vegetables in backyard gardens

  • Tipping over outhouses

  • Front porch decorated with beer signs and towering pyramids of beer kegs

  • Removing manhole covers from streets

  • Deflating tires

  • Erecting fake detour signs to confuse motorists

Metro areas began embracing the Halloween pranks, and the pranks were more destructive in cities:

  • Setting fires

  • Breaking glass

  • Tripping pedestrians

  • Splattering people with bags of flour or black stockings filled with ashes

Many people were not pleased with the pranks that were happening. As a response, residents were told to arm themselves in case boys destroy their properties.

Even as Halloween simmer down in the 1950s, the pranks didn't fade away. The mischief happened the night before Halloween, and October 30th became "Mischief Night."

Halloween Pranks in the Wissahickon Valley Region

I hoped to find anything interesting that happened on Halloween night during the early 20th century in the Wissahickon Valley Region. In my last post, I found many that were about parties at people's houses. But when I was able to find a column about the pranks that happened in the area, I got excited!

Unfortunately, they were not that interesting. Based on what I found, the pranks that happened in Ambler were not too destructive. Maybe except for a few incidents that involved damaged homes, and stolen objects from people's homes. The trend I noticed was that the mischiefs wore masks, and they were called "masqueraders." The idea of people wearing masks on Halloween was originated in Scotland.

There were large numbers of "masqueraders" roaming on the streets on Halloween night. And they had a curfew of 11pm.

Clipping from Ambler Gazette: November 7, 1901 (page 5)
Clipping from Ambler Gazette: November 5, 1908 (page 5)
Clipping from Ambler Gazette (headline): November 11, 1920 (page 6)
Clipping from Ambler Gazette (second half): November 11, 1920 (page 6)
Clipping from Ambler Gazette: November 5, 1925 (page 6)
Clipping from Ambler Gazette: November 3, 1927 (page 5)
Clipping from Ambler Gazette: November 1, 1934 (page 5)


"History of Halloween in Timeline." Popular Timelines. Accessed September 30, 2020. https://populartimelines.com/timeline/Halloween.

Klein, Christopher. "Halloween Was Once So Dangerous That Some Cities Considered Banning It." HISTORY. Last modified August 31, 2018. https://www.history.com/news/halloween-was-once-so-dangerous-that-some-cities-considered-banning-it.

"Wissahickon Valley Public Library's Ambler Gazette Collection." POWER Library: Pennsylvania's Electronic Library. Accessed September 30, 2020. http://digitalcollections.powerlibrary.org/cdm/landingpage/collection/wivp-gazett.

#pahistory #ambler #halloween #pranks #traditions #scotland #scottish #vandalism #amblergazette

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