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Tag Archives: Halloween
By Claire Johnson, Newspaper Project Intern
For young women at the turn of the century, Halloween presented an opportunity to glimpse into the future and see the face of their husband-to-be by completing one of several complex rituals. The Richmond Dispatch on October 31, 1897 described one such ritual, performed at or near midnight on Halloween. Wearing her hair loose down her back and barefoot, the curious young woman must light a candle, and descend down her basement stairs backwards. As she walks, she repeats a stanza from Robert Burns’ 1743 poem, “Green Grow the Rashes:” “Auld Nature swears the lovely dears, Her noblest work she classes, O: Her ‘prentice han’ she tried on man, And then she made the lasses, O!”At the bottom of the steps, after turning around twice and taking ten steps, she looks over her shoulder into a mirror. If she is going to be married, she will see the reflection of her husband in the mirror.
The same article explained the soothsaying powers of “ducking for apples.” The instructions begin in a familiar way for those of us who bobbed for apples at harvest festivals or Halloween parties as children: fill a vessel with water and add apples, then close your eyes, lean in, and try to get one. Here, 19th century ducking for apples diverges from the modern incarnation of the game. According to the superstition, those who successfully picked up an apple with their teeth three times in five minutes would dream of their future spouse that night.
This photo was peeled off and expanded from Monterey’s Wiki page and presents to the eye a view likely little changed since the decade of our interest here, the 1920’s. In fact, the town’s population was twice then was it is today which the latest census reports as 147 and projected to be even less in the next. Somewhat surprising, then, the Recorder takes the honor of claiming status as Virginia’s longest consecutive published newspaper. It’s maybe a little less surprising when its geographical isolation is considered, yet still impressive, just the same.
That firm handhold half way up on the state’s western border is the high edge of Highland County and the solitude therein might be reconsidered as you imagine this community before the arrival of outside voices vibrating from a strange, boxed device of irresistible magnetic intimacy, the radio.
And a special link persists still, despite the lure of television and internet, between subscriber and paper. Thanks to that connection, as announced in a Fit To Print blog of earlier this month, the Project was granted permission by the current publisher to digitize beyond 1922, where copyright fencing begins. Within our digital archive of the The Highland Recorder, a pursuit into the past is aided by finer search tools—as demonstrated here in a search entry of simply the word “Halloween” specific to the decade of the 1920’s.
Are you thinking, only 39? Bear in mind, commercial America has not yet come to borrow the Halloween imagery so familiar to later generations. You’ll find no ads embracing the occasion to their product. Nearly all references are found in the social columns contributed by correspondents scattered about the county.
And now a collection of social events, comings and goings, pulled … read more »
The Virginia Newspaper Project wishes you a very festive and super spooky Halloween. Enjoy some ghoulish tales, get helpful Halloween party tips and learn about some Halloween traditions of yesteryear in these articles from the Times-Dispatch, Free Lance and Our Church Paper. If you dare, read about the “Chain of Horrors” that haunted the site of Washington DC’s Commercial Club, and then savor the tale of Harry Brown and Frank Gray, who went into a haunted house to visit its ghostly inhabitants, and never came out. In “A True Ghost Story” learn how Mildred Edwards’s declaration that there are “no such things as ghosts” is challenged when she visits “the Old Walton Place.” For more tales of terror, visit Chronicling America and Virginia Chronicle and search “haunted house.” And, if you’re not sure how to decorate for a successful Halloween party, you can find creative ideas from the Woman’s Page of the October 27, 1912 issue of the Times Dispatch.