Practical jokes are seldom funny in the best of times. Pair them with a ghoulishly-themed holiday like Halloween, and the results are often pure murder.
And around this blog, you know that last word can be taken very literally. In the first week or so of each November, the old newspapers generally read like casualty lists from a war zone.
For our annual Halloween celebration, Strange Company style, let's look at some seasonal "pranks" that inadvertently added to the parade of ghosts for the next year's holiday.
"San Francisco Call," November 2, 1904:
San Diego Nov. 1--John H. Scott of this city dropped dead last evening, as the result of a visit from a party of Halloween prank players. He was about to retire for the night when he heard sounds of the mischief makers outside and he became very much excited. He went out and drove them away and upon his return dropped to the floor and immediately expired.
"Fatal Fun"; or, The Joys of Piling Trash. From the "Tri City Star," December 29, 1904:
Combining alcohol and mock hangings isn't such a great idea. Who knew?
"Canberra Times," November 3, 1988:
Cambridge, Massachusetts: A man trying to stage a fake hanging as a Halloween prank choked to death in a bar full of revellers who did not realise he was dying. Mr. Michael Tyree, 41, of Cambridge, was rushed from the bar to Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston late on Monday but was pronounced dead on Tuesday morning, said hospital spokesman Mr. Martin Bander.
Theft isn't such a great idea, either. The "Centralia Enterprise and Tribune," November 5, 1898:
From the "Halloween Causes Insanity" File, here's the "Los Angeles Herald," November 11, 1910:
Or the holiday simply scares you to death. The "Logansport Daily Reporter," November 9, 1900:
The authorities of Allegany county are looking for persons who manufactured a skeleton out of bones of domestic animals, which frightened Mary Oldfield, of Karrdale, near Rochester, N.Y., to death the other night. Miss Oldfield, accompanied by two friends, was returning from a Halloween party, where they had listened to grewsome stories until their hair stood on end.
When about to enter the woods a rattling of bones was heard overhead and looking up the trio were overcome with horror to see a skeleton of gigantic proportions sweeping down on them from above. With a cry of terror Mary dropped in her tracks. A searching party found a wire leading from the ground to a tree top to which the skeleton was attached by a pulley.
"Los Angeles Herald," November 2, 1907:
Tuscon, Ariz., Nov. 1. A Halloween prank resulted in murder last night. Ramon Laveta, with companions, stretched a wire across the sidewalk and tripped a Chinese merchant named Wong. The latter drew a revolver and shot, killing Lavota instantly. The murderer attempted to escape, but was caught after a chase and narrowly escaped lynching.
Here's a double play from the "Barre Evening Telegram," November 2, 1898.
Fun With Tombstones! The "New York Times," November 2, 1900:
Trick-or-Treaters beware: Our ancestors had an unsettling predilection for shooting into crowds. From the "Bismarck Tribune," November 15, 1904:
And then there's the "New York World," November 1, 1904:
Not to mention the "Iowa Republican," November 2, 1914:
Let's not overlook the "Little Falls Weekly Transcript," November 20, 1900:
Or the "Marion Daily Mirror," November 2, 1907:
Take note of the "Minneapolis Journal," November 1, 1906:
And the "Sacramento Union," November 2, 1898:
And the "St. Genevieve Fair Play," November 10, 1894:
And the "Atlanta Constitution," October 30, 1901:
In conclusion, feel free to go out and celebrate Saturday. But don't say I didn't warn you.