|It's the Great Killer Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!|
It's nearly Halloween! A time for fun, magic, mysticism, elaborate costumes, excited Fall revelry. Well, except around Strange Company HQ, of course. Hey, what sort of blog do you think we're running here?
That's right, it's time for our annual look at Halloween tricks and tragedies!
It's not often that I'm privileged to come across an old newspaper item where virtually every sentence contains something deliriously weird. The "Aberdeen Journal," November 16, 1927:
When on Hallowe'en a Glasgow mother found her 13-year-old son disporting himself in a pair of immaculate white flannel trousers, she wisely came to the conclusion that something must be wrong somewhere, and promptly informed the police.
What the police discovered was related in Glasgow Police Court yesterday, when four boys appeared in connection with an attack on an effigy of Harold Lloyd, the film comedian. Seeking appropriate carnival clothes, the boys, it was stated, entered the display window of a local cinema which was showing the comedian's latest film. An effigy of him was stripped of its entire make-up, which consisted of a college blazer, white flannels, and a straw hat. The boys managed to enter the window, remove the clothing, and make off without being disturbed, although the window faces a busy street. The clothes were shared by the youngsters.
They were placed on probation for three months.
The brevity of this one somehow makes it all the more unnerving. From the "Gloucestershire Echo," November 2, 1928:
An 18-year-old immigrant from Grimsby, Thomas Hart, who had been working on his uncle's farm at Kemptville, Ontario, was shot dead in a Hallow'een prank on Wednesday.
Chicago and Greensburg, Pennsylvania, were not the places to be on Halloween 1904. From the "Brooklyn Eagle," Nov. 1:
Greensburg, Pa., November 1--During the Halloween celebration in Vandergrift Heights last night, Roy Salsgiver, a prominent young man, was shot and instantly killed by a man named Charley Manilla, with whom he had an altercation. Manilla was arrested.
Chicago, November 1--As the climax of a Halloween prank, William Sears was mistaken for a thief early today and was shot in the back and instantly killed by Patrolman Nicholas Smith.
Sears and Frank McKune, 18 years old, were passing through an alley when they were seen by a policeman. They carried between them a basket. Calling to the men to halt, the policeman says they paid no heed to him.
After repeated calls Smith fired and Sears fell, while his companion disappeared down the alley. McKune was arrested shortly afterward. He said that he and Sears had been playing Halloween pranks in that neighborhood, but he failed satisfactorily to explain why he ran after called upon to halt.
You would have wanted to avoid Ohio on Halloween 1937, as well. The "Brooklyn Eagle," November 14:
The old Halloween prank of hiding the farmer's wagon [Ed. note: ???!?] caused death of one man and injury of another in Antioch, Ohio.
The wagon which Gerald Muth and Howard Wonhaus, both of Antioch, were guiding from the rear of an automobile broke loose and ran over them. Muth, 30, died in a hospital in nearby Barnesville. Wonhaus suffered critical hurts.
Missouri in 1958? You'd better be aware that townsfolk take their toilets very very seriously. The "Albany Knickerbocker":
New Jersey, 1905, was a big nope. The "Eagle," February 6:
Elizabeth, N.J., February 6--Harold M. Wilcox, treasurer of the organ works at Garwood, N.J., indicted for manslaughter for killing, by shooting, John Darling, aged 15 years, at Westfield on Hallowe'en night, while he and other children were playing pranks about Wilcox's house, was arraigned in the Union County Court this morning. He pleaded not guilty and was admitted to bail in $5,000. His bondsmen are Philip H. Mahan and John A. Dorman. The trial begins on February 21.
And, crickey, don't even think about Brooklyn in 1904. The citizens liked to end their parties with a bang. The "Brooklyn Eagle," November 1:
The explosion of a bomb or a giant firecracker in the vestibule of the home of Mrs. Mary Meyer, at Eighty-eighth street and Seventh avenue, Fort Hamilton, last evening, broke up a gay Hallowe'en party, at which Miss Irene Meyer was the hostess. The explosion occurred about 10:30 o'clock, when the gayety of the occasion was at its height, and there was great confusion verging almost upon a panic among the guests.
After quiet had been restored and the guests were assured of safety an investigation was made, and it was found that the vestibule had been badly damaged. The front door was blown out, and several windows were broken, but so far as is known no one was injured in the crash.
Mrs. Meyer lived in a two story frame dwelling in a neighborhood that was alive with Hallowe'en pranks last evening. Soon after the explosion had occurred the police were notified and Police Captain Creamer sent Detectives White and Waring to the scene to investigate, and if possible to find the person who caused the explosion. Its effect was the hurling of splinters and flying glass in all directions. At first the police believed that a bomb had been used, for it is said that they discovered a piece of fuse which had evidently been used. It was thought that the fuse was a part of mechanism used in army work explosives, and the attention of the police was directed toward the Fort Hamilton reservation.
Jack Landeraff, a soldier of the One Hundred and Twenty-third United States Artillery, was present at the party, and others from the reservation were present at the party and the police believed that the firecracker or bomb had been exploded by some other artilleryman at the fort who had not been invited to the festivities.
Mrs. Meyer would not accuse any one or say what her belief in the matter was, but Miss Irene Meyer wanted the police to investigate the affair thoroughly. Captain Creamer's detectives are still trying to find the man or men who caused the explosion. Speaking of the matter Miss Meyer said:
"I had no idea that I had gained the enmity of any one. I don't see how any of us escaped with our lives. I hope the police will catch him and deal with him to the law's letter."
The police are not certain whether the explosion was caused by a bomb or a firecracker. It is possible, however, that some of the mischievous boys in the neighborhood who were celebrating with all kinds of Hallowe'en tricks, placed a great firecracker in the vestibule.
The explosion broke up the party, and a short time after quiet was restored the guests departed in a very excited mood.
Let's close our, uh, "tribute" to the holiday on an unexpectedly positive note. This testimony to the occasional life-saving properties of Halloween pranks was written by one J.M. Kirriemuir. It appeared in the "Dundee News," for June 9, 1888:
It was Hallowe'en when the following incident took place at a small rural village that is situated on the banks of the Southesk fully a quarter of a century ago. Not withstanding the lapse of time, the narrow escape I then made still clings to my memory with that persistent tenacity that even the turmoil of every-day life cannot efface:--I was on my way to join a companion, to engage in a "guising" expedition, and went by a footpath that crossed the lade at the miller's trows. Trow is the name given to a large wooden trough that conducts the water with greater force on to the water wheel. Small wooden bars, ten or twelve feet apart, cross the trows above the water level to strengthen them. The bar I attempted to cross was the third one from the water wheel. When almost across my foot slipped, and I fell on my back in the water. I clutched the bar as I passed underneath it, and in trying to turn round I lost my hold, and was swept down the current. I got hold of the last bar in very much the same way as I caught the first, only I was able to hold my head above water. I shouted for assistance, and made frantic efforts to gain a footing. The awful situation now dawned upon my mind that the world, with all its youthful hopes and aspirations, would be gone from me in a few moments. Only those who have been in the immediate presence of the King of Terrors can form any adequate conception of what my feelings were. The great breast and wheel revolved with a lapping sound within a few feet of where I lay on my back, while the surging stream lashed me with unrelenting fury. The love of life is strong, but I felt my hands giving way. I thought my time was come, when all of a sudden the water subsided. I scrambled out of my perilous position, and got home, and by next morning I felt very little the worse of my ducking. I afterwards learned that the water was shut off as a Hallowe'en prank on the miller, who was busy and running overtime. The lark of the letting down of the sluices may have been a loss to the miller, but it proved a great gain to me. I believe the incident was the working of the Unseen Hand that rules the universe.
So, that's our Halloween fun and games for 2016. As always, I hope you all enjoy the holiday more than the subjects of my blog.
And for God's sake, let poor Harold Lloyd keep his clothes on.