When kiddos today think of Halloween, many picture elaborate costumes purchased from Spirit Halloween or Party City and bowls topped off candy waiting to be thrown in a jack-o-lantern bucket.
But, the spooky holiday was not always known for such innocent activities. In fact, “tricks,” including violence and vandalism, were once much more common than “treats”– and the mayhem all stemmed back to the 1800s.
At that time, the United States welcomed immigrants from all over Europe. However, migrants from Ireland and Scotland brought along their own Halloween tradition of pulling pranks– quickly making trickery a mainstream Halloween pastime.
“In Ireland, boys would carve spooky faces in turnips to scare unwary travelers, and they would tie strings to cabbages and pull them through fields to scare people,” revealed Lisa Morton, the author of Trick or Treat: A History of Halloween.
Still, these pranks only served as inspiration for what would happen in rural regions during the later 1800s.
Putting livestock and farmers’ wagons on barn roofs, tipping over outhouses, and ripping up vegetable gardens quickly became standard Halloween shenanigans.
And at first, the pranking was more of an annoyance than a true danger. However, this quickly changed after automobiles became commonplace and the trickery moved from rural regions into metropolitan areas.
At that point, kids would light fires, trip pedestrians, and break glass. There were also reports of young boys scampering through city streets and pelting people with bags of flour or ashes.
So, by 1902, many adults were fed up with the growing amount of danger and destruction each fall season. One newspaper, the Cook County Herald, even encouraged Illinois residents to stand their ground in an article that year.
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