What follows is an installment from the pages of the October 29, 1896 edition of the RANGELEY LAKES newspaper, sharing some thoughts on a relatively “new” holiday in America…Halloween. Leave it to my Irish ancestors, but the tradition originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off ghosts. Over time, Halloween would evolve into a day of like trick-or-treating, carving jack-o-lanterns, parties, and wearing costumes. Enjoy this interesting insight into how Halloween was perceived in 19th century Rangeley.


October thirty-first is fast coming to be known as a young people’s holiday, and although its introduction is comparatively recent it is already looked forward to with much pleasure.

Summer gayeties are over and those of winter are, we trust, not too near, and just between comes this autumn revel.

One by one the old-world customs are being transplanted across the water, where most of them take root very kindly…Halloween is one, and our surroundings are as favorable as those where it originated. For two days at this time of year, the superstitious have a hard time of it, believing as they do that “churchyards yawn and ghosts troop forth,” and in some French Canadian towns the very ignorant people will not venture out after nightfall, so sure are they of meeting departed spirits.

While Halloween is a merrymaking for the young, more especially for those who still fancy free, older people may find a deal of amusement in watching the sports, and much surprised will they be to see in use, charms by which their own fate was tried in bygone days. Who has not when a child melted load, and a9 the hissing metal was poured into cold water hatched eagerly to see the forms that it assumed? And what pretty girl has not at some time twirled about her head an apple-pairing, and as it fell, looked Anxiously to see if it made the coveted letter? To other observers it was only an exaggerated “S”, the usual form taken by a Paring, but to her it meant any letter that she most wished it to resemble.

Roasting chestnuts is another youthful pastime, and whether the nuts stay quiet-by each other, like well-mated couples, or leap as far away as distance will allow, decides one’s fate in the future. Though you did not know it, in thus peering into the future, you were following a few of the customs of this night of destiny, a full list of which, if they were obtainable, would make lengthy reading.

“Bobbing for apples,” watching the Sailing away of Fairy Boats each with its cargo of perfumed wax, and tiny taper, eating apples before the mirror of a lonely room, and going backward down the cellar stairs, holding in one hand a mirror and in the other a lighted candle, are more of the old-time observances.

In Scotland it is the fashion on this eventful night for a youth and maiden to go hand in hand into the kail yard, and either blindfolded or In the darkness, pull a stalk of kail which is brought to the light for inspection. The kail is a species of cabbage, and as our American gardens do not all possess it, the substitution of any plant on which one may lay the hand has been made. The amount of soil clinging to the roots indicates wealth or a lack of it, the length of the stalk has reference to the height of the unknown mate, and should the plant have any taste, this refers to the disposition of the coming man or woman.

Perhaps, it is needless to say that a country house the morning after a Halloween party, looks as if all the “ghosts and goblins” of poor Tam O’ Shanter’s ride had been holding a midnight carnival.

When a young couple first make a home for themselves its furnishings are new from cellar to attic, but as years go by and frequent visits are made to their old homes, there are brought away those articles around which hangs a halo of antiquity, or the charm of early association, and to these are given the places of honor.

So, with a country like our own’. It was at first too busily occupied in making a name and a place for itself among the nations of the earth, to put in practice these lesser things, and the amusements were largely such as were found best adapted to the new surroundings.

But times change, the Atlantic is practically bridged, and as descendants of the old world we feel a pardonable pride in bringing to “the land of the free” such of her customs as will bear removal. Halloween is evidently one of them, and like many others that have come to us, may it live long and flourish as if on its native soil.

Comments are not available on this story.