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Ghosts of Halloweens Past

Early Carleton publications do not discuss Halloween in detail, but creepy quips are present nonetheless. For example, the Carletonian wrote in 1881, “The witches did not neglect us last Halloween. The festivities were very joyful to all except to a very few of a morose nature.” The 1892 Algol’s account of Halloween stated, “Twenty brave boys subdued by ‘cops.’” The next day, hymnals were suspiciously absent in Skinner Chapel. On October 31, 1895, Mrs. J. P. Heatwole hosted a reception for the Alpha Beta Phi Society. The 1896 Algol called the party “one not soon to be forgotten, due to the charming hostess.”

The ladies of Carleton were known for hosting an annual “Hallowe’en Frolic.” In 1906, women performed a play about antics in a railroad sleeping car. The audience was dressed as George Washington, Adam and Eve, a Red Cross nurse, and several politically incorrect characters. Women at the 1914 Frolic were treated to a spooky dinner in the Gridley Dining Hall, illuminated only by candles and smiling Jack-o-lanterns. The women then had their fortunes told, enjoyed frappe in the Gridley parlors, and ended the night with a co-ed bonfire. The 1919 Frolic, held at Sayles- Hill Gymnasium, was organized by the Carleton Young Women’s Christian Association.

An 1893 Halloween practical joke brought pranking to a new level—literally and figuratively. In the middle of the night, six students snuck into Williams Hall (the science building) and hung two skeletons from a window. Meanwhile, another six made their way to Professor Arthur H. Pearson’s house and stole the buggy from his barn. The next morning, students and faculty arrived on campus to find Pearson’s buggy on the roof of the former observatory.

The twelve pranksters had painted “Joppa to Jerusalem” with ink and a toothbrush on a pair of football trousers and hung the banner on the buggy. The message alluded to Professor Pearson’s lec- tures about Progress in Palestine, “to his mind exemplified by the railway…between Joppa and Jerusalem.” In the process of returning the buggy to solid ground, it bonked a fellow named Federmann in the head. Professor Pearson was not pleased with the incident—his sense of humor purportedly left Carleton years before he resigned.

That memorable prank may have inspired a similar event: in an October 31, 1901 letter to his daughter Alice, Professor Frederick E. Stratton described “a crowd of boys running by with a wagon when [he] came up from downtown, but [he did] not know what mischief was on their minds.” Further details are elusive. On another occasion, some young men milked the Halloween holiday by stealing a janitor’s cow, painting it with green spots, and leading it into a classroom. Halloween 1925 was notable in that “pranks of all sorts were conspicuous by their absence.”

In more recent history, Halloween indirectly brought about a Carleton music ensemble. During the infamous Halloween Blizzard of 1991, Liz Keyes and Erika Leemann sang “Slip Slidin’ Away” while making their way through snow and ice. The incident inspired them to form the Accidentals, a female a cappella group. To this writer’s knowledge, the Accidentals’ repertoire has never included the Danny Elfman song, “This is Halloween.”

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