Although there are several theories regarding the origin of Halloween, or All Hallows Eve, its roots can be traced back to the ancient Celts of Ireland and Northern England. The Celtic New Year begins on November 1st and the festival of Samhain (pronounced “sow-win”) is celebrated on October 31st to mark the end of harvest and the beginning of winter. The coldness of the winter season was often associated with death and the Celts believed that it was during this transitional period that the deceased were temporarily able to enter the world of the living. Wearing costumes and building bonfires were methods to ward off any visiting evil spirits.
Halloween occurs on the evening before All Saints Day, a holiday observed by the Roman Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox Church to pay homage to all saints known and unknown. It is a common misconception that the two holidays are closely related; however, that is not the case. All Saints Day, known as the Solemnity of All Saints in the Roman Catholic Church, evolved independently from Halloween’s pagan roots. Today, Halloween is more about candy gathering and parties than harvests, ghosts, or even saints. So, whatever you’ll be doing to prepare for your Halloween festivities, chasing away the bats in your belfry, procuring treats for the visiting goblins, or scaring the neighborhood children, I thought it might be fun to share some artifacts from the Museum’s collection that have been used to celebrate Halloween to get you in the mood.
These place cards were among many Halloween party favors found in 2009 residing in a wicker trunk in the attic of the Lewis Green Stevenson House at 1316 E. Washington Street in Bloomington. Stevenson served as the Secretary of State of Illinois from 1914 to 1917. His father, Adlai Ewing Stevenson I, served as Vice President of the United States from 1893 to 1897 during Grover Cleveland’s presidency. Lewis and his wife Helen had 2 children, Elizabeth “Buffie” and Adlai Ewing Stevenson II.
Party decorations and candy dispensers used during the Stevenson’s Halloween party held in 1914.
Zingo Halloween Fortune and Stunt Game made in 1935 by the Beistle Company. Ironically, it was purchased as a Christmas present by Elias Rolley for his two sons, Edmunds and Elias, Jr.
Wizard of Oz “Tin Man” mask (c. 1940) owned by Sharon Chestney.
Alice Welsh of Gridley purchased this Mr. Fantastic Halloween costume for her visiting nieces and nephews to wear. Mr. Fantastic first appeared in Stan Lee’s The Fantastic Four comic book series in 1961.