Part 2 of the Story of a True Haunting with Edwin F. Becker – The Big Séance Podcast: My Paranormal World #21

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True Haunting by Edwin F. Becker, Big Séance Podcast

 

In Part 2 of 2, Edwin F. Becker shares his story of the very real haunting experiences that he and his family experienced in 1970. The story, which involves the very first televised exorcism by NBC, and was featured on an episode of Paranormal Witness, is told in his bestselling book, True Haunting.

 

 

Get this episode on iTunes!
Direct Download Link

 

CLICK HERE for the 1971 televised NBC coverage of the famous exorcism on YouTube.

Check out my review of Edwin’s book, True Haunting.

 

For More on Edwin F. Becker, visit:

Edwin F. Becker, author of "True Haunting" - The Big Séance Podcast: My Paranormal WorldTrueHaunting.com

EdwinBecker.com

“True Haunting” on Amazon

 

Miss Part 1? Click HERE!

 

Thanks, Edwin!

 

The Big Séance Podcast can be found right here, on iTunes, and on Stitcher. Please subscribe, submit a rating, or share with a fellow paranerd! Do you have any comments or feedback? Please contact me at Patrick@BigSeance.com. Consider recording your voice feedback directly from your device on my SpeakPipe page! You can also call the show and leave feedback at (775) 583-5563 (or 7755-TELL-ME). I would love to include your voice feedback in a future show. The candles are already lit, so come on in and join the séance!

 


My Ouija Séance on All Hallows Eve 2014

Ouija Séance on All Hallows Eve, Big Séance

 

You may be familiar with my Annual Thanksgiving Ouija sessions. This year Karen A. Dahlman encouraged me to have one on Halloween, and so I did. I decided to call this one a Ouija Séance, because well… it sounds cooler.

My planchette partner was my mother. I was so very lucky to have them visiting us over the Halloween weekend. It was really nice, and I wish we could have extended it for several more days.

In this post, I will share with you a brief report along with some audio artifacts from the séance. 

 

But first… Trick-or-Treaters…

It was such an unseasonably windy and cold night for trick-or-treating, but along with the neighbors, we did our usual “schtick” out on the front sidewalk. I was sure that we’d have a much bigger turnout this year with it being Friday and all, but I think the cold kept many of the kiddies in… or it at least kept them from being out too late, unless your costume involved a winter coat, ski mask, and gloves. But my hot apple cider was a bigger hit than ever. I always offer it to the “big people” who accompany most of the little costumed goblins. (I even had one family show up and say “We remember your hot apple cider from last year! We were hoping you’d be out here again!”) Thanks to the neighbors’ fire pit, we managed to stay warm and enjoy ourselves for most of the evening!

Oh yeah… and my Halloween window dressings were a big hit this year too! I think we’ll use them again next year!

 

Halloween_cat_eyes_in_the_window_big_seance

 

I was very tired from an incredibly crazy week and busy night, and my mom was tired from being on the road, but once we were sure the trick-or-treaters had given up, and after we had the chance to watch the original 1978 version of Halloween, we began our séance shortly after midnight.

 

The Ouija Séance… just call me the Spirit Rapper Whisperer…

Our séance began after the rest of the house was asleep and bundled in their beds upstairs. All the candles on the Halloween Altar were lit, and we sat with the board, which was surrounded by many of the vintage Halloween cards and photos. I recorded our session with a digital audio recorder, and was also prepared with the spirit box that I got from Stephen Hill.

We opened the séance by clearly stating our intentions and having a moment of silence for prayer/meditation. We discovered fairly quickly that we’d have to cut the silence short to keep from falling asleep. (Seriously… I was nodding off.)

Within the first 5 minutes, we were hearing many knocks and pops. I acknowledged that the water line to the fridge (for the ice maker) was making a few noises, and it was clearly our first really cold and windy night of the year. But the heat was not on, and other than it being Halloween and having two extra guests in the house, nothing else was out of the ordinary in our immediate surroundings. I have never before noticed or heard so many loud knocks and pops in the lower level of our home in such a short time. I really want to be able to explain them, but the curious timing of the knocks (almost every one happened after a question, as if in response) combined with how loud they were, makes them really hard to ignore. I don’t know why I always seem to be the Spirit Rapping Whisperer, but I’ll let you be the judge on what exactly this is.

 

A few audio artifacts of the knocking/rapping:

4 minutes and 24 seconds into the séance

11 minutes into the séance

13 minutes and 5 seconds into the séance

 

Ouija Séance on All Hallows Eve, Big Séance

 

Then we turned on the Spirit Box

I don’t know that I can make a guess as to what any of these possible messages say. All I know is that I don’t typically flag too many interesting spirit box artifacts, especially those recorded in my own home. Most of the voices in the audio artifacts below seem to be the same voice that crosses over several to many frequencies or stations. That makes it significant in my book. I was sweeping the AM frequencies.

 

A few Spirit Box audio artifacts:

 
17 minutes and 55 seconds into the séance
Original Audio with no enhancements

Slowed down

 

19 minutes and 3 seconds into the séance
Original Audio with no enhancements

Noise removal and amplification

 

20 minutes and 27 seconds into the séance
I had just asked, “What is today?”
Original Audio with no enhancements


Noise removal and amplification

Noise removal, amplification, and slowed down

 

20 minutes and 49 seconds into the séance
I had just asked, “Do I know you?”

Original Audio with no enhancements

Noise removal and amplification

 

21 minutes and 43 seconds into the séance
I had just asked, “What am I touching right now?” (Hands were on the planchette/Ouija board.)

Original Audio with no enhancements

Noise removal and amplification

Noise removal, amplification, and slowed down

 

Halloween Altar SkeletonOne other interesting detail is that at 20 minutes and 27 seconds into the séance, the little skeleton man that was sitting up in the center of the buffet/Halloween Altar, fell over. I was sitting in a chair directly in front of him with my back facing him. My mom watched it fall. Paranormal? I’m not sure. It was probably a couple of inches away from the back of my chair, but I wasn’t doing much moving around. 

When we stopped after 28 minutes, it was because I was falling asleep. Once again, I must point out that we experienced no movement or activity coming directly from the Ouija board. This has been the case for every Ouija session I’ve had in the last three years or so. 

 

Did you find this post interesting? You may want to check out some of my other Ouija posts. 

Spirits of Ouija with Karen A. Dahlman – The Big Séance Podcast #5

Why I pushed pause on EVP and Ouija, and why it’s time to get going again!

Fear and Spirit Communication

Thanksgiving Ouija Session 2013

 


The Story of a True Haunting with Edwin F. Becker, Part 1 – The Big Séance Podcast: My Paranormal World #20

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Edwin F. Becker, author of "True Haunting" - The Big Séance Podcast: My Paranormal WorldIn Part 1 of 2, Edwin F. Becker shares his story of the very real haunting experiences that he and his family experienced in 1970. The story, which involves the very first televised exorcism by NBC, and was featured on an episode of Paranormal Witness, is told in his bestselling book, True Haunting.

 

Get this episode on iTunes!
Direct Download Link

 

CLICK HERE for the 1971 televised NBC coverage of the famous exorcism on YouTube.

Check out my review of Edwin’s book, True Haunting.

 

True Haunting by Edwin F. Becker, Big Séance PodcastFor More on Edwin F. Becker, visit:

TrueHaunting.com

EdwinBecker.com

“True Haunting” on Amazon

 

STAY TUNED FOR PART 2!

 

Thanks, Edwin!

 

The Big Séance Podcast can be found right here, on iTunes, and on Stitcher. Please subscribe, submit a rating, or share with a fellow paranerd! Do you have any comments or feedback? Please contact me at Patrick@BigSeance.com. Consider recording your voice feedback directly from your device on my SpeakPipe page! You can also call the show and leave feedback at (775) 583-5563 (or 7755-TELL-ME). I would love to include your voice feedback in a future show. The candles are already lit, so come on in and join the séance!

 


Halloween Memories and Traditions with Special Guests – The Big Séance Podcast: My Paranormal World #19

big-seance-podcast-celebrate-october-happy-halloween-banner

 

 

Well it is finally here. It is the week of Halloween, and in this final Halloween episode, I invite several past guests to share their favorite Halloween memories and traditions! Hear contributions from Annie Wilder, Sara Wiseman, Lee Allen Howard, Karen A. Dahlman, Janice Carlson, Rob Gutro, and Jim Harold.

 

Get this episode on iTunes!
Direct Download Link

Halloween Memories and Traditions

In this episode:

A Halloween Housewarming in 1911

A special return visit from Meth Hazel

Returning from episode 2 of the Big Séance Podcast, our next guest, Annie Wilder has a cool story from a Halloween night a few years ago. Now you have to remember that she lives in a haunted house, and when she mentions “the sisters” and “Leon”, those are spirits that are known to reside with her in the home.

Sara Wiseman joined us on October 2, 2014. I really enjoyed that conversation. She may have the sweetest and most calming voice ever, but you might want to briefly turn the lights on for this recent memory.

My friend Lee Allen Howard was with us for the September 11, 2014 episode. He is a medium and metaphysician, but he’s also an author, and he writes some horrifying things. And from his memories, it kind of makes you understand just where it all came from.

Next up is Karen A. Dahlman, who has been on the show twice, July 23, and October 16, of 2014. I absolutely love her story, and Karen was nice enough to send in a very special photo for all of us to enjoy.

Karen A. Dahlman and friend, Halloween 1977, The Big Séance Podcast

Karen A. Dahlman (right) and friend, Halloween 1977

Medium and psychic, Janice Carlson, joined us on August 27, 2014. She’s really fun to talk to, and she joins us again now to share this thought-provoking memory of a childhood Halloween. She also wanted to share an article she wrote about Halloween. **Janice’s drawing is coming soon!**

On September 18, 2014, Rob Gutro joined us to talk about Pets and the Afterlife. Here’s a memory from Rob.  

If you’re a regular listener of the Big Séance Podcast, you know just how much respect I have for our final guest tonight, a man who has influenced me greatly! I was so very honored to have Jim Harold, of the Paranormal Podcast, join me back on Sept 25, 2014. I invited him to come back to share his thoughts on a favorite tradition on Halloween. If you’re a parent, you’ll relate to this one.

A special credit and “thank you” goes out to the incredibly talented Tim Prasil, for writing the really funny story for Meth Hazel’s appearance tonight. Thanks for playing along with us, and sharing your time and talent, Tim. You’ll actually be hearing from Tim, who is a writer, in a future episode of the podcast. You can learn more about him at timprasil.wordpress.com.

Don’t forget!! Are you a regular listener? Please e-mail (or call, or SpeakPipe) with where you’re listening from, and how you’re listening! I’d appreciate it! Patrick@BigSeance.com

 

Sam Haynes, Spine ChillersSpooky Music featured on this episode is from Sam Haynes. You can find more about Sam and his music at http://www.hauntmusic.co.uk/. Thanks, Sam!

 

 

Record your voice feedback directly from your device on my SpeakPipe page! Call the show at (775) 583-5563 (or 7755-TELL-ME). I would love to include your voice feedback in a future show.

 

The Big Séance Podcast can be found right here, on iTunes, and on Stitcher. Please subscribe, submit a rating, or share with a fellow paranerd! Do you have any comments or feedback? Please contact me at Patrick@BigSeance.com. Consider recording your voice feedback directly from your device on my SpeakPipe page! You can also call the show and leave feedback at (775) 583-5563 (or 7755-TELL-ME). I would love to include your voice feedback in a future show. The candles are already lit, so come on in and join the séance!

 


Jack-O-Lanterns and a Beautiful Fall Evening in the Cemetery: An Update in 8 Photos

Halloween Jack-O-Lantern for 2014, Big Seance

 

Yesterday I carved my jack-o-lantern for 2014. As usual, I decided to go with a classic look that is very close to last year’s grin. And yes, that’s the Halloween Altar in the background, with the addition of the Beistle reprints that I ordered this year. As usual, I always have difficulty choosing which photos to share with you, so you’re getting several.

 

Halloween Jack-O-Lantern for 2014, Big Seance

 

 

Halloween Jack-O-Lantern for 2014, Big Seance

 

It has been so warm for October lately, and our 80 degree days will kill a jack-o-lantern in no time. I’ve decided that for the next few days we’re bringing them in late at night when we blow them out. That way they’ll be much more comfortable inside and away from the sun and heat during the day.

 

Halloween Polka Dot Disco Jack-O-Lantern 2014, Big Seance

 

As you may know, Joe always has to break the mold with his jack-o-lanterns. Here is this year’s polka-dotted disco ball jack-o-lantern! We like the reflections on the post.

 

Halloween Altar 2014, Big Seance

 

Another look at the Halloween Altar.

 

Fall Leaves in the Cemetery, Big Seance

 

This evening I took a trip to the cemetery to pay my adopted souls a visit for my 2014 grave adoption project. I discovered so many beautiful trees that weren’t in this condition on my last visit. It cooled down quite a bit by the time I got there, and so it was beautiful weather. It’s still weird to be wearing gym shorts and a t-shirt in a cemetery on the week of Halloween.

 

Fall Leaves in a Cemetery, Big Seance

 

 

Fall Leaves in a Cemetery, Big Seance

 

 

Grave Adoptions 2014, Rühenpohl, Big Seance

 

One of my grave adoptions for the year. The small pumpkin is still going strong from 3 weeks ago. All of my small pumpkins that I kept in the comfort of my home rotted long ago, so I’m pretty impressed.

 


Halloween History and a Conversation with the Holiday’s Leading Expert, Lesley Bannatyne – The Big Séance Podcast: My Paranormal World #18

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Lesley Bannatyne, the nation's leading expert on Halloween, The Big Séance Podcast

Halloween is just days away, so what better time to talk about the history of my favorite holiday with the nation’s leading expert on Halloween, Lesley Bannatyne! She’s the author of five books on the topic of Halloween, including Halloween: An American Holiday, an American History, which will celebrate 25 years of being in print in 2015. Click HERE for my review of this book. 

 

 

Get this episode on iTunes!
Direct Download Link

 

Halloween History

Topics discussed in this episode:

Can you guess Lesley’s favorite Halloween candy?

Lesley shares some of her favorite memories from the holiday. 

Where did Halloween come from?

  • Samhain
  • Harvest
  • Darkness and the coming winter
  • Folklore and Superstition
  • “The Other World”
  • All Hallows/All Saints Day
  • All Souls Day
  • Pranks and Mischiefs
  • Guy Fawkes
  • Victorians and Halloween Parties

When did Trick-or-Treating become a part of Halloween? 1940s

  • Kids and mischief around Halloween
  • Adults threw Halloween parties to keep young people from mischief and vandalism. It didn’t work. 
  • Adults learned to offer food and treats (extortion/begging?) in exchange for no mischief or violence on their property. 
  • Trick-or-Treating seen on television for the first time
  • Trick-or-Treat for Unicef (charity)

When did costumes go from being disguises to a way of expression? Costumes then and now. 

Our favorite symbols of Halloween. Where did they come from?

  • The Witch
  • The Black Cat
  • The Bat
  • Pumpkins and Jack-o-Lanterns
  • Are Scarecrows disappearing?

The Victorians and Halloween… how did they celebrate?

  • Parties and Decorations
  • Games
  • “Dumb Supper”
  • Seeing the image of your future love

Lesley shares how she researched and found historic articles and information from Halloweens past from vintage periodicals. 

Urban Myths about Halloween

  • Fear
  • Apples and razor blades
  • Black Cats and Satanic Sacrifice

Church, Religion, and Halloween

How has Halloween changed since Lesley’s book was first released?

What does duct tape have to do with Halloween? (Ha!)

 

For More on Lesley Bannatyne:

www.iskullhalloween.com

Lesley’s Books

For More Halloween History

Why Halloween Matters

The Literature of Old Halloween

Check out Lesley’s appearance on the BBC on Halloween day!

Check out her appearance on the History Channel’s The Real Story of Halloween

 

Thanks, Lesley!

 

Don’t forget!! Are you a regular listener? Please e-mail (or call, or SpeakPipe) with where you’re listening from, and how you’re listening! I’d appreciate it! Patrick@BigSeance.com

 

Sam Haynes, Spine ChillersSpooky Music featured on this episode is from Sam Haynes. You can find more about Sam and his music at http://www.hauntmusic.co.uk/. Thanks, Sam!

 

 

Record your voice feedback directly from your device on my SpeakPipe page! Call the show at (775) 583-5563 (or 7755-TELL-ME). I would love to include your voice feedback in a future show.

 

The Big Séance Podcast can be found right here, on iTunes, and on Stitcher. Please subscribe, submit a rating, or share with a fellow paranerd! Do you have any comments or feedback? Please contact me at Patrick@BigSeance.com. Consider recording your voice feedback directly from your device on my SpeakPipe page! You can also call the show and leave feedback at (775) 583-5563 (or 7755-TELL-ME). I would love to include your voice feedback in a future show. The candles are already lit, so come on in and join the séance!

 


Halloween Merrymaking: Celebrating the Holiday’s Past, and a Beautiful Interview with Writer, Diane C. Arkins

 

Halloween Merrymaking, and Interview with writer, Diane C. ArkinsAfter reading Diane C. Arkins’ Halloween Merrymaking: An Illustrated Celebration of Fun, Food, and Frolics from Halloweens Past, I absolutely knew I wanted to reach out to her. I wanted to hear about her collections, but also wanted to let her know just how inspired I was, as a fellow super fan of Halloween. For years, Diane’s articles have appeared in newspapers and magazines, such as USA Today, Chicago Sun-Times, Country Living, Better Homes & Gardens, Seventeen, and Woman’s Day, to name a few.  Her article, “The Trick or Treat Trails”, just appeared in the Sept/Oct issue of Good Old Days magazine. (Diane’s complete bio can be found at the end of the interview.)

From the preface of Halloween Merrymaking, you’ll find that it’s “a book that will acquaint you with how Halloween was celebrated in America from its early popular incarnations in the 1870s to the early 1930s, the latter decades in particular a period that many consider to be the holiday’s ‘Golden Age.’” If you know me, you know that simply mentioning that time period is enough to get me hooked. But the highlight of the book is the number of vintage photos of celebrations, decorations, postcards, and even complete articles from the earliest magazines to print information on the topic! Much of it is like a how-t0 for throwing a historically accurate “Golden Age” Halloween party. And all of this comes from the author’s amazing collection! 

Fortunately for us, Ms. Arkins agreed to an interview for the blog, and I am incredibly honored to be able to share her beautiful and heartfelt responses. Thank you, Diane!

 

My Interview with Diane C. Arkins

 

What were your favorite costumes from childhood? 

    I grew up in the late 1950s/early 1960s, an era when observances of Halloween were merrily gear toward childrens’ amusements.  When I was young I was always intrigued by the imagery and forms around me, and the place that captured my interest the most was the Ben Franklin 5-and-10-cent store.  The place was always chock-a-block with anything that anyone would want but until I was around 8 or 9 years old, Ben Franklin at Halloween time was THE place I  wanted to be:  there was Brach’s mellowcreme candies shaped like jack-o’lanterns (hereafter referred to as JOLs), cats, grinning moons, tiny owls, maple-flavored little cider jugs and the like that were as fun to play with as they were to eventually eat.  I was captivated by the little wax JOLs and Halloween cat figures made by Gurley Novelty Company – each wax novelty contained a yummy piece of striped orange-and-black hard candy.

    There were irresistible tiny cardboard sets of grease paint that could turn trick-or-treaters to clowns, princesses or pirates and an abundance of eye-catching decorations – like the rolls of black cat and witch face rolls of crepe paper and die-cut wall decorations of owls, cats, witches, haunted houses that I purchased,all by myself with funds from the Brownie troop to decorate the group’s Halloween bash… and, of course, the boxed costumes branded as Collegetown and Ben Cooper.  The store-bought outfits had a cheesy and flimsy feel to them but they were “must-have” attire regardless.  Some years back my EBAY collecting led me to a mint-in-box glitter-adorned Ben Cooper brand BLUE FAIRY identical to the one I wore in the photo in the TRICK-OR-TREAT TRAILS story photo.  Back in 1960 I was devastated when I lost the magic wand on the way back home from Kindergarten show-and-wear but I now enjoy it when the complete boxed set is displayed in one area of my year-round Halloween collection.

    Some of the Halloween “outfits” – so referred-to as they weren’t always costumes per se – that I recall best were the ones devised by my non-sewing mother and memorialized in the brilliant hues of Kodak 35mm slide film.  I thoroughly cherish those pictures!  One early year Mom dressed us up in crisp white blouses and orange crepe skirts adorned with (so classic!) die-cut cardboard Halloween motif decorations – interestingly this style of Halloween attire is in the style of similar vintage early 20th century home-made party attire where abundant home seamstresses crafted simple frocks in orange, black and/or orange-&-black patterned fabric and adorned them with Halloween icons in either fabric or cardboard form.

    Aside from the visual thrills to be found at the dime store I just adored being out amongst the virtual pumpkin patch filled with lit JOLs set up throughout the neighborhood at night for trick-or-treating (for some reason unknown to me we went out on October 30th which they called “Beggar’s Night”… maybe I should GOOGLE the term?).  A thick blanket of crackling dry leaves covering my Mary Janes (shoes) and an intoxicating aroma of burning leaves permeating the air added to the mysterious ambiance.  It is no exaggeration to describe the scene as utterly magical… some special fairyland real-life moments that could overtrump saccharine visions of Disneyland in a snap.  Even as a young child I was especially attracted to the feel and mood of Halloween. 

    Interestingly my research into early 20th century merrymaking has shown me how the boomer-era kids’ birthday parties I attended as a child seem to have been almost exactly mimic the patterns set out by those early magazine mavens such as The Modern Priscilla, The Woman’s Home Companion and the like: a festive overall setting with plenty of decorations; a crepe (or later tissue) paper tablecloth with tiny crepe paper nut cups (de rigueur in 1910 I personally never liked that omnipresent offering of salted peanuts and pillow mints – yuk!) and paper or cardboard hats; a meal with cake; party games with prizes! and parting souvenirs.  Naturally the one Halloween-themed kiddy party I attended back in 1962 – complete with its quintessential feather-tipped blow-out noisemakers -  was my favorite.

 

Your book includes such a wealth of photos and vintage items.  I could  spend all day just looking at every detail of the photos.  Are these from your own collection?  How did you find them?

    I do enjoy my collection of vintage Halloween treasures by handling them and losing myself in their charms when I appreciate them.

    Luckily for those lovers of Halloween memorabilia like myself, writing a book serves as a great excuse to add to and/or splurge on vintage treasures for one’s personal collection.  With the rare exception of a photo or two I shot at the home of a fellow collector, all of the vintage treasures – from paper ephemera to 19th-century magazines – depicted in Hal Merrymaking come from my personal collection. 

    I began collecting illustrated Halloween postcards dating from that items’ “Golden Age” (approx. 1907-1918) during the mid-1980s after I happened upon a few buying leads in magazines for collectors.   (Artistically drawn postcards for any occasion imaginable flooded the mails over the first two decades of the 1900s.  Many of the cards were exquisitely printed in Germany and boasted deeply-embossed details that added to their charms.  The cards remain highly collectible with today’s collectors and I’ve used holdings to illustrate the other books I published with Pelican: Halloween: Romantic Art and Customs of Yesteryear and The Glorious Fourth of July: Old-Fashioned Treats and Treasures From America’s Patriotic Past.

    Before the advent of internet buying and selling I added to my collection of vintage holiday postcards via mail auctions (run through postcard collecting magazines) and browsing for hours at postcard shows (these are still held around the country throughout the year).  In later years I acquired a few vintage Halloween treasures from (again) mail-order purchases (often run in publications like The Antique Trader) and a few well-publicized auctions of collections being disbanding.

   Regrettably the area I live in wasn’t awash with antique stores and I missed out on the likely relative bargains that vintage Halloween fans could happen upon when antiquing in the 1980s and early 1990s.  Once the internet entered the scene, both sellers and potential increasingly flocked to online sites – most popularly EBAY – and soon it became a snap to acquire heart’s desires limited only by one’s pocketbook.  I confess that I DO NOT have a Donald Trump-like bank account by any stretch of the imagination but I have, over many years, been able to build a collection of Halloween and other vintage treasures that I thoroughly enjoy.

 

Knowing what you know about the history of decorating and entertaining for Halloween, what is the holiday like in your own home?

    Like other collectors of vintage Halloween treasures I actually display many items in my home on a year-round basis.  My husband is quite the self-taught wood worker and he has built several wall cabinets and a handsome glass-topped display coffee table for me to display paper items.  I have a good-sized floor cabinet to house larger, more dimensional items and one bedroom wall is filled with framed tear-outs of pages of eye-catching Halloween paper dolls (delightful!) and magazine covers.  To me, vintage Halloween artwork doesn’t get any better than the dust-cover illustration (from the Oct 1931 issue of Holland’s magazine) on Merrymaking.

    Seasonally I usually like to have pumpkins, pumpkins and pumpkins of all sizes, shapes and colors around the house.  The more unusual pumpkins I’ve been traveling to buy since 2001 come in the most intriguing colors:  the deep red-orange of the rouge d’etampes, or “Cinderella” pumpkin; the pale orange Long Island Cheese; the “blue” (pastel gray if you ask me) Jarrahdale; the deep orange-vein patterned on cream of “One Too Much” and so much more.  I usuallyattempt to grow my own “batwing” mini pumpkins (ones with “dripping” deep green accents that mimic bat wings) in my garden but this year’s crop was a flop!

    I also like to use mini pumpkins and/or colorful gourds to craft “pumpkin people,” “gourd gremlins” or  “veggie people” (as they are most popularly known).  My inspiration when I first started making these little charmers was the “pumpkin people” who starred in many of my favorite vintage Halloween postcards (see page 52 of Hal Merrymaking for an example).  So fun!

    Inside I would display more of my cardboard die-cut decorations in windows, on walls, clipped to draperies or perhaps attached to some wire-and-twine faux spider webs I got at KMart.  Although I belong to the group of collectors who consider damage to be acceptable when acquiring vintage pieces (to me they show “character” or the “battle scars” incurred in decorating duty over the decades) you wouldn’t want to do any more damage yourself!  The very old German pieces are really beautifully-crafted of VERY heavy pressed die-cut cardboard that gives them amazing texture and depth… they are truly works of art. The little photo of a German die-cut that appears on page 25 of Merrymaking was an especially large one that measured probably approx. 14″x14″.  Most pieces are far smaller, i.e. a jack-o-’lantern (or JOL) face that measures around 6″ across.

    Each season I usually send copies or reproductions of vintage Halloween postcards (a companion tear-off postcard book to my first Halloween book is just one source for such cards) or standard Halloween greeting cards… and I often like to make very special little treat bags, or “veggie people,” to give to people who’ve been especially kind to me during the year.  My oversized frosted JOL face cookies are truly scrumptious but the problem is that they are SO GOOD that they all disappear before the mixing dishes make it out of the dishwasher!

 

What kinds of things would we be surprised to find haven’t changed since the Golden Age of Halloween?

    I would venture that is was during the first decade of the 1900s that women’s magazines became to more regularly devoted counseling their readers with regard to home entertaining.  This was a time when a page or two began to be devoted to true soups-to-nuts party planning: invitations, decor (both home-made or more increasingly store-bought), menus and recipes, costuming (applicable back then to more than Halloween attire), party games, favors and party gifts.  I can name some names of women who were the “Martha Stewarts” of their times… indeed they probably invented the genre of party maven!?   

    Nothing has changed in essence that people still want to entertain their family and friends, they want to do it well and they are always looking for some inspiration – whether its cutting-edge new or dependably old stand-by – to guide them.  As always, the differences are in the details.

    One “detail” that remains as true in 2014 as it was back in 1914, for example, is that people like cupcakes.  The problem in putting up the 1906 illustration of cupcakes on Pinterest today might lie with the fact that a lot of folks online now tend to make uninformed, thoughtless snap judgments on things and they would fail to understand or appreciate the history or importance of the old illustration… instead of thinking “wow… that was how thinks used to be” and consequently “that was how WE got from THERE to the-more-improved-NOW,” they would simply dismiss the picture by saying “LOL – it isn’t that picture (stupid)(lame)(name your own insult).”

    Reminder that the merrymaking we enjoy TODAY came from the often rudimentary ideas developed in the past.

 

Your book made me want to pick a year, and plan  a historically accurate Halloween party, using your book as a template!  Have you done this?  Have you heard of people trying this?

    I can’t say that I hosted any Halloween events based upon my books (sadly I am woefully short of people who might attend and/or actually appreciate such efforts) nor have I been aware of anyone who’ve hosted their own vintage-style bashes.  I have, however, imagined how wonderfully such an event must have been for partygoers “back in the day” and have also imagined how an all-stops-pulled-out party could be set up at the handsome old Victorian mansion-turned-special-events-restaurant where we enjoy our Thanksgiving dinners.  The place is spectacular and I usually request a table located in the front turret so things seem both elegant and “just like being at Grandma’s house.”  We’ve been going there for many years now and I CAN imagine PRECISELY how everything could be made up to be absolutely breathtaking! 

 

How would you compare the Halloween entertaining articles from around the turn of the century to the articles I see in line at the grocery store today?

    Well to my mind the vintage periodicals win any comparison on just about every point (and mind you: I hate to bash modern print media in just about any way, shape and form.  I truly mourn the loss of just about anything from The Ladies’ Home Journal and McCalls to the not-quite-daily mail-delivered Christian Science Monitor) but today’s magazines seem to have an edge over vintage ones only when it comes to color illustrations. 

    The early 20th century magazines gave us those fabulous original guidelines for celebrating our holidays with panache.  They educated us, often for the first time, on many of the old customs that led us to understand why we celebrated at all!  And they did it so elegantly.  Compare this 1910 quote from The Housekeeper magazine that appeared in Merrymaking -

            “October, the golden month, when Nature having reaped a wonder harvest of beauty, wastes it like a spendthrift for our joy!  What hostess can fail of success in entertaining this month when there are autumn leaves, flowers, ‘golden glorious,’ and vines flushing with crimson, to bedeck the table?”

- to, well, again anything?

    Today’s magazines are comparatively much smaller than most vintage periodicals.  During Halloween’s “Golden Era,” the many, many more magazines for the lady of the home measured in at a jumbo 14″x17″.  This oversized format allows for far space to be devoted to editorial content… resulting in longer, more detailed information being presented in more beautifully-worded prose.  The paucity of real photographs also allowed to more words to be presented instead.

    For its part Martha Stewart Living, for example, does have an edge over most monthly magazines in the holiday decorating score but it seems that her Halloween focus of late has honed in on dark silhouettes of ravens, decorative (empty) bottles of POISON or WITCH’s POTION, haggly old witches (NOTE: at least 50% of early 20th century “witches” were depicted as beauties on postcards) and the like.  So she does a great job when it comes to inventiveness… she simply represents a different style to what I prefer.         

    For me suggestions for making “mummy hot dogs” out of crescent rolls and red hots pale against vintage inspiration for using hollowed-out squashes to serve condiments.  And this year one highly-regarded magazine presented decorative pumpkins wrapped in rubber bands (huh?) or duct tape images that look to be designed by a 2-year-old.  Clever, eh?  Can’t wait to adorn my pumpkins with rubber bands.  What were they thinking?

    In my book, vintage wins just about every time.

 

Can you talk a little about Dennison’s Bogie Book and what that is?

    Dennison's Bogie Book, Big SeanceThe highly-collectable and much coveted Bogie Books were a series of party-giving guidebooks that were produced by The Dennison Manufacturing Company of Framingham, Mass. to promote their Halloween paper goods.  Named “Bogie Book” after the mythical mischievous little goblins that were said to roam on Halloween, the typical approx. 5″x8″ booklet might give directions on how to conduct a party; craft a simple party favor; decorate a witch’s den suitable for fortune-telling; play party games; create a crepe paper costume; or even decorate larger venues for group celebrations. The booklets also featured pictures of Dennison’s delightful party merchandise (paper napkins, beautifully-illustrated panels of printed colored crepe paper, placecards, boxed decorative seals and more).  Illustrations, either real photography or artist’s renditions, appeared in ordinary black-&-white printing but the images were captivating nonetheless. Party planners could purchase the guides either by mail-order or at one of the company’s stand-alone stores in major cities like Chicago.  They were modestly priced at 5 to 10 cents.

    An initial impossible-to-find booklet produced in 1909 was followed by a series of Bogie Books beginning in 1912 and continuing for most years through 1926.  Dennison also produced similar typically 30-to-36-page holiday guidebooks such as The Christmas Book, The Gala (or Party Book) for Feb-July celebrations and a single 1918 Patriotic Book.  A variety of other larger-format Halloween booklets began in 1927 and continued until 1935.  In addition, Dennison produced a wide assortment of other self-promotional how-to booklets primarily centered on making things out of the firm’s luxe line of colorful crepe paper.

    Though reigning as undisputed king of how-to booklets during Halloween’s “Golden Age” the Bogie Books were not the only well-executed pamphlets around.  Other notable illustrated little guides were issued by food firms (like JELL-O and Staley) and competing crepe paper maker American Tissue Mills.  Respected Halloween decoration maker The Beistle Company of Shippensburg, PA issued The Children’s Hallowe’en Party Book (by Miss Polka Dot).  This last item is a slim 12″x7″ volume consisting of an 8-page story (printed in either tissue-weight orange or ordinary white paper) and several pages of tear-out party accouterments like placecards, candle shades, invitations.  This dandy early 20th century booklet can command a pretty penny IF its party pieces pages remain uncut within.

   Intact copies of rarer Bogie Books (those in the 1910s) can bring hundreds of dollars depending condition, condition, condition. 

 

I wish I could go back in time and interview my Great Grandmother and talk to her about her Halloween memories and experiences growing up in that “Golden Age” of Halloween.  She was such a fun woman.  Has any of your research come from interviewing folks who were around in this time period?

    During the time that I began to collect vintage Halloween memorabilia and write about old-fashioned Halloween customs I’ve never been acquainted with any folks who themselves experienced the holiday’s “Golden Era.” I do, however, love to completely immerse myself in old magazine and newspaper accounts of Halloween entertaining.  Entertaining back then must have been so much more exciting than anything in the 21st century.  After all folks today sit at tables filled with people and still ignore those gathered to devote their (overly ample free time) to tiny electronic devices. 

    Back “then” folks reveled in the opportunity to spend their seriously limited free time to interact with people who you might not see again for some time to come.

 

Is there one single vintage item or article that you’ve discovered that stands out as your favorite?

    In many ways it “doesn’t take much to get me enthused.”  I was delighted to acquire for my collection some of the little wax pumpkins (the ones filled a few pieces of orange-&-black candies) that so fascinated me at the five-and-dime store when I was little – for some reason they still so strongly resonate for me with personal happy Halloween memories.

    The other notable item is a small (8″ long) string of decorative ca 1920s/30s embossed German-made Halloween children party-goer scrap pictures (they appear on page 105 of Hal Merrymaking).  Each of the little children stand only 2″ high but their detailing is so superlative that completely embody the spirit of old-fashioned Halloween.  I was delighted beyond compare when a former co-worker (who passed away many years now) gifted me this tiny bit of paper.  I do cherish the pictures so.  Thanks, Jeanie, for your thoughtfulness… you are missed. 

 

What is your favorite iconic Halloween symbol

    A merrily-carved jack-o’-lantern of course!  He’s always up for a good old-fashioned Halloween time.

 

Diane C. Arkins began her career as a freelance writer at the age of nineteen by publishing feature articles in Seventeen, Co-Ed, and Woman’s Day magazines. In 1984, her work began to appear in the Chicago Sun-Times. After earning a BS in journalism from Northern Illinois University, she continued her writing endeavors by publishing magazine and newspaper stories while employed full time at the offices of the Australian Consulate-General in Chicago.

Arkins’ “Home Truths” humor column appeared in the Homelife real estate section of the Chicago Sun-Times from 1988 through 2000. Her work has appeared on the Op-Ed pages of numerous major daily newspapers, including a stint as a regular contributor to USA Today. Arkins has written for Country Living, Victoria, Family Circle, Brides, Country Collectibles, Country Home, Better Homes & Gardens, Woman’s World, Antiques & Collecting Magazine, and a wide variety of other publications.

Arkins has a passion for animals, gardening, and collecting vintage images, early illustrated postcards, and holiday memorabilia.

 


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