Planning a Halloween Party (in 1911)

As many of you are no doubt planning themes for Halloween get-togethers next month, I thought maybe Ms. Ruby Ross Goodnow could help you plan. Actually, the party below, held on “Hallowe’en” at “eight o’ clock” in 1911, was also meant to be a housewarming party, for a brand new home, perhaps a bungalow or craftsman like the one pictured below. I found this article, originally published in the October 1911 issue of The Delineator, a few years ago and I just love it! (Note that a yearly subscription was $1. Sweet!) I’m considering planning a Halloween get together myself, and using this retro article as a starting point for a turn of the century theme!


The cover of the October 1911 issue of Delineator.

The cover of the October 1911 issue of The Delineator.


From the October 1911 issue of The Delineator:


Entertainment in October

Conducted by Ruby Ross Goodnow

Mrs. Goodnow will be glad to help you with any kind of entertainment. Write her for suggestions, giving the exact date of your party, enclosing a stamped, self-addressed envelope for reply.



The Dr. John F. and Mary Reddy House in Medford Oregon. Photo (from the National Register of Historic Places) was taken in 1911, the same year of construction.

The Dr. John F. and Mary Reddy House in Medford Oregon. This photo (from the National Register of Historic Places) is not of the house featured in this article, but was taken in 1911, the same year of its construction, and the same year as this issue of Delineator.

We had moved into our new home and, of course, we wished to welcome our friends beneath our roof-tree, so we planned a Hallowe’en housewarming, which was the jolliest affair ever.

We had some little brown-prints made of the new house, and sent one of these to each of our friends enclosed in the following note:

“Our latch-string now hangs on the outside!

Won’t you come and use it on Hallowe’en, at eight o’ clock?”

We invited all our friends, old and young and in-betweens. And we opened all our house-we knew that the cellar would be as interesting to Uncle John as the attic would be to Great-Aunt Martha. We had Jack-o’-lanterns on the gate-posts, and in spooky corners of the cellars, and in the attic.

All the young people were given cards, very much like dance-cards, with spaces for engagements in regular order: “9 o’ clock, Mr. B—-, cellar stairs; 9:30 Mr. C—-, library davenport; 10, Mr. D—-, kitchen-table,” and so on. This arrangement of conversational “dates” kept the young people scrambling all over the house, up-stairs and down, and there was no possibility of stagnation!

And we served refreshments all over the house, too. We had a brand-new barrel of apples in the cellar; a huge pot of coffee and little squares of hot gingerbread in the kitchen; half a dozen bowls of nuts in the attic; a platter of sandwiches in the living-room; a huge bowl of fruit-punch in the dining-room; a silver dish of mints in the library and several platters of home-made candy in the various bedrooms.

At half after eleven we all met in the big living-room and ranged ourselves around the great fireplace. Then my husband very solemnly lighted the first fire on the new hearthstone, and our guests all toasted our new home. Then we told ghost stories, and roasted chestnuts, and popped corn, and counted apple-seeds until well after the charmed hour of midnight!   C.B.A.


A few notes: 

I tried to do some quick research to find out exactly what is meant by “brown-prints” in this article. I only find information leading me to a type of photography. Did they send photos of the new house with the invitations? 

Though 1911 is a bit after the Victorian days, up to around the 1900s Halloween meant socializing (clearly pointed out in the article), parlor games, and was often thought of as a romantic holiday for young people. This was a time when young girls or ladies would practice innocent rituals or perhaps attempt to contact the spirit world to learn who their future husband would be. The roasting of various nuts, counting apple seeds, etc, was often used as a kind of fortune-telling at these gatherings. In those days Halloween was less about spookiness and death. 

For more information about the history and traditions of Halloween, check out HALLOWEEN: An American Holiday, an American Tradition by Lesley Pratt Bannatyne.  

You Might Also Like:


Images of America: Lexington, Missouri (Big Séance)

Images of America: Lexington, Missouri (Big Séance)

Old School Locker (Big Séance)

Old School Locker (Big Séance)

About Patrick Keller

Patrick Keller is an educator, blogger, and the host of the Big Séance Podcast, which is a place for paranerds to have an open discussion on all things paranormal, but specifically topics like ghosts and hauntings, paranormal research, spirit communication, psychics and mediums, and life after death. He’s the founder of the now inactive Missouri Spirit Seekers and has spent a lot of time experimenting with spirit communication tools and techniques, such as EVP. Patrick also has a passion for spending hours at a time in cemeteries and loves cemetery photography. Visit! View all posts by Patrick Keller

26 responses to “Planning a Halloween Party (in 1911)

  • Ash

    You’ll be excited to know that I’m planning just such a party (or at least faking one) for the October photo shoot at my work… and it will be at Lemp Mansion 😀 Oh, and it has an Edgar Allan Poe theme. This article is PERFECT!

  • Sally Bosco

    Hi Patrick! What a fun article! I like the part about arranging social “dates” for the young people all around the house. I see some of the Delineator magazines for sale on ebay. I’d love to read some more of them. Thanks for posting!

    • Patrick Keller

      Thanks, Sally! And thanks for the reblog as well! That photo of the cover only appeared yesterday. Before that I couldn’t find it. It was from an ebay page. It’s now gone again. I was kind of bummed because after your comment I thought about buying it since it affected me so. I’m sure there is great stuff in all of the October Delineators. Are you out there buying them all? I’ll beat you to it!! 🙂

  • Sally Bosco

    Reblogged this on Sally Bosco and commented:
    This post by Patrick Keller about a Halloween party in 1911 caught my imagination. It’s a fun read about celebrating my favorite holiday in a bygone era. I can picture myself there somehow. I have an urge to spin it off into a horror story.

  • lexacain

    I came over from Sally Bosco’s blog. I really enjoyed the article and all the things they did in 1911. It’s even given me a new idea to insert into my current project. Thanks so much! 🙂

  • spiritchild1972

    I’m having a Halloween party and i did contemplate inviting actual Spirits for the amusement of my guests but thought Spirit might tell me off as it is the complete antithesis of what I’m about lol An Ironic Halloween, what a concept haha but I thought well, Having moved from Scotland the home of the creation of Halloween which was part of the start of the Winter Solstice where children would be sent around the the houses to bring good luck to the homes so to entice the children back every year the people started giving them treats and trinkets to ensure they came back. I thought I would par take in this festival this year and bless my neighbours with Batman and a Train (my sons lol) and I’ve even decided to dress up and invite adults too lol It will be my first ever Halloween, not bad for a New Zealander I would say. My trouble is, everyone keeps telling me to go as a witch but how is that dressing up? Mwwwaaaaahhhhhaa teehee

  • NetherRealm

    1911 is several years before the Prohibition era, but I love the idea of retro Halloween party. I live in an area rife with spirits from the early 1900s, especially the days of bootlegging, and the mafia really running Vegas and Hollywood. They do enjoy people dressing in the clothes of their period, and recreating a bygone era.

    • Patrick Keller

      Well that’s good to know. I’ll dress up for my next EVP experiment. 😉 My mom has always felt that in a past life she was a “mafia prostitue”. HAAAA! Do NOT ask me how she knows this. I think she’s just obsessed with Capone and that whole thing.

  • Renae Rude - The Paranormalist

    I love this.
    I want to have a party where the treats are scattered throughout the whole house. 🙂

  • Tom McSwain

    I’ve heard there is a haunted place somewhere near kansas city, mo called Tejas Ranch. Has anyone heard of it or investigated it?

    • Patrick Keller

      I have not. What do you know?

      • Tom McSwain

        not much other than it close to Kansas City. someone told me about it but couldn’t remember exactly where it is as they heard it from someone else. it’s said to have graves from the civil war era and afterwards on it with lots of activity. I have a small Halloween party every year where we go to a haunted place. I figured this may be a newer place that we could go that not a lot of people knew about before hand so no one would have any preconceive opinions of it. Making it just more scary.

      • Patrick Keller

        Interesting. If I find anything out I’ll e-mail you.

  • Tom McSwain

    Thanks. My friend tried to get a hold of the person that knows about the place but hasn’t had any luck.

  • Tom McSwain

    I did try to Bing it but the only stuff that came up was in Texas so I may have the spelling wrong.

    • Patrick Keller

      Yeah I’m finding the same thing, Tom. I did, however, just ask a lot of my KC friends on Facebook. We’ll see what they say. I’ll e-mail you if I get anything. Thanks for visiting my blog!

  • Dan Bonser

    This is a fun post! What a great old find, seeing how it was celebrated way back when.

    • Patrick Keller

      Thank you, Dan! As you can see, I posted this a little too early because I was so excited about it. I’m wondering why you couldn’t see the facebook share button? Were you reading it through e-mail? Sometimes I have to click on the blog link to open it up from the e-mail to see share buttons. But I think you came through BC, right?

  • This is Halloween, Part 1 | Casual, Possibly-Nonsensical Ramblings

    […] Planning a Halloween Party (in 1911) ( […]

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: