Tag Archives: halloween

Midwest Traditions Before Halloween

Background Information: 

The informant was born and raised in Michigan. They are a good friend of mine and we grew up together. 

Main Content: 

ME: So you mind telling me a little bit about the Boo tradition that we grew up with?

DS: So back in middle school and elementary school, not as much in high school, the night before Halloween, we would go around to our friend’s houses, a group of kids, and we would leave a bag of candy on the porch, knock on their door, and run away. That was just the tradition that you would always do with your friends the night before Halloween. We took it really seriously, maybe more seriously than we should have. We would always try to catch the person who was ‘Booing’ us, and we would always try to escape unseen when we were the ones doing the ‘Booing’. We would leave a cute note, hinting at your identity, but sometimes you just didn’t know who ‘Booed’ you. If you couldn’t catch them, you would always try to figure it out the next day at school. 

ME: Haha, were the parents in on it? Or was it looked down upon? 

DS: So the parents were always in on it. Especially because we were so young. So, the parents of the people doing the ‘Booing’ were usually the ones most involved. They would drive the kids there and they would help prepare the bags. They took it almost as seriously as the kids did. I remember once I heard a knock on my door, I walked outside and I see this car fishtailing out of my driveway, and there was a bag of candy left on my doorstep. ‘

Context: 

This interview happened at my house. 

Thoughts: 

This is something that I loved doing growing up. Me and the informant, along with some of our other friends, used to go around “Booing” people. We would stay up all night hiding in the bushes in front of our homes to catch people who were trying to “Boo” us. After doing some research I found that this tradition was started in the US around the 80s and has been observed in certain pockets of the US, for instance, another friend from Ohio told me that they also did this tradition (https://www.wxyz.com/about-us/as-seen-on/you-can-be-the-first-person-to-start-the-art-of-booing-in-your-neighborhood-classroom-or-community) . However there are some slight variations, apparently some people begin “Booing” in November, and you are supposed to put a ghost on your window to signify that you have been “Booed”. As kids, it was the one time of the year where we could act mischievously and stay out late, with our parent’s full support. I think a large reason for this is because the night before Halloween is also referred to as Devil’s Night and in Detroit it is a famous night of mischief. I reckon our parents let us get away with minor mischief to keep us away from the real mischief on that night. 

Bunny Man Bridge.

K is a 63-year-old Caucasian male originally from Fairfax, Virginia. K is a retired highway patrolman and current polygraph examiner in Phoenix, Arizona.

K performed this folklore while I visited him at his workplace with the intent to collect folklore from police officers. In his office, I asked K if he had any folklore he would be willing to share with me.

K: Well I’m going to tell about you a.. Story that comes out of Fairfax county Virginia where I’m from. Where I actually patrolled as a patrolman. Uh, years ago. Funny thing is, I didn’t learn about this story until I came out to Arizona, uh, twenty five hundred miles from where the story originated from. And I heard about it because it showed up on a documentary on TV about haunted places that uh, would be pretty scary to visit. Uh, and this haunted place in Fairfax Country Virginia is called Bunny Man Bridge. And its actually a railroad bridge, uh, near uh, a place called Clifton Virginia, which is a little tiny sleepy town that is down in a.. quiet area of Fairfax county. And uh, this sleepy little town has this legend of Bunny Man Bridge which is this railroad bridge, and when you go under the bridge it’s cement on the sides but it’s barely wide enough for a car to fit through going one direction, and on the opposite side of the bridge is a dead end road so theres nowhere to go when you go underneath the Bunny Man Bridge but uh, its really quite dark there. There isn’t any street lights, theres uh, lots of trees around, I mean even in a full moon its pretty pretty dark down there around Bunny Man Bridge. I’m familiar with it because, as a patrolman, because its uh, apparently a haunted location a lot of uh, the younger high school uh groups like to go down there and party on the uh, side that there’s no escape from. Uh, in other words, side that’s on where the dead end is at. But, what I learned about Bunny Man Bridge is that this place called Clifton.. uh.. years ago like in the early, like very early 1900s, there was a uh, insane asylum in Clifton. And, I dont know exactly how many prisoners that this insane asylum had housed, but, uh. When.. Fairfax country began to grow up and get larger, they moved this insane asylum to another place called Lorton which is probably, I’m guessing, about, a twenty minute drive away from Clifton and Lorton is far more build up in fact there’s a uh, prison there now from the District of Columbia in Lorton, but uh, the decision was made to transport all the, uh, people in this insane Asylum from Clifton down to Lorton, so they loaded ‘em all on a bus, and started driving away to, uh, Lorton. Well, unfortunately as, uh, the legend has it, the bus ran off the side of the road and crashed and uh all the prisoners, the maniacs escaped and ran into the woods and, the uh, authorities came out and worked really hard trying to round up all these people and they ultimately, uh, were able to round em all up with the exception of two people. Um, and they kept searching the woods searching the woods and they kept finding all these bunny carcasses in the woods. Um, so they expected that these two escapees were actually uh surviving on bunny meat and this went on for a while and they never were able to actually track down these two. But the legend has it that after they searched the entire area for days and days they came to a time where uh they found one of these escapees, hanging from Bunny Man Bridge. And uh, the other one was nowhere to be found and the assumption was that.. uh, apparently they had a dispute or a fight over who was gonna get.. the, the, the bunny leg or the bunny breast or whatever. And uh.. the other one hung his companion from Bunny Man Bridge. And uh, now the legend is if you go to Bunny Man Bridge on uh.. like Halloween or something, uh you can see uh.. this uh, this deceased prisoner hanging from the bridge on Halloween. They never found uh the other escaped individual… Uh, but, periodically they say you can also see bunny carcasses hanging from, Bun-from Bunny Man Bridge. Uh, so they, they believe notwithstanding all of that, that even though this is a hundred and ten years later. Uh, he’s still out there. Uh, uh, eating bunnies and hanging em’ from the bridge on Halloween along with his deceased companion.

Reflection: Despite never visiting Bunny Man Bridge himself, K was extremely knowledgeable about the subject, as evidenced by the length and detail of his performance of the urban legend. The vague version of the Bunny man I am familiar with is of an axe-wielding lunatic wearing a bunny suit, so I was surprised to hear that neither of these two appearance traits were mentioned in K’s telling. The popularity of both the “Bunny Man” and the “Hook Man” urban legends in the American South suggests that the region has a preference for escaped convict stories. Considering the American South has the largest collective prison population in the U.S., it is not hard to make a prediction why this may be the case.

American Halloween Parties: A Festival

Main Piece: 

The following is transcribed from a conversation between me (LT) and my mother/informant (ET). 

ET: I went to Catholic school growing up, and we always had All Saints Day off, which is the day after Halloween, so we’d always have big sleepovers on Halloween. You know, since no one was going to school the next day. I’ve always loved Halloween because of that, and of course my birthday is then… and it’s just a sweet holiday. Oh, and the costumes… that’s one of the best parts… But that’s how I really got started throwing Halloween parties. Then of course, I grew up and had kids- holidays are always better with kids… I loved that our house was the hub for all the neighborhood kids and their parents when everyone was done Trick-Or-Treating. I love cooking lots of food, so everyone has something real to eat that’s not candy (laughs). Even now that you guys are older… I think I’ll always throw Halloween parties. I’ve got them down to a science, you know. Like what decorations are the best… and oh! You have to carve the pumpkins the day before so they don’t go bad, but you’re not too busy the day of. 

Background:

My informant is my mother who mainly grew up in Santa Barbara, CA. Her birthday is Halloween, and she used to always tell me she “had special witch powers” because of it. To her, Halloween is the most important holiday. Every year, she begins elaborately decorating our house weeks in advance for her annual costume party that takes place Halloween Night. She doesn’t even mail invitations anymore because everyone in our community knows it’s happening. 

Context: 

I am currently in quarantine at my informant/mother’s house, and this piece was collected while we were eating dinner at the kitchen table.

Thoughts: 

I believe Halloween parties are such big celebrations in America because the holiday is simple, fun, and nostalgic. Having grown up in a home where my parents practiced different religions, I always loved that Halloween was secular, so both my parents would get really excited about it. It’s not religious, it’s American. There’s no moral to Halloween in common practice (unlike All Hallow’s Eve- the pagan holiday that Halloween was based on, which celebrates the rising of the dead). On Halloween, people are just supposed to get dressed up, have fun, and eat lots of candy (or drink lots of booze, depending on your age). The point of any party, but especially a Halloween party, is that it’s unifying. All are invited to have a shared experience. Furthermore, the fact that it is a costume party highlights this idea by letting people be anyone they want to be. You can dress in a way that’s unacceptable any other day of the year, potentially channeling your childhood dreams or wonder that you haven’t expressed in years. 

Razor Blades for Halloween

Main Piece:

The following is transcribed from a conversation between the informant and the interviewer.

Interviewer: So do you remember when we were kids trick or treating, and our parents used to tell us to be careful and check all the candy we got?

Informant: Yeah, dude, that was crazy! I remember my mom got all worked up about there being razorblades and prescription pills mixed in with what I got haha but I never got anything like that and neither did anyone I know literally ever…

Interviewer: Yeah same, do you have any clue where that rumor started?

Informant: I’m pretty sure it was just some online troll trying to fuck with people and then I think the story actually hit the news so parents started to freak, you know? I think it was all a bunch of bullshit though like I’ve actually seen people saying there’s molly in kids candy now but It’s gotta be just some hype-story so they can get people worked up and get more clicks and all that. 

Background:

My informant was born and raised in Southern California, fairly close to where I was raised as well. The area is more or less crime-free and very safe to raise children in. 

Context:

I spoke with my informant over a zoom facetime call during the 2020 Coronavirus epidemic. We had plans to meet in person, however, the virus made it impossible to do so.

Thoughts:

It’s funny how some people messing around on the internet can lead to a nationwide panic about something that’s not a real issue. This whole “Razor blades in candy” thing started as a joke online, and blew up when people started thinking it was actually happening in their hometowns. The fact that their children were potentially at risk was probably a huge factor in driving this legend to the point it is at today. 

For more information about the “Razor Blades in Candy” story, check the History.com article, “How Americans Became Convinced Their Halloween Candy Was Poisoned” at the link: https://www.history.com/news/how-americans-became-convinced-their-halloween-candy-was-poisoned

Black Cat; Halloween Mythical Legendary Creature/Tradition

Informant-  When I was little I firmly believed in the Halloween Black Cat creature. The Black Cat would visit the night after Halloween to collect my candy. I would know to gather all of my candy and place it at the foot of my bed. The cat would take all of the candy and replace it with a toy or money. 

Interviewer- Did you ever see the Black Cat?

Informant- No the Black Cat always visited in the late hours of the night. I would stay of late trying to catch the cat but never found him. 

Interviewer- Were you ever afraid of the Black Cat? Did you ever not give away your candy? 

Informant- No, the Black Cat was a friendly creature and always gave me the best gifts or a few 2 dollar bills. I remember my brother always tempted me to not give away my candy but in the end, we both were too excited about the possibility of a new gift. 

Interviewer- Do you remember any specific or recurring gifts?

Informant- When I was younger, I remember receiving toys like dolls or stuffed animals. One year I received a cool new toy called, Chatitude, a walk talky toy I could share with my friends. Later in my childhood, I started receiving money. 

Interviewer- When did the Black Cat stop visiting? Do you still believe in the Black Cat or thing you will carry on this tradition?

Informant- When I was around 12 years old I realized the Black Cat was actually a tradition that my parents carried out to make my Halloween healthier. Even though I no longer believe in the Black Cat, I still believe it is a great family tradition. 

Background: My informant recalled this folk belief from her childhood. The tradition was carried out by her parents every year. She no longer holds the childhood belief that the Black Cat is a real creature, but plans to carry out the tradition with her children. 

Context: This piece was collected when visiting a childhood friend. She grew up in Marin County in Northern California. She believed in the Black Cat for many years. I grew up with her and remember hearing about the new Halloween toy exchange every year. 

Thoughts: Kids are drawn to mythical creatures and tales. The Black Cat represents a legend, occurring real-life and possibly being true. These folk creatures bring the children into a new reality of imagination. Halloween is a very superstitious Holiday with much room for tales and folk beliefs. This belief gave the family a fun tradition to lift Halloween spirits and imagination.