All posts by Ophelia

The Truth Behind The Mask: Why We Conceal Who We Are

By Rosemary Ellen Guiley, Ph.D.

© Visionary Living, Inc. 2002

You open the door on Halloween and there before you stand the good, the bad and the ugly-fairies, superheroes, villains, creatures, monsters, even terrorists. You know them by their masks.

Halloween is an evening of fun and entertainment, and masks are essential to the party. But did you know that masks have a long history as a sacred and mystical bridge to other dimensions and worlds?

You’ve heard the adage, “you are what you eat.” When it comes to masks, you become what you wear!

Conceal or reveal?

Masks are ancient and powerful mediators between the worlds-the living, the dead and the spirit. We have worn masks from the beginning of our recorded history. At first glance it may seem that the main purpose of a mask is to hide and disguise, but actually it’s true purpose is to reveal what is hidden, and thus to transform.

We use the term “unmasking” to refer to exposing the truth. There are many stories about beauty hidden by masks of ugliness. The Phantom of the Opera and Beauty and the Beast are two well-known examples. In both cases, the hero suffers from his outer ugliness. People see only the superficial, and turn him into an outcast. He lives in an imprisoned world. The Phantom hides in the subterranean tunnels of Paris; the Beast is a lonely recluse in his forbidding castle. The true beauty of the ugly hero’s soul can be unmasked only by true love.

One might assume, then, that the hidden secret truth is more desirable than the mask, but such is not always the case. In Todd Browning’s 1931 film, Freaks, a beautiful circus trapeze artist consents to marry a dwarf who is madly in love with her. She doesn’t love him; she can’t even stand him. Her real intent is to murder him and get the fortune he has saved. At the wedding ceremony, attended by the other circus “freaks,” she cannot hide her revulsion and makes fun of them. The freaks vow revenge. They succeed in transforming her into one of them-an ugly “freak.” Her beauty has been her mask, and when it is taken away, it reveals the true ugliness of her soul.

In both types of stories, however, the end result is the same: we are shocked by what the mask hides, and thus we are transformed to see a truth in a powerful way.

A bridge to the gods

Ancient peoples understood well the power of the mask. Evidence of mask-wearing in prehistoric societies shows that masks may have been intended to magically transform the wearer in order to achieve or acquire something. Perhaps the first prehistoric masked dancer is the “Sorcerer,” a Neolithic-Age cave painting at Trois Freres in France. The masked figure is half-human and half-animal, wearing stag antlers and poised in dance-step. The image suggests a ritual for a successful hunt. His mask reveals and liberates the animal nature within the man, which would have enabled him to come into contact with supernatural forces or the spirit of animals and petition them for help.

Masks have been with us throughout our history in our rituals, liturgies, theater and folk art. The mask has been revered as a sacred object of power, a living thing that either has its own persona or represents the persona of another being. It enables the wearer to bring to life, and even become, the persona or spirit being represented by the mask. While the mask is on, the wearer is no longer completely himself, but shares his identity with that of his mask. He has freedom-and permission within society-to act differently, even outrageously. The transformation has its limits and controls: the wearer cannot go beyond the bounds of the mask itself, and is transformed only during the wearing of the mask. When the mask comes off, it’s back to “ordinary” reality.

The transformative power of the mask can be explained in Jungian terms. A mask connects its wearer to archetypal powers residing within the collective unconscious. The mask is a mediator between the ego and archetype, the mundane and the supernatural, the sacred and the comic. It connects the present to the past, the individual to the entire collective of race, culture, country-and humanity.

Living presence

In cultures where the mask is treated with reverence, mask-making is a respected and skilled art. For example, in Bali, masks play major roles in rituals and performances. The masks are carved from wood. Before carving is begun, the sculptors meditate on the purpose of the mask, the persona in the mask itself, and the performer who will wear it. The performer also meditates upon the mask prior to wearing it. He may even sleep with it next to him in order to incubate dreams based upon its appearance and persona, which will inspire his performance to greater depth.

The challenge of the Balinese performer is to literally bring the mask to life-to make the wood seem elastic and capable of illuminating its fixed expression. Actors who have the gift to animate their masks are respected as “having taksu.” Taksu means “place that receives light.” Actors who have no taksu are called carpenters-they just push wood around the stage.

Good or evil?

In most cultures, masks symbolize beneficent spirits: nature beings, deities, the ancestral dead and the animal kingdom. North American Indians have used masks to represent evil spirits, over which the medicine men are believed to have power. Similar attribution is made in Ceylon.

Masks play important roles in religious, healing, exorcism and funerary rituals. Sri Lankan exorcism masks, for example, are hideous in order to frighten possessing demons out of bodies. Among North American Indians, bear masks invoke the healing powers of the bear, considered the great doctor of all ills. In funerary rites, masks incarnate the souls of the dead, protect wearers from recognition by the souls of the dead, or trap the souls of the dead.

In the West, however, masks have lost much of their sacred and deep symbolic meaning. Once, they were integral to Greek drama, both secular and liturgical medieval ceremonies, the Renaissance court masque, and 19th century mime and pantomime.

Today we see masks as entertainment props rather than as living things. We focus on the superficiality of masks rather than on the essence of what they represent. We look at masks as concealers rather than revealers. They hide flaws and ugliness. They also hide our true identity when we want to get away with something-criminals and vigilantes use masks to avoid being recognized.

Halloween secrets

Historically, the true intent of Halloween masks is to frighten. The practice of wearing masks and disguises stems from ancient beliefs that on this night the souls of the dead and unfriendly spirits walk the earth. It is desirable to conceal your true identity from them so that they do not follow you home. Masks also frighten them away.

In contemporary times, most of us are more entertained than frightened by scary masks. By wearing them, however, we may be reaching into the collective unconscious to express our secret, inner fears and shadow side. The masks let us reveal the asocial self-the monster within and also our deep fear of death. Halloween is one night when, through masks, the underbelly of human consciousness is permitted to be displayed without disapproval. The mask may even relieve some deep collective stress. We are able to face what we otherwise don’t want to see. As we party away in our masks, we may not be consciously aware of these strange dynamics.

We can learn a great deal about a person by the mask he selects. What is the message being sent by the mask? What is the mask concealing and revealing? Is a vampire mask a statement by a disempowered person for a desire to be powerful over others? Does the fairy queen mask speak to someone’s true thoughts that they are not as attractive as they wish? Or perhaps that they wish they had a magical power?

Our choice of masks may unconsciously reflect something moving within the deep currents of a collective consciousness. For example, in 2001 Osama bin Laden masks were popular. This popularity might have been more than just a commercial cashing-in on the terrorism attacks of September 11. Perhaps we were attempting to confront the evil we feel he represents, and to reduce its power to a comic, and thus more manageable, level.

Next Halloween, give some extra thought to the mask you choose. Remember that the mask reveals more than it conceals!

Rosemary Ellen Guiley, Ph.D., is the author of 30 books, including The Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Spirits and Encyclopedia of Witches and Witchcraft. Her website is

Book Review: Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter

Explore Your Fangful Fantasies With the Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter series. Sink your teeth into the dark-and-deep reads below.


Are you a secret Van Helsing fan?

Do you watch “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” cheering her on…but secretly missing the darker style of Faith?

Meet Anita Blake, vampire hunter.

She lives in a slightly twisted version of modern-day America. In Anita’s world, vampires, zombies and werecreatures live side by side with regular humans. Laws protect the preternatural, giving them legal rights. But when they break the law, normal cops aren’t equipped to deal with what ensues. So the police turn to a special division called “The Spook Squad,” where Anita serves as detective and, in three states, vampire executioner.

It’s not her only job, mind you. She’s also an animator – a talented necromancer who can raise zombies when needed (the dead do, indeed, tell tales). A grisly job, but one that allows her to put her natural affinity for the dead to good use.

The cycle of books written by Laurell K. Hamilton that detail Anita’s adventures are a highly creative, visual roller coaster of a read. Though vampires do of course form the series foundation, the presence of voodoo, werecreatures, necromancy and faerie add a level of richness that set these novels apart from others in this genre.

In Anita’s world, the vampires are sensual, powerful, scary. The werewolves, wereleopards, and wererats are alien, earthy, truly animalistic. And the heroine is tiny, scarred, and armed to the teeth. Let the hunt begin.

Suggested Reading:

Guilty Pleasures
The Laughing Corpse
Circus of the Damned
The Lunatic Café
Bloody Bones
The Killing Dance
Burnt Offerings
Blue Moon
Obsidian Butterfly
Narcissus in Chains

Spiritualism: the Spooky Movement of the 1800s

Mystics seeking answers. Women touching on empowerment. Charlatans lusting after easy money. Depending on your viewpoint, all of these people made up the spiritualist movement.

Spiritualism is defined as “a system of religious beliefs centered on the assumption that communication with the dead, or spirits, is possible.” The movement took the European world by storm in the mid-1800s. Following the thread of reason for spiritualism’s wild popularity can make the researcher a little dizzy.

The world at that time was riding the first waves of the Industrial Revolution. Underground trains, movie projectors, telegraphs and cars were new technologies. The repression of the Victorian era was starting to collide with the demand for social reforms. The new phenomenon of smog was choking the lungs of London’s inhabitants. Women demanded political equality. Activists called for the humane treatment of children and prisoners. Somewhere, hidden in Whitechapel’s darkness, the possibility of violent serial killing was being born. And on the horizon, just distant enough to be ignored if one tried hard enough, a war of worldwide proportions was starting to take shape.

In the struggle against old restrictive religions and traditional ways of working, Europeans were reaching out for new understandings, new rules – even new sciences. Phrenology – the study of the bumps on one’s skull – and mesmerism enjoyed a rush of popularity as Man strove to understand the workings of the mind. Psychology joined the fray. Investigations of the mind were somehow reassuring. This was controllable. This could reaffirm Man’s place in the world and, eventually, even help argue against social reform as one type of human could be argued to be superior to another due to solid physical evidence. For example, men’s brains were larger than women’s, so, clearly men were the smarter gender. No vote, no equality, no voice, next questions please.

It should perhaps not be a surprise, then, that it was the stifled voices of women that would first start to communicate with the dead.

People in Europe had a very different relationship with Death than we ever had here in America. They wrote comedic graveyard scenes into their novels. Lethal diseases became the stuff of nursery rhymes. Photos were taken of the dead and kept as mementos of loved ones. There was, from culture to culture, an ongoing relationship with the dead, and so perhaps it makes a sense of sorts that actual physical communication between this world and the next should be the brainchild of America, the baby-country with no history of art or culture to help define its world-view.

The roots of the spiritualist movement are generally said to have taken hold in New York, under the roof of John D. Fox. His daughters, Katherine and Margaret, decided at the tender ages of 6-1/2 and 8 to start pretending to channel spirits. The sounds of mysterious rapping’s was evidence enough that the girls’ powers were real, and by the time Margaret was 13, the Fox sisters were making public appearances to demonstrate their amazing ability to communicate with the dead.

Eventually, Margaret would publicly admit that the whole thing was a sham. In this, she was far more honest than her Salem predecessors. However, the need to believe is often greater than the need to listen, and her claims of charlatanism did very little to stem the popularity of séances.

The sounds of knocks and thuds were impressive enough evidence of mediumistic skill. But people have always wanted bigger better faster, and so people on both sides of the ocean started looking for new ways to give voice to ghostly voices.

Automatic writing – taking a pen and letting it move free-hand across pages of paper, hoping for messages from beyond to appear in the scribbles – was a very popular method of communication. Encouraging a medium to fall into a trance in hopes of hearing unworldly voices speak from her slumbering body, or mysterious vapors to emit from her mouth, was the most dramatic technique available. Using photographic equipment to attempt to capture the images of ghosts on film was attempted. Elaborate tables were devised and constructed to allow spirits – with the help of a human agent – to spell out answers to questions. This method was tedious but effective, and led to the creation of the infamous Ouija board that is still used today by psychics and bored teenagers to reach out to the dead in hopes of enlightenment or amusement.

Moving into the very early 1900s, spiritualism evolved just a bit. Two girls, playing with a camera in their garden, claimed to be photographing fairies. Today, the photos are very clearly frauds; at the time, and true to the history of believing the fanciful claims of young women, an amazing number of people believed the girls were telling the truth and embraced this as yet more proof that there is more going on around us than our practical minds can bear to consider.

Looking at the history of spiritualism, it can be a little difficult to see how anyone could take all of this seriously. How could superstition be mixed with science to create as powerful a movement as spiritualism – something that would exist, in varied forms, for nearly 200 years? The list of supporters and believers in spiritualism is, frankly, staggering. Walt Whitman and Charles Dickens experimented with trance. Quaker abolitionists Isaac and Amy Post loudly supported the work of mediums and channeled spirits themselves. One of the most surprising supporters of the movement was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Creator of Sherlock Holmes, military hero, medical doctor, and at one time the most well paid author in England, Doyle moved from skeptic to believer and became one of the most influential advocates of mediums and fairy-photographers. He self-published numerous works on the field and lost the friendship of magician Harry Houdini, who fought just as hard to disprove the power of mediums as Doyle fought to support them.

In the end, a belief in spiritualism is about hope. Hope that we can continue to have a relationship with those that have passed away. Hope that, even when the world around is in chaotic flux, there is something beyond all of this that connects our souls and minds. Hope that we have a voice above and beyond our gender, social position, or age. Hope that there is still magic in this world. And if we can just find the right way to reach out, we can touch the hem of all the supernatural fancies we dream of encountering.

Halloween Myths & Monsters

By Lesley Bannatyne excerpted from A Halloween How-Tohalloween seance

“I hate Halloween,” exclaims an elderly caller on an AM radio talk show in Maryland. “They should get rid of it. Kids today are just destructive.”

“Halloween glorifies Satan,” warns a preacher on national cable television. “Kids shouldn’t dress up as devils, period.”

“I would never let my children go out trick or treating alone,” confides a D.C.-area mom of her six year-old and ten-year old. “I’d never forgive myself if something happened.”

People hurl invectives at Halloween like bullets. It’s dangerous. Bang. It’s Satanic. Bang. It’s commercial. Bang. It’s too scary, too corrupted, too sanitized. Bang, bang, bang.

But when people rail against Halloween, they don’t really mean Halloween. What they usually mean is let’s get rid of vandalism, or begging, or slasher movies. (The actual holiday serves a need so human we’ll probably still be celebrating when the ice cap melts and we’re all trick or treating in powerboats.) And the more popular Halloween gets, the more we hear about the down side: razor blades in apples, black cat kidnappings, Satanic rituals. What’s true, exaggerated, or just plain made-up? Let’s turn on the light and see what’s a monster and what’s simply a coat tree casting a shadow on the wall.

Halloween Myths: True or False? Halloween is a Holiday for Witches. True. Samhain (sow-en), celebrated on October 31st, is one of eight major seasonal holidays marked by many contemporary witches and neopagans.

Modern-day pagans use solstices and quarter days to mark the turning points of the year. Samhain’s reserved for honoring ancestors and remembering loved ones who’ve died, and for acknowledging the cyclical nature of living and dying.

Although practices vary widely, most will gather for a ritual. There’s nothing Satanic involved. Nor are there sacrifices, invocations of evil, or naked orgies. The meeting place (be it inside or out) would likely be lit with candles and jack-o-lanterns, and decorated with harvest fruits and vegetables. People would enter quietly and gather in a circle. There might be a brief invocation of a goddess or god to provide wisdom, or a guided visualization to help participants understand the process of death and rebirth. Participants might remember people in their lives who have died recently, express grief, and share memories. The ritual might include some scrying (looking into the future) and conclude with everyone dancing to the beat of a drum and chanting. Samhain is a time of death–of the summer and the fields–but within the frozen ground are beginnings of new life, and the goddess will return at the appointed time. The earth will green.

Satanic cults use Halloween to perform ritualistic crimes. False. There are two questions to address here. First, to what extent do Satanic cults or ritualistic crimes really exist? And secondly, what’s Satan’s connection to Halloween?

Encyclopediaist J. Gordon Melton calls Satanism “the world’s largest religion that does not exist.” The largest organized Satanist-style cults such as the Church of Satan or the Temple of Set (never more than a few hundred members in their heyday) are now largely dormant, and Melton has discovered that most practicing Satanic cults usually number three to five people and last only a few months. There is no religious denomination or even any cult today celebrates the Devil on Halloween, not even so-called Satanists, since they don’t acknowledge the existence of any higher power including Satan. In addition, there are no confirmed statistics, court cases, or studies to support the idea that serious Satanic cult crime even exists (for a good study of Satanic cult activity in America today, read Jeffrey Victor’s Satanic Panic). It turns out that most of the devil-worshipping activity reported in the media is perpetrated by teenagers based on what they’ve read in church literature or seen in movies.

So how did Satan get tied to Halloween? Satan didn’t come into the formula until the 14th through 17th centuries-loosely, the time of the witch craze-when witches were thought to make a pact with the Devil at their rituals. Fears of witchcraft and Satanic rituals had abated with the Enlightenment, and by the 20th century, pointy black hats and red horns were simply part of the fun of Halloween. But films like Rosemary’s Baby, The Exorcist, and all the Halloween movies (among many, many others) have etched a more detailed, modern persona for the Devil in our imaginations. When Hollywood started to mine Halloween imagery for terror, churches become more vocal about celebrating Halloween, and rumors of Satanic rituals grew rampant.

It may simply be that Halloween’s symbols are incendiary. In our image-based society, somewhere along the line we began to confuse symbols of death with those of Hell. I suspect it’s Hollywood, more than anything else, that helped put the hell in Halloween.

Black cats are in danger on Halloween. Rarely, but yes. Over the past decade or so newspapers have run several stories about black cats being abducted and used in occult rites on Halloween–there’ve been reports of mysterious animal bone graveyards and satanic symbols drawn on and around cats. What you don’t usually see is the terse follow-up story, several weeks later and not nearly on the front page, explaining that no abduction occurred, or that the bones were part of a known animal graveyard.

Around 1997, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) instituted a better-safe-than-sorry policy and advised against the adoption of black cats three days before and after Halloween. In that year, the organization got suspicious when a woman adopted a black cat, but when the ASPCA made a follow-up call to see how the cat was doing, the woman reported the cat was dead. When ASPCA workers came to pick up the body, they discovered she’d given a phony address. The investigation of the case halted there. Was the cat harmed? Was it somehow related to Halloween? We won’t ever know. But taking a proactive approach seemed the Society’s safest choice.

As of 2001, the staff of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) had not personally witnessed a case of black cat abuse at Halloween (in fact, most shelters report no such cases). It has, however, reported hearing stories, and so recommended protection of black cats around Halloween.

The threat is not all smoke and mirrors. There have been a few, highly publicized incidents of black cat abuse around Halloween–I was able to find and track a dozen reported incidents between 1992 and 1999 (for comparison, in roughly the same time period, an estimated 2500 dogs and cats had died or suffered during air travel, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture). Upon further investigation, some cases turned out to be unrelated to Halloween or black cats: two of the cats were unharmed, only seven of the incidents involved black cats (as opposed to brown cats or tabbies), and it’s difficult to document how many happened on or near Halloween (either the shelters had gone out of business or the staff could not remember). In the only case that was prosecuted, the perpetrators were teenagers. Oftentimes, confusing the issue, journalists report examples of animal abuse that have taken place at other times of the year in articles about black cat abuse at Halloween. As a result, the sense of a crisis exists where there are only unrelated, isolated incidents, none of them involving ritual sacrifice by Satanic cults, but rather cruelty and crimes committed by individuals.

The increased media, however, does give the shelters and humane societies a chance to educate the public about pet safety. For those who love and care for cats, saving even one life makes any effort worthwhile.

Halloween Safety Guide – Tips on Having Fun when Trick-or-Treating

With Halloween witches, goblins, and super-heroes descending on neighborhoods across the USA, the American Red Cross offers parents, grandparents and guardians some safety tips to help prepare their children for a safe and enjoyable trick-or-treat holiday.

Halloween should be filled with surprise and enjoyment. Add some common sense practices and you’ll make sure your child’s memories of Halloween are golden.

  • On Halloween night, walk, slither, and sneak on sidewalks, not in the street.
  • Look both ways before crossing the street to check for cars, trucks, and low-flying brooms.
  • Cross the street only at corners or controlled intersections.
  • Don’t hide or cross the street between parked cars.
  • Wear light-colored or reflective-type clothing so you are more visible. (And remember to put reflective tape on bikes, skateboards, and brooms, too!)
  • Plan your Halloween route and share it with your family. If possible, have an adult go with you.
  • Carry a flashlight to light your way. Make sure yo uhave fresh batteries as well.
  • Keep away from open fires and candles. (Costumes can be extremely flammable.)
  • Visit homes that have the porch light on.
  • Accept your treats at the door and NEVER go inside a stranger’s house.
  • Use face paint rather than masks or things that will cover your eyes. You want to maintain good vision.
  • Be cautious of animals and strangers.
  • Have a grown-up inspect all your treats before eating. And don’t eat candy if the package is already opened. Also remember that small, hard pieces of candy are a choking hazard for young children.
  • Brush your teeth after consuming any candy.

Remember Halloween should be a fun holiday experience for all. Using common sense is the first step to enjoying and having a safe and sane Halloween. Enjoy and happy Halloween.

Halloween: Fact or Fiction? Quiz Yourself Here!

Did trick-or-treating start in the Middle Ages? What did the Irish carve to scare demons away? And how many razor blades are found in apples every Halloween?

You may be surprised by what you do (and don’t!) know about Halloween. Today we peel back the layers to find out what’s real, and what’s just so much hocus-pocus.


Halloween is shrouded (oh yes we did go there) in myth. Test yourself with these 8 spooky questions:

Fact or Fiction? Halloween was originally a Celtic holiday and was celebrated on October 31.


Fact…more or less.  The ancient Celts celebrated the new year around today’s calendar reckoning of Oct. 31. (In pre-Christian times, the Celts obviously did not count calendar days in this way.)

The Celtic year was separated into two seasons, Summer and Winter. Summer’s end (Samhain, pronounced sow-een) was celebrated around our current reckoning of October 31. Bonfires, stories, rituals and sometimes the dissecting of sacrificed animals might all be included in this special night.

The Celts weren’t alone: most pre-Christian religions in areas of the globe that experience a hot v. cold season or seasons probably utilized this change of year for similar rites.

For more historic tidbits, see what The History Chanel has to say about the day here.

Fact or Fiction? Trick-or-treating is a historically modern Halloween custom which began in the early 1900s.


Fact. We know – you’ve heard of the Celts and offerings, and of Medieval beggars and soul cakes. All that is true, but historically, a “begging” night on Oct. 31 by children is much more recent.


Halloween began to pick up steam int he Americas in the late 19th century, largely through small home parties. Then the first decades of the 20th century, children began “begging” for treats, though not always on Halloween – according to author Betty Smith, kids delivered nasty tricks to miserly shopkeepers who refused to give up the goods on Election Day.

In the wake of much not always innocent mischief-making, including the setting of fires and other stunts, parents began organizing smaller gatherings. By the Baby Boom generation (just after World War II, trick-or-treating in costumes now available at stores had become official and was practiced across the United States.

Fact or Fiction? The Irish carved the first jack-o-lanterns out of pumpkins.


Fiction. The first jack-o-lanterns, carved in Ireland ans Scotland, were actually made out of beets or, more usually, turnips. Children hollowed out the veggies, carved faces on them and placed candles inside tos care away evil spirits on Halloween night.

Once immigrants arrived in America, they found pumpkins more plentiful  and easier to carve and used them instead.

Fact or Fiction? According to folklore, the jack-o’-lantern got his name from a man named Jack.


Fact. The tale of Jack of the Lantern, or Jack o’Lantern, involved a man who was so vile, the devil himself ejected Jack from hell. But the devil took pity on the poor (lost) soul and gave Jack an ember to carry around to light his way.

Some versions of the story tell of the devil chasing Jack’s soul and coming close to claiming it before finally becoming victorious. Jack laughingly got away every time – except the last.

Satan was at first triumphant, but when he found what he had on his hands, he tossed Jack back upward from hell to the surface of the earth. A wayward coal bounced up with him, and Jack scooped it up to light his way.

Halloween Fact or Fiction: Halloween is the top-selling candy day of the year.

Fiction. Although Halloween comes in a very tight second, Easter is the U.S.’s top candy money-making day, at $8.34 billion in 2017.

However, Halloween is still impressive in this area, at $8 billion. (We’ve heard rumors that $3 billion of those are pocketed away for the giver’s own pleasure after trick-or-treat hours are over, but we can’t quantify that. Now, excuse us while we raid the treat bowl.)

Fact or fiction? Chicago is home to the first Halloween community festival.


FictionIndependence, Kansas lays claim to this title with their Neewollah (Halloween spelled backwards) festival, which premiered in 1918 and has been held at intervals since then.

In 1920, Anoka, Minnesota named itself “the Halloween capital of the world,” kicking off with a town-wide parade and celebration. The festival has been held every year since.

Fact or Fiction? Approximately 300 children visit the emergency room annually on or around Halloween due to a razor blade hidden inside fruit or candy.


Fiction. Although this gory image is a Halloween (here we go again) staple, only a handful of such reports have EVER been verified.

According to, while pins, razor blades, objects that could produce choking, and other dangerous items have been found in Halloween candy, official investigations have only been able to verify 80 such reports since 1959. (That’s an average of just over one reported, verified incident per year across the United States.)

We still recommend safety, but the Halloween “pin in an apple” tradition has obviously gotten a creative boost, based on our natural inclination to fear strangers and protect children…both of which are good things.

Fact or fiction? Halloween was banned during World War II due to conservation efforts.


Fiction. While Americans rationed food and materials during World War II, an effort was made to celebrate Halloween during this difficult time. Adults got children in on “Conservation Day,” with salvaged paper the price of admission for Halloween parties. Inexpensive materials were used to craft hand-made, often quite inspired decorations.

The day might also feature parades showcasing Red Cross Units, Air Raid Wardens, and Auxiliary Police Units – all dressed up in Halloween  costume finery. Contests were also held, with local merchants donating prizes.

After the war, Halloween went into full-swing with trick-or-treating, dress-up and parties…and the rest is history.


Black Kettle Treat Buckets

Need to add some lights to your steps or room? Grab one of the black plastic kettle treat buckets and cut an ‘X’ in the bottom. Grab a string of colored outdoor mini lights and lay them in the bottom of the kettle. Pull the cord through the bottom of the kettle, and ta da! You now have an indoor/outdoor, eerie-looking light fixture for little or no cost.

You can really dress this idea up is you have a drill and an old pumpkin carving template. Tape the template on the side of the kettle and get a pencil. Make a dot where you want to drill your holes and get started. Practice with your template on a piece of cardboard first before you tackle the kettle. You can line your walkway or steps with these and have them for next year too.

Jack-O-Lantern Treat Buckets

My daughter is only eight, and she seems to have collected ten or more jack-o-lantern treat buckets! I was desperately searching the Halloween odds and ends box for anything I could use when I casually knocked into a stack of jack-o-lantern treat buckets. I started to push them back into the closet when I got an idea. This was just too perfect!

I grabbed five of the treat buckets that were different sizes and colors and headed to my costume trunk that is filled with hats, glasses, wigs and costume props. I put a plastic safari hat, funky wig and glasses on one treat bucket, and it looked great. I put a child’s witch hat with hair, one with a bat hat and one with a fez. In less than ten minutes, I had five inexpensive, great looking decorations! Kids and adults alike could knock them over or carry them around, and these decorations would withstand the test of time and toddlers. I couldn’t believe I didn’t have to buy a thing! This was just the kind of idea I needed! It was just the beginning once I realized that there were other decorations I could make from this box of junk.

Don’t forget to add some of your old Christmas lights inside the Jack-O-Lanterns for a really eerie look! Put a string of orange, green or amber lights in your decorated treat buckets, add a funny wig or hat and wow! Put that decoration in a dark corner and watch it come to life! If you have the space, why not put several different sizes in one grouping? I even use them for heads for my scarecrow family. I now pick up all the buckets I can find at yard sales and flea markets. Funny, people almost give them to you. The jack-o-lanterns decorations were the hit of my party and survived my big and little guests much better than some of the things I had made or spent big bucks on. I wish I could have said the same for the twenty dollar prop I bought because I just had to have it.