Category Archives: Fun Facts

Legends and lore, news, opinions and other hauntingly fascinating facts.

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.

Yarr Going to Love This History of Pirates and Piracy

By Dusti Lewars-Poole

Piracy may well be one of the oldest known professions. With roots wrapped around Roman past and Viking exploits, piracy has inspired terror and fantasy for centuries.

Today, the word “pirate” brings to mind dashing rebellious male spirits with gold teeth, elaborate coats, and oversized plumed hats. Swords and pistols, handhooks and maps, eye patches and parrots – these are the tools of the trade. Treasure and freedom are the themes. The reality is, of course, a much more complicated matter.

Pirates, or more accurately “sea thieves”, were first mentioned in writing as far back as 140 B.C. For most of history, water has offered Man the quickest way to travel and transport goods. Ships and seaports were long recognized as holding the possibility of wealth – and where there’s wealth, there will be those who want to claim a share of it.

Privateers – Pirates By Any Other Name …

Surprisingly, the actual “golden age of piracy” – the time when pirates such as Blackbeard hit rock-star-fame status – only lasted from (roughly) 1665-1716. And frequently, the status of “pirate” depended on who was attacking whom. Some acts of piracy were perfectly legal – nations would hire adventurous individuals as “privateers,” complete with legal military status, to attack enemy shipping.

Being a privateer rather than a pirate, however, didn’t guarantee any sort of safety if one was caught. A thief is a thief in the eyes of the ones being robbed, and legal privateers were punished nearly as harshly as any criminal pirate. Depending on one’s perspective, privateers had it worse, as they faced life imprisonment rather than death by hanging, which is the traditional punishment for being a pirate.

So Spain’s privateers attacked French ships, France’s attacked the Spanish, England’s attacked French and Spanish ships, and the Maltese corsairs happily attacked any Christian-owned boat that dared sail the Mediterranean. And all too often, the lure of wealth led many a soul to cross the admittedly vague line from legal attacks to illegal robbery.

Sometimes, the road to piracy was inflicted on a person. If one’s military ship is manned by pirate wanna-bee’s, it’s not difficult to imagine a scenario where the crew might mutiny, taking over the ship, dragging a captain from a respectable life as an officer into a seedier career choice. Other times, the life of a pirate offered a person a chance to jump social statuses in a world where having the ill luck to be born to the wrong family trapped many a soul into a constrained life. And in times of peace, when there were too many sailors and too little salary, piracy had an obvious appeal.

Women Were Pirates, Too

Women made the very hazardous jump into piracy as well. History tells of at least two – Anne Bonny and Mary Read. They were women that disguised their gender at a young age in pursuit of a better life. Anne became a pirate because of love; Mary, because of being taken hostage by a pirate crew. Chances are very good that there were other ladies riding the waves as well – but considering that Fate was not kind to most women on board ships, it’s also very likely that these women would have tried to pass themselves off as men as much as possible.

Hollywood tells us that a pirate’s life was glamorous and wealthy, filled with buried treasures and hook-hands. A glance at history doesn’t entirely dismiss this version of the truth. A successful pirate was wealthy, squandering his wealth on luxury during his time ashore. Setting money aside for the future wasn’t a common practice. Pirates didn’t usually live to a ripe old age. Lost limbs were common. Disease and malnutrition frequently hit crews. A pirate captured during a raid was usually hung. While it’s true that some pirates succeeded in retiring from their rough life on the sea, it seems to have been the exception rather than the rule.

Democracy on the High Seas

One thing that Hollywood does not tell us is the fact that democracy was very common on pirate ships. Captains were often voted into power by the crew. Decisions that involved non-battle situations were usually reached by vote. At a time when most countries were still controlled by monarchies, the fact that pirate crews were figuring out new ways to govern themselves is one of the more intriguing aspects of piracy.

Aargh, Where’s Me Parrot? And Other Historical Inaccuracies

It may also be a surprise to learn that peg legs, parrots and huge sailing ships were actually not the norm in the world of the pirate. While limbs could certainly be lost in this very rough life, many people did not survive the amputation of legs, so it’s unlikely that peg legs would have been as common as Hollywood might portray them as being. Eye patches and hook-hands may have been seen more often, as the loss of an eye or hand is far easier to survive, and a hook is obviously more useful than an unadorned stump.

Parrots, frankly, are very high maintenance, and while their exotic look may have been appealing, it’s not likely that the limited supply of food on board, as well as the rough nature of the sea, would have brought much joy or health to a macaw. And while big ships with lots of cannons is a thrilling image on screen, small ships, quick to maneuver and very lightly armed, were a pirate’s first choice of transportation. Battles at sea would have been extremely dangerous. Most pirates preferred to race up to their target, hop on board, and steal as much as they could manage, and get away as quickly as possible.

Piracy Today

A final surprise: There are indeed modern pirates. Some are poor fishermen, sneaking on board docked ships and stealing anything they can get their hands on. Others are highly organized; heavily armed criminals that aren’t afraid to attack a moving ship. Somalia has become known as a place for sailors to be wary of. The waters around Indonesia had the most recorded acts of piracy today. The International Maritime Bureau warns that the area between the south China Sea and the Java Sea is a high-risk area.

Pirates today use mortars, machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades. They’re stealing oil and ships. They take hostages. They kill resisting captains. There is little that is glamorous or sexy about it. So let Hollywood weave its web of sexy glamor around the myth and history of piracy. Wrap yourself in the fantasy. Embrace the pirate-heritage our history books barely touch on. But don’t forget…it’s all as real today as it was 3000 years ago. Out on the ocean, there still be pirates lurking.

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.

The Story Behind Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum and Universal Studios

Madame Tussaud’s Sculpter Creating the Wax Frankenstein

Universal Studios, an industry leader in creating horror films, celebrated the anniversary of several Universal classics horror classics in 2001. In a landmark relationship, Universal Studios Home Video (USHV) joined Tussaud’s Group of London and Madame Tussaud’s worldwide attractions to pay tribute to Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi. Development of the Dracula, Frankenstein and Mummy characters for Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museums coincides with USHV’s 2001 national campaign for a new Golden Era of Horror, celebrating several “monstrumental” anniversaries that have defined Halloween entertainment for generations. And, this is the first time Madame Tussaud’s has created wax figures of celebrities in costume and character makeup.

Madame Tussaud’s artisans created lifelike wax figures of Bela Lugosi’s Dracula persona to celebrate the 70th anniversary of Dracula (1931). The film combined gothic and supernatural elements to create an eerie, unforgettable story of the undead. Dracula established horror as a viable genre in the emerging era of talking pictures and was one of the most influential films of its day.

Larry King
Larry King checks out eyeballs for his wax figure.

Boris Karloff’s portrayals of Frankenstein and The Mummy are immortalized in wax alongside Dracula. Also celebrating its 70th anniversary in 2001, Frankenstein is considered by many critics to be the greatest horror film of all time. Based on Mary Shelley’s gothic novel, the film, directed by James Whale, was a milestone in the genre. This film expanded the use of special effects, while Karloff’s nuanced performance made the creature both oddly affecting and deeply terrifying. The Mummy (1932) remains a monster movie classic. A high priest, the Mummy, was embalmed alive for trying to revive a vestal virgin after being sacrificed. The Mummy is accidentally revived after 3,700 years by a team of British archaeologists and he sets out to find his lost love. Seventy years after initial release this brooding, dream-like film remains a masterpiece.

The three classic monster wax figures are featured in Madame Tussaud’s New York. “For more than 200 years, Madame Tussaud’s has created incredibly lifelike figures of the world’s most recognizable individuals,” said Robert Roger, acting CEO for The Tussaud’s Group. “With enthusiastic support of Universal and the Karloff and Lugosi families, we have the unique opportunity to pay tribute to two renowned actors and their contributions to the early success of the horror genre on film.”

Madame Tussaud’s New York displays nearly 200 celebrities along with Dracula, Frankenstein and The Mummy. The New York facility opened on November 15, 2000. It is a prestigious, $50 million, 85,000 square foot, five-story interactive attraction located at 234 West 42nd Street in New York, The museum is open Sunday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Friday through Sunday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. For information online visit their website at www.madame-tussauds.com or contact them by phone at 800.246.8872.

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.

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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.

Credit: norsemyth.org

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.

Credit: wikipedia.org

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.

Credit: elleuk.com

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.

Image: questionscommons.com

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.

Credit: twincities.com

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.

Credit: robhoovermagic.com

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 snopes.com, 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.

Credit: http://smlocalhistory.blogspot.com

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.