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Michigan State University

Halloween Exhibit Bibliography: Older Works Bearing on the Topic

This is a guide to older works of folklore, history, and literature that include information on Halloween, secondary sources, and a couple of web sites. We had an exhibit. Last updated 06-07-2023

Older Works Bearing on the Topic

Adams, Meta.  “Halloween; or Chrissie’s Fate.”  Scribner’s Monthly, an Illustrated Magazine for the People, 3, Nov., 1871-April, 1872, pp. 26-31.  Remote Storage AP 2 .C4

This is a short story about a party of girls who pour lead in water to read the shapes, name chestnuts in pairs and burn them on the hearth, and eat an apple before a mirror at midnight.  Chrissie encounters a wraith before the mirror and romance in story.  She meets and marries the man she encountered in the mirror’s reflection.  The story shows the types of things people did at this time to amuse themselves at Halloween, particularly young women.

Addy, Sidney Oldhall.  Household Tales with Other Traditional Remains, Collected in the Counties of York, Lincoln, Derby, and Nottingham.  London, D. Nutt and Sheffield, Pawson and Brialsford, 1895.  Hathitrust online only. 

Part of the late 19th c. effort to collect customs, beliefs, and traditions of British Isles folklore.  Do word searches in the text for: Halloween, All Hallows.  The table of contents has “Household Tales,” including the one about the blacksmith who sold himself to the Devil (which is the Jack of jack o’lanterns), others on devils, witches, fairies.  There is another part of the book on “Traditional Remains” and here there are chapters on superstitions; witches; magic, charms and divination; days and seasons. 

Brand, John.  Observations on the Popular Antiquities of Great Britain: Chiefly Illustrating the Origin of our Vulgar and Provincial Customs, Ceremonies, and Superstitions.  London, Bohn, 1853.  DA 110 .B82 1853

This is an 1853 edition of an 1814 work that contains a record of the celebration of Halloween at that time.  v. 1 Pages 377-396 contain his chapter “AllHallow Even: Vulgarly Halle E’Een, or Nutcrack Night.” Here he talks about a 1511 Festyvall in which “We rede in olde tyme good people wolde on All Halowen daje bake brade and dele it for chrsten soules.”  “Hallow Even is the vigil of All Saints’ Day, which is on the 1st of November.   It is customary on this night with young people in the north of England to dive for apples, or catch at them, when stuck upon one end of a kind of hanging beam, at the other extremity of which is fixed a lighted candle, and that with their mouths only, their hands being tied behind their backs.”  Other customs and games played at this time are mentioned, also the souling/soul cakes, games with nuts, Robert Burns’ famous poem “Halloween.”

Burns, Robert.  Poetical Works of Robert Burns, edited with Biographical Information by Charles Annandale.  London, Gresham, [1909?].    PR 4300 1909 .L42 v. 1. 

Originally published in 1785, Burns’ poem “Hallowe’en” has detailed descriptions of fortune-telling, food, flirtation, how the holiday was being celebrated in Western Scotland in the 18th century and was much quoted in the 19th century.  This edition has a color frontispiece labelled “An’ monie lads’ and lasses’ fates are there that night decided.”-Halloween showing young people playing a game in the fire place.  The poem is pp. 87-95 and has a great many footnotes explaining the manners and traditions of the country where the poem takes place in order to give some account of the principal charms and spells of the night.  These footnotes are fascinating and this is where a lot of knowledge today comes from about the customs back then.

Campbell, John Gregorson.  Superstitions of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, Collected Entirely from Oral Sources.  Glasgow, J. MacLehose and Sons, 1900.  Hathitrust.  No paper copy in MSU Libraries. 

Part of the late 19th century effort to collect the folklore of the British Isles.  Chapters on fairies, fairy superstitions, tutelary beings, blue men and mermaids, waterhorse, superstitions about animals, miscellaneous things, augury, premonitions and divination, dreams and prophecies, incantations, spells and the black art, and the Devil.

Edgell, A.J. “All Hallowe’en in Window Displays.” Jewelers’ Circular-Weekly.  77#1 (Aug.-Oct., 1918), p. 103

Early reference to black and orange as Halloween colors.

Elliot, Helen.  “Hallowe’en.” Godey’s Lady’s Book.  November, 1870. 

This article tells about a children’s Halloween party given in 1870 in a city along the Ohio River, giving the reader today some ideas about how it was celebrated for children at this time.  Step over a witch’s broom to enter.  Pull molasses candy.  Alcohol poured on raisins and then lit, which the children pull out of the fire.  Telling fortunes with hot lead poured in a tub of water, by cards, and blind folded.  If you put your hand in a pan of ashes, blindfolded, you die an old maid, if you touch a goose wing you marry an old man, if you touch water you marry for love.  Walk downstairs backwards; can you see your sweetheart over your shoulder?  And more.

Frazer, James George.  Golden Bough, a Study in Magic and Religion.  [London], [Macmillan and Co.], [1911-1915].  BL 310 .F7 v. 10

This volume addresses fire-festivals of Europe.  Pp. 222-246 covers Hallowe’en Fires, customs of the time, bonfires, how this is the beginning of the new year, fairies abroad, souls of the departed visiting the living, divination in order to attempt for foretell the future, games, how the time is celebrated in Wales, Ireland, Scotland, England, Isle of Man, etc.

Gregory, Lady.  Cuchulain of Muirthemne, the Story of the Men of the Red Branch of Ulster.  London, J. Murray, 1911.  PB 1423 .C8 G7.  SPC also has a copy, 1902 ed. 

No index.  No HT ed. In our catalog, but it is there, with full view, by searching in the website for HT itself.  This Irish lady was the primary supporter of the literary giant William Butler Yeats. In the 1915 ed. In HT I searched Samhain and found 11 hits, on these pages, which seem to match our 1911 copy: pp. 26, 31(3), 39, 45, 155(2), 157(2), 215, 251, 276, 278, and 320.  This was her first published book.  It is about the life and death of the hero Cuchulain, drawing on folklore and oral tradition.  Her goal was to make the story accessible to a general audience.

Gregory, Lady.  Gods and Fighting Men: the Story of the Tuatha de Fanaan and of the Fianna of Ireland, Arranged and Put into English by Lady Gregory.  London, John Murray, 1904.  PB 1421 .G7

This work and her book just before this one, Cuchulain of Muirthemne… are the most extensive collections to date of Celtic legends and Samhain lore.  There is no index in the print copy of either our 1970 reprint or our 1926 edition.  In the 1905 edition from UM in HT there are 9 hits for Samhain. The first two are on the same page as our edition, so these are the page numbers for Samhain: 61, 83, 92, 164-65, 170, 281 (2), 421, and 472.  The other Halloween words didn’t find anything. 

“Halloween Pranks Keep Police on Hop.” Oregon Daily Journal, Nov. 1, 1934, p. 4. 

In 1934 Halloween pranking was on the rise.  This story describes some of the “tricks” people did: theft, throwing eggs or tomatoes on things, moving a shed, breaking windows, removing man hole covers, setting pretend fires fueled by alcohol and salt, opening fire hydrants, and more.  Copy came on ILL and I printed off the article.

Hawthorne, Nathaniel.  “Young Goodman Brown” and “Feathertop; a Moralized Legend.”  In Mosses from an Old Manse. Boston, Houghton Mifflin and Co., 1881.  PS 1863 .A1 1881

“Young Goodman Brown,” published 1835 helps promote witches as associated with Halloween.  The hero encounters the Devil at night and learns that the most pious members of his community, Salem, are in league with him.  In “Feathertop…” a New England witch builds a scarecrow to protect her garden, then brings the scarecrow to life, and sends him to woo a local judge’s daughter, who falls in love with him. 

Holbein, Hans.  Dance of Death.  Introduction and Notes by James M. Clark. London, Phaidon Press Ltd., 1947.  N 7720 .H6

The Plague or The Black Death, a very contagious disease that killed 60% of Europe’s population, first appeared in 1346.  It peaked in 1350 but broke out again many times until the 18th century.  People became obsessed with man’s mortality, and images of death, the Danse Macabre, spread widely owing to the invention of printing.  Working in Basel, Switzerland, Holbein designed an Alphabet of Death in which capitals are interwoven with human figures and skeletons using the woodcut technique.  On p. 9 here, the Duchess sits up in bed confronted by a skeleton.   His Alphabet sequence was completed by 1526 but these illustrations were first published anonymously in Lyon, France in 1538, in a book called Les Simulachres et Histories Faces de la Mort. 

Hyde, Douglas.  Beside the Fire, a Collection of Irish Gaelic Folk Stories.  London, David Nutt, 1910.  GR 147 .H9. 

The tale “Guleesh Na Guss Dhu” is about a boy who rides with fairies on Halloween night.  See pages 104-128.  In the late 19th century a number of books on British Isles folklore were published; this was one. 

Irving, Washington.  Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Little Britain, and the Spectre Bridegroom from the Sketch Book.  Ann Arbor, University Microfilms, 1966.  PS 2052 .S3 1966. 

The “Legend of Sleepy Hollow” was first published in 1820; it is one of the earliest American short stories.  A ghost, a headless horseman, terrorizes the character Ichabod Crane in Sleepy Hollow, and throws his head, a carved pumpkin at him.  This helps make the jack o’lantern a major Halloween icon. 

James I, King of England.  Minor Prose Works of King James VI and I.  Edinburgh, Scottish Text Society, 1982.  PR 8633 .S4 Ser. 4 No. 14

Contains the text of his work Daemonologie, about witches.  Also see chapter 6 “Daemonologie,” pp. 223-269, about this text, in A King Translated, the Writings of King James VI and I and their Interpretation in the Low Countries, 1593-1603, by Astrid  Stilma at DA 391 .S795 2012.  Also, BF 1521 .J3 1924 has some facsimile pages from Daemonologie. 

Jamieson, Robert.  Popular Ballads and Songs, from Tradition, Manuscripts, and Scarce Editions, with Translations of Similar Pieces from the Ancient Danish Language, and a Few Originals by the Editor.  Edinburgh, A. Constable and Co., 1806.  PR 1181 .J3 v. 2

Pp. 187-190 has the poem tale “Alison Gross” which is about a young Scotsman who is captive of an ugly witch who turns him into a snake.  On Halloween night a queen of fairies rides by, strokes him three times, and he re-becomes human.  This is the only traditional Halloween tale in which a fairy undoes the work of a witch.

Kelley, Ruth Edna.  Book of Hallowe’en.  Boston, Lothrop, Lee and Shepard Co., 1919.  not yet catalogued

Black and white illustrations.   This is the first serious historical treatment of Halloween.  It is by a 26 year old American librarian.  Her history is good overall and more accurate than in some later books.  Has appendix with lists useful for suggestions for readings, recitations, plays, parties, in addition to books on games and entertainments to be found in any public library at that time.  Separate chapter on witches and Walpurgis Night.  Bulk of it is assembling old superstitions and folklore related to Halloween.

Mackay, Christopher S.  Hammer of Witches, a Complete Translation of the Malleus Maleficarum.  Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2009.  BF 1569 .M33 2009. 

We have copy in SPC Rare: xx BF 1569 .A2 I5 1492.  First published in 1486-1487, this is the standard medieval text on witchcraft.  It describes what witches did and ways to exterminate them. 

Orne, Martha Russell.  Hallowe’en, its Origin and How to Celebrate it with Appropriate Games and Ceremonies.  NY, Dick and Fitzgerald, 1898.  Not yet cataloged. 

Offers suggestions for celebrating Halloween in ways to keep young people off the streets and out of trouble.

Poe, Edgar Allan.  Complete Poems and Stories of Edgar Allan Poe, with Selections from His Critical Writings.  NY, Alfred A. Knopf, 1946.  PS 2601 .Q5 v. 1 c. 2. 

Pages 476-483 his short story “The Black Cat.”  This is a story of madness and murder in which an alcoholic man walls up his wife with a cat.  The wife thought black cats were witches in disguise.  Teachers would read this story to their classes at Halloween time.

Rhys, John.  Celtic Folklore Welsh and Manx.  Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1901.  GR 150 .R4 v. 1-2. 

Includes Halloween folk beliefs and stories of malevolent spirits.  See the index in v. 2 and look under All Hallows, Hollantide, and Halloween.  Continuous paging through the two volumes.  See pp. 202-203, 226, 315-316, 318, 320-321, 327-29, 315, 346, 686.  See chapter 4 in v. 1 on Manx folklore, the part called Laa Houney or Hollantide beginning the year.  This book is also part of the late 19th c. effort to collect the British Isles folk tales and customs.

Rockwell, Norman.  [Black and white cover image of a man pretending to be frightened by a ghost with a jack o’lantern for a head, actually a girl covered by a sheet] in Saturday Evening Post, Oct. 23, 1920. 9849 microfilm

Sharp, William.  “Halloween: a Threefold Chronicle.”  Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, 73, June to November, 1886, pp. 842-856.  Remote Storage AP 2 .H3 

Nonfiction account of folk beliefs about Halloween in Scotland, Ireland, and at sea involving bobbing for apples, music, dancing, telling eerie tales.  Very nice black and white images.

Schoen, Erhard.  1533. Burning of a Witch.  Woodcut.  Zentralbibliothek, Wick Collection, Zurich, Switzerland.  Accessed Aug. 8, 2016. ARTStor, 

A broadsheet containing this woodcut recounts a scary story of the devil and a terrible woman that happened at Schilta during Holy Week, 1533.  The prose text recounts the events leading to the burning of the witch on St. George’s Day, April 23rd.

Scott, Walter.  [Sir Walter Scott’s] Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border.  Ed. By Alfred Noyes or T.F. Henderson.  Edinburgh, W. Blackwood and Sons, 1902 PR 1181 .S4 1902 v. 2 or Wakefield, England, EP Publishing, 1975 (reprinted from 91908) PR 1181 .S4 1975. 

These both have “Tamlane” a 1548 Scottish ballad.  Romantic eerie story of Janet, a lass made pregnant by Tamlane, a young man stolen by fairies.  She can only rescue him on Halloween night, provided she’s able to hold onto him no matter what strange and frightening transformation the fairy queen puts the young man through.

Scott, Walter.  Monastery Boston, DeWolfe, Fiske, [1839] PR 5320 .A1 1839

Mentions fortune- telling, fetching (apparitions of those not yet dead) and ‘second sight.’

Scott, Walter.  Waverley, or ‘Tis Sixty Years Since.  Edinburgh, J. Ballantyne for A. Constable, 1814.  SPC PR 5322 .W3 1814

Recounts legend of St. Swithin’s chair, a character sings a song set on “All Hallow Mass Eve” and describes a fortune-telling custom.

Thiselton Dyer, T. F.  British Popular Customs, Present and Past; Illustrating the Social and Domestic Manners of the People: Arranged According to the Calendar of the Year.  NY, AMS Press, 1970.  DA 110 .T62 1970. 

Reprinted from 1875 edition.  See pages 394-410, which offer customs, things done, on Hallow Eve, All Saints’ Day, and All Souls’ Day, in England (by county), Isle of Man, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland.  Older sources are referenced.

Van Derveer, Lettie C.  Hallowe’en Happenings.  Boston, Walter H. Baker Co., 1921. Came on ILL. 

Published at a time when parents, schools, civic organizations, and towns were organizing Halloween events for youths and for themselves.  Gives info on party invitations, decorations, games to play and tests to do, fortune telling, hunts, games, rhymes, recitations to do, ghost stories to read. 

Victoria, Queen of Great Britain.  Victoria in the Highlands, the Personal Journal of Her Majesty Queen Victoria, with Notes and Introduction by David Duff.  NY, Taplinger Pub. Co., 1969.  DA 552 .V5. 

See pp. 216-217 about her experience of Halloween in Scotland in 1866-67.

Whittier, John Greenleaf.  “The Pumpkin.”  In Complete Poetical Works of Whittier.  Boston, Houghton Mifflin Co, 1895. PS 3250 .E94 

His 1850 poem popularizes jack o’lanterns, fall harvest, Thanksgiving, and pumpkin pie.

Williams, Charles.  All Hallows' Eve. London, Faber and Faber, Ltd., [1945].

The last of his seven novels about the supernatural.

Wilde, Lady.  Ancient Legends, Mystic Charms, and Superstitions of Ireland.  Boston, Ticknor and Co., 1887.  GR 147 .W5 v. 1-2.  V. 1

Pp. 209-212 chapter “November Eve.”  This was published in late 19th c. when there were some works on British Isles Halloween folklore published.  This was one.