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Hallowe’en is one of our favorite times of the year here at The Henry Ford and although we’re suckers for tradition, guests should expect some surprises on the horizon at this year’s spooky celebration.

You see, for us, it’s not about the scream-inducing theatrics, but the history and background of Hallowe’en. That’s why the aesthetics we use to transform Greenfield Village are inspired by the 20th century to the early ‘60s.

Wondering how we know so much about what Hallowe’en was like more than 100 years ago? Well, let’s just say we know how to do our research; it’s not an easy or short process, though.

Our creative team works on Hallowe’en in Greenfield Village 365 days a year.

“We are constantly researching and looking into anything that triggers our thought process. Additionally, new technology that can we can incorporate is always emerging,” says Jim Johnson, our Senior Manager of Creative Programs.

Dennison's Bogie Book: Suggestions for Halloween & Thanksgiving, circa 1925 (Object ID: 90.228.474).

Our most inspirational and useful sources of information regarding Hallowe’ens past come from party guides and pamphlets ranging from the early 20th century to the 1960s and Dennison’s Bogie Books.

Surprisingly, Hallowe’en was a much different holiday when it first began, as compared to the terror-ridden night of horror we are accustom to nowadays.

Hollows Eve actually started as a night of romance, even more so than Valentine’s Day. It was a night of finding your future companion by way of a fortune teller or completing a special list of activities at midnight so the face of your true love would be revealed.

In fact, the trick-or-treating tradition we all know and love didn't come into play until the 1930s and was not prominently practiced until the ‘50s.

This year, we’ve decided to implement a masquerade theme, featuring a nod to some classic literature and Frankenstein circa 1820s, complete with new visual, lighting and sound effects, fresh characters and a twist on some of our program staples. (Sounds pretty cool to me.)

“Although we will have a few new elements,” Jim explains, “It’s not about what’s new, it’s about what’s ‘cool’. We’re more focused on ‘looking back’. This year’s program is very cool and definitely sparks the imagination of people of all ages.”

Well, there you have it. History buffs we may be, but we’re nothing if not cool. We believe it’s all about continuing to evolve and that is exactly what we intend to do through our Hallowe’en event and beyond.

Brianna Garza is a media relations intern at The Henry Ford.

Greenfield Village, holidays, Hallowe'en in Greenfield Village, Halloween, events, by Brianna Garza, #Behind The Scenes @ The Henry Ford

In need of some pumpkin carving inspiration? Check out our new THF Freebies page. You'll find a set of stencils to carve your pumpkin with this weekend! Check out our video to see the Model T stencil in action.

cars, Model Ts, holidays, making, Halloween, #Behind The Scenes @ The Henry Ford

Sunday is – at long last - the day we head to Hallowe’en in Greenfield Village. I say “at long last” because the countdown to the next Halloween pretty much starts while our kids are inspecting their candy haul from making the neighborhood rounds.

Our littlest goblin can’t wait to see the “gary gelletons.” Those glowing and dancing skeletons in the gazebo near the covered bridge made a quite a lasting impression during last year’s visit. I recorded a bit of their performance on my phone, and hands-down that clip is the most revisited video in my mobile library. Clifford, now three, has watched it countless times. Whenever he sees it, he feigns frightful shivers, and as much as he enjoyed the video, we enjoyed his reaction. (So thanks to The Henry Ford for that little gift that just kept on giving.) Whenever we pass that gazebo during summer visits to the village, he reminds me of those bony, xylophone-playing dancers.

Dancing skeletons - Halloween in Greenfield Village

I took my son Henry to the village Saturday to watch the plowing with the 1904 Port Huron Steam Engine and Percheron horses at Firestone. It was chilly, so we decided to head to Eagle Tavern to get warm and have lunch. (I’m always ready for an excuse to stop in for Squash Soup and an order of Bubble and Squeak.) Henry pointed out some of the decorations already in place for Hallowe’en in Greenfield Village.

The Raven - Halloween in Greenfield Village

“These look different in the daytime,” he said looking at the headstones arranged on the Village Green. Then he noted that the coffin looked “too new.” He said he thought it should look more worn. When I explained to him that a fresh pine coffin meant a fresh body, I learned that even in broad daylight a fake cemetery can move a shudder through the shoulders of a 10-year-old boy.

With each year, even as the older kids know some of what to expect, they seem to anticipate it with excitement and a little nervousness.

Fun costumes at Halloween in Greenfield Village

Pumpkin Gladiator - Costumes at Halloween in Greenfield Village

We have so many fond memories. Our 20-year-old still tells the story of when she was little and was so mesmerized by the huge bonfire that she completely missed the silent Grim Reaper - until he was right in front of her. Her ridiculous reaction was anything but silent, and we still laugh about it.

Jack-o-Lanterns - Halloween in Greenfield Village

We also look forward to being inspired by some of the more 900 jack-o-lanterns that light the village since we’ve yet to carve ours.

Halloween at Greenfield Village

Our kids are good historians of our visits over the years. They always keenly look for their favorite things, seeing what’s replaced what, what costumes are new, what vignettes are different or have been moved, etc. It seems someone always misses something, since there is so much to see. I look forward to the discussion on the ride home.

Seeing the Headless Horseman - Halloween in Greenfield Village

I know, my daughter looks slightly petrified in this photo – but have no fear – she can’t wait to see the Headless Horseman again this year. She’s determined she won’t be the slightest bit frightened.

A few weeks back, I had the opportunity sit down with Jim Johnson, senior manager of creative programs at The Henry Ford, and learn about a few changes in which I’m sure my kids and others will delight. I can’t wait to see what he described and see my children’s reactions.

But until then, mum’s the word. Or maybe even Dracula is the word. Who knows? Should be exciting with just the right amount of spooky and not-too-scary fun.

holidays, events, Halloween, Hallowe'en in Greenfield Village, Greenfield Village

When it comes to Halloween history, Curator of Domestic Life Jeanine Head Miller and Greenfield Village Director Jim Johnson really know their stuff! Read on for lots of little-known facts about the origins of what has become one of America's most popular holidays.

Immigrants who came to America brought their folk traditions and religious beliefs with them to the New World. Folk superstitions of the British Isles, particularly the Celts, converged with observances of the Catholic Church and traditional American harvest celebrations into a "witches brew" of traditions that created the American holiday of Halloween.

By the 1890s, Halloween was increasingly celebrated in America, as articles in magazines and newspapers helped popularize and spread Halloween traditions to a national audience. While the origins of Halloween were rooted in superstition and fortune telling, the holiday had become a night of mystery and innocent fun.

The first Halloween gatherings were designed as matchmaking parties for young people, with games to “predict” matrimonial futures and ample opportunity for innocent flirtation. By the 1910s, other adults and children had joined in the fun of Halloween parties and the practice of donning Halloween costumes gained popularity.

Snapshot - Halloween Costumes, circa 1915 - from the collections of The Henry Ford

When postcards caught the public’s fancy during the early 1900s, people enjoyed sending colorful Halloween greetings to their family and friends. As the 20th century progressed, civic organizations increasingly promoted Halloween as an event for all. Many communities began to host public celebrations that included festivals, parties and costumed parades.

Hallowe'en postcards - from the collections of The Henry Ford

The Henry Ford is home to quite a collection of Halloween items, including several Dennison's Bogie Books, on which we have based our Hallowe'en in Greenfield Village artwork over the past several years; these were essentially advertising catalogs for the Denison Paper Company, which exists now as Avery Dennison (the label and office products company).

Dennison's Bogie Book - from the collections of The Henry Ford

The Denison Paper Company specialized in paper party goods, particularly crêpe paper, and their Bogie Books were developed as a vehicle to sell everything from Halloween costumes to decor.

The books were published from 1912-1926, except for 1918, when Halloween was essentially cancelled that year due to the severe and quite deadly flu pandemic - no one held parties or went trick-or-treating to avoid further spreading flu germs. Dennison's Bogie Books began at a cost of five cents in 1912 and were priced at ten cents by 1926; the next year, they changed formats and eventually stopped selling Halloween-only guides by the 1930s.

We also recently added a set of 1920s-era Halloween decorations to our collections, which were made by the Beistle Company in Pennsylvania and include invitations, lampshades, placecards, candle holders, party picks, nut cups and fortunes that were given to partygoers.

Halloween party fortunes from the 1920s - from the collections of The Henry Ford

Finally, you may have wondered: Why exactly do we spell Hallowe'en that way?

When the Christian church began to expand its influences, the focus of these old pagan rituals was re-associated with All Saints' or Hallows' Day. The night before this feast became known as All Hallows' Even, which was eventually abbreviated to Hallowe'en - and this spelling was common well into the 1930s.

by Jim Johnson, by Jeanine Head Miller, events, holidays, Halloween