That’s right. When you were born the peak, of Halloween stunts were pretty well over. They’d been given up to simpler activities, such as tipping outhouses which, in turn, have given way to TRICKS or TREATS.
All this time young ladies would engage in such lady-like activities as window-rattling. This was done with a large thread spool with notches cut in its rims and a pencil or the like would be inserted in the empty core of the spool. A heavy thread or cord had been wrapped around part of the spool. When the device was placed against a window and the thread or cord pulled it produced a most satisfying, frightening rattle.
They also soaped windows of homes, cars or whatever. This was not done in the northern part of the state, where the soap froze to the windows immediately and couldn’t be removed until spring. That was considered more than a prank up north, but for midstate or lower and farther south Halloweeners it produced great fun.
Later still the outhouses (toilets to the uninitiated) which served every home for many years were considered prime targets because their impermanent construction allowed them to be tipped easily and re-stored to service just about as easily.
Very few communities around here had indoor facilities, so the owners worked hard to keep the damage as light as possible, but otherwise Halloween night was considered wartime between pranksters and embattled owners of the prey.
That left the outhouses as prime prey. When owners tired of replacing outhouses they dug trenches around the structures in such a way that pushers would fall in. It didn’t take long for the pushers to come up with a solution. They equipped themselves with poles just long enough to do their job. Then the tricksters lined up behind their proposed victim, made a short rush with poles doing the pushing. Another victory for Halloween! It seems that the owner of one out-house waited inside. The pranksters’ answer: they tipped his ‘house so it fell on the door, locking the owner in. The last seen of the man that night was when he stuck his head out of one of the sitting holes in the house, yelling for help.
One Boy Scout troop in this area used Halloween as a fundraiser. They tipped all the outhouses in their community, then went back to the owners the next day and contracted with them to right their outhouses for cash. It worked!
Much fun as this was for certain people, all good things end with time.
Most communities arranged for special activities, which most of the pranksters accepted, along with tricks or treats for the youngsters. That has solved the problems in most places in this area. True, there have been a few tricksters who still go ‘house-to-house’ for a candy collection, but their numbers are lessening rapidly.
lf you’re traveling east go through Indiana and Ohio to see the magnificent displays people in these towns put up every year — they rival Christmas. They have made their two states replacements for Christmas displays and have taken over the number two spot for a national holiday!
Ghosts, goblins, jack-o-lanterns and costumes are still the heart of the celebration!