Halloween (or Hallowe'en) was not a Yankee invention, but when Irish immigrants arrived en masse in the 1840's, bringing with them an already mixed combination of the old Druidic folklore of Samhain and the later Roman Catholic tradition of "All Hallow Even," they found a few remnants of the Celtic harvest tradition already in place in nineteenth-century New England. Bobbing for apples was one way to celebrate the autumn equinox in Puritan New England. And, on the darker side, of course, two centuries earlier, the Puritans of Massachusetts Bay had conducted their notorious witchcraft trials.

The destructive aspects of Halloween were not appreciated in Congregational New England and the "trick or treat" aspect of the holiday is still controversial today, but the continuing hold of this unofficial holiday on the popular imagination through three millennia cannot be denied. As one writer notes: "People just do it."

Here are some links to quintessential Yankee Halloweens. But before you start down that winding road, examine the multicultural history of Halloween folklore and legends at The Darkside Parlour - an illustrated archive of "The Origins of Halloween Throughout the World."

Getting back to old New England - THE place to be is obviously Salem - the heart of witchcraft country:

  • Start with the Witch House - the home of Samuel Corwin, a judge in the witchcraft trials of 1692.
  • After you tour the real House of Seven Gables, visit a Buffalo honors student's illustrated research paper: Nathaniel Hawthorne: The Salem Years.
  • Spend some time browsing Ogram's 17th Century website on Colonial New England (with special emphasis on the Salem Witchcraft Trials of 1692.) Author/compiler Margo Burns is a descendant of Rebecca Towne Nurse.

    There is no better time than late October - and no better place than New England - for a graveyard tour at dusk. New Englanders specialized in gravestone carving (some of it very spooky to modern eyes!) and carried the tradition with them along the Yankee frontier. See our feature on New London's Ancient Burying Ground. Then read David Burrell's Life in the Stones, a readable and informative academic paper on Gravestones of Geauga County, Ohio, 1800-1825.

    The stock literary product for Halloween was created by a cosmopolitan author in metropolitan New York. Washington Irving makes equal fun of Indian powwows, Dutch farmboys, German mercenaries and Yankee pedants. Read The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (etext from Project Gutenberg) before or after you visit the Washington Irving links from American Literature on the Web.