How to have a vintage Halloween

The witching hour (or should we say evening) is upon us and it’s time to enjoy some fiendish tomfoolery for Hallowe’en. Filled with traditions and superstitions from yester year, some have been lost but many have survived or developed through to the present day. Started 2,000 years ago in Britain, made big by the USA in the 20th century and now American-style celebrations are more popular in the UK than ever before.

We love any good excuse for dressing up so here’s our guide to a traditional 20th century Hallowe’en and some of the forgotten traditions that we’ll be reviving…


Ben Cooper was the go-to costumier for your Hallowe’en attire in America from 1930s to 1980s and they’re now highly collectible, being sold at auction for over 10 times their original price. In the early days they mostly sold traditional ghost, witch and vampire costumes but from the 1950s onwards their popularity was largely due to the licensing they acquired to create costumes of Disney characters and popular TV show characters such as Davy Crockett, Superman and Zorro.


Jack-o’-lanterns have been a tradition for centuries but if you’re looking to be original, try your hand at carving a turnip! Using a pumpkin as your Jack-o’-lantern only came about in the late 19th century when the idea was brought over by the Irish who traditionally used turnips or marrows to carve a lantern. The Americans felt pumpkins did the job much better.


If you happen to be celebrating in a house with a fireplace and a group of unmarried women looking for a future husband, now is your chance to tell the future! Single women would name a hazelnut after each of their potential suitors and put them into the fire, the first one that pops is the man they will marry. The first of the ladies to successfully catch an apple during a game of bobbing is supposedly the next to get married too.

Trick or Treat for UNICEF

In 1950, UNICEF USA launched ‘Trick or Treat for UNICEF’ – a tradition that still continues today! Instead of asking for sweets or money for themselves children go around collecting money for UNICEF and have raised $170million through trick or treating since it began.


The 2nd of November is traditionally All Souls Day and a tradition in Britain on the day before was to go around ‘soulling’. People would go door-to-door asking for soul cakes in exchange for praying for the deceased loved ones of the giver on All Souls Day. Although the tradition has been lost, you can still make delicious soul cakes for your party and impress your friends with the trivia! We like this recipe on Lavender and Lovage blog:


No party is complete without some music! Here are some of our favourite retro tunes with a Hallowe’en theme to get you bopping:

The Skeleton in the Closet by Louis Armstrong (1936):

Beware by Bill Buchanan (1962):

The Monster Hop by Bert Convy (1958):


The horror genre has always captured the imagination of the film industry and it provides the perfect low key way to celebrate Halloween. Give yourself a fright with some of these classics:

Night of the Living Dead (1968):
One of the last great hits of the drive-in era and remade time and time again.

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane (1962):
Almost as terrifying as the feud that bubbles between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford during filming!

Carrie (1976):
The King of Horror, Stephen King’s original story is having a revival since the remake was released last year.


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