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As It Was: Rogue Valley Halloweens Entice Pranksters

In the 1890s and early 1900s, Halloween sprouted merry pranksters.  Among their tricks were removing gates from their hinges, reversing street signs, and scattering moveable objects all over town.

Some Jacksonville, Ore., boys put a cow in the barber shop, and Mrs. Kubli offered $150 as reward for capture of the mischief-maker who crowned O. Biede’s saloon with her buggy.

When tricksters soaped the railroad tracks of the Rogue River Railway Company, disgruntled passengers waited while the crew cleaned the rails with gunny sacks.

The Medford Mail reported that at least four different groups tried to capture the town’s tamale wagon but failed because the owner sat up all night guarding it.

One Halloween, some Medford boys tied a 180-foot rope from the door of the Mail Tribune’s office to old buggy wheels, plows, signs, and other articles.  The worst of it was that the Mail Tribune had loaned  them the rope!

Another contemporary newspaper gave this advice for Halloween night: “It is a good plan … to put a padlock and chain on anything movable, and then ‘tie the dog loose’ in the back yard.”


Sources: "Rogue Valley Halloweens." Truwe: SO History, edited by Ben Truwe, Southern Oregon Historical Society, truwe.sohs.org/rvhalloween.html. Accessed 19 Sept. 2019; Kenney, Chris. "Memoirs of Chris Kenney." TheTable Rock Sentinel, vol. 5, no. 6, June 1985, p. 11.   

Sharon Bywater of Ashland, Oregon grew up in Southern California. She taught English literature and writing at Syracuse University in New York, where she also wrote and edited adult literacy books and published freelance articles in local media. Later, she lived in Washington, D.C., where she worked as an international telecommunications policy advisor at the U.S. Department of Commerce. She has Master’s degrees in English and Communications Management.