Halloween history at Maryville goes back 200 years

Despite the college’s conservative nature throughout its history, Halloween was always the time of year that promised plenty of parties to attend and frightening fun to be had. One of the earliest mentions of Halloween happenings around campus is in the 1911 Chilhowean, which makes reference to a “ghost party” held by the sophomore class. 

Parties were often class-oriented with each one holding their own unique events at different places around campus that were characterized by their own particular ghostly persona.

The exact nature of these Halloween parties is not explicitly expanded upon, but it was noted in a 1937 edition of the Highland Echo that the sophomore class held a circus themed party that included “death-defying tightrope walkers, animal and flea training, tumbling and skits … which says it all. 

Towards the middle of the century, not much changed except for the slackening of rules which allowed for these parties to be much more like casual gatherings. 

Halloween parties of the decade included entirely plaid outfits, costumes, seances, storytelling, hayrides, fortune tellers, square dancing, and the first Sadie Hawkins dance to occur on campus. Mystery movie goings were also popular, along with Dr. Lloyd’s Dracula performance in the 1949 horror show. 

The next decade meant development of the still-new dramatic aspect to the college’s celebrations with the performance of “They Made Me a Monster,” another Halloween horror show, in 1950. Halloween night specials at the Capitol theater were also increasingly popular to go and see with the release of movies like “Dracula’s Daughter.” 

The same movie-going tradition continued into the 1960s with many spooky movies like “The Skull” and the “Mad Executioner.” This period also marked the end of class oriented parties and the dawn of shaving cream fights. 

Into the late twentieth century, Halloween celebrations grew but undeniably lost some of their previous pageantry. They came to consist primarily of costume contests put on by social societies and involve significantly less attempted contact with the spiritual world. Drama did make a comeback with several shows that involved retelling different ghost stories, including those on campus, and the story of Halloween by the MC playmakers. 

In 1976, the homecoming parade became a Halloween parade, and 1977 brought on an intriguing incident involving the dorms and over two hundred dozen eggs. The school also started holding movie nights on campus where they showed movies like, “The Blob,” “See No Evil,” and “Blood, Beast, Terror.” 

A 1971 issue of the Highland Echo offers the best piece of Halloween advice you’ll ever get: “Avoid dark houses. They are populated by people who will beat you to death with your own bag if you disturb them.” 

For the most part, Halloween at Maryville College has not changed since then, except for a few select occurrences like when Halloween came under fire during one of the college’s tamer times in 1987 with a movement by several parents to ban Halloween celebrations due to them being “occult and demonic.”

When you walk along the ghost trail put on by the theatre department, visit Maple Lane Farms for the haunted corn maze, attend a movie on campus, go to the dance, or even decorate your dorm, remember it’s one more way you’re carrying on Maryville’s rich history and keeping the legacies of Halloween’s past alive. 

With that being said, I propose, in honor of the college’s bicentennial and as a tribute to all those who have partied before us, that we put our most gallant efforts into making this the best Halloween MC has seen yet!

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