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Halloween in Omaha, 1909

"Witches Revel Day Early," announced the Omaha Daily News on October 30, 1909. Because Halloween was on a Sunday that year, the traditional mischief occurred on the previous Saturday, with the News publishing a list of police regulations:

"Jail for all boys who celebrate too recklessly. One hundred extra cops to hold down the lid. Destroying property and endangering life not tolerated. Greasing [street]car rails especially barred. Any celebration after tonight will be broken up by police, though Sunday is Halloween."

The News continued, "All week reports have been given the police of Halloween pranks which burst their moorings before the scheduled hour. Now, at last they will be 'legitimate,' as long as they are harmless. 'Sure, let'em have a good time,' says Chief Donahue. 'Just so they don't infringe on other people's rights.' The chief admits he was once a kid himself."

Council Bluffs reported "unusual quiet in the city during the past three nights. The kids have been out with jack-o'-lanterns and other contrivances, but have assured their anxious parents that they were saving their energy for this evening."

Council Bluffs employed an unusual method of dealing with 1909 Halloween pranksters. The News said: "Three hundred boy policemen, sworn into service by Chief Richmond of Council Bluffs, went on duty this afternoon. Armed with full authority of the police department and decorated with badges showing that authority, the youngsters sallied proudly forth in battle with the evils of Halloween."

Subsequent reports by the News on November 1 indicate that despite the efforts of the police, some Halloween pranks in 1909 had serious and even violent consequences. An Omaha woman was struck in the mouth and three teeth knocked out by a stone thrown over a transom. Shootings occurred at Raymond and at Broken Bow when irate property owners tried to drive off groups of suspected pranksters.

(October 2004 )



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