If you were searching through the back copies of the Brighton Herald and Brighton Gazette you would find few references to Halloween until the late 1940s and early 1950s.
These events were unassuming compared with today’s celebrations. In 1949, a Halloween dance was held at the Aquarium Ballroom, accompanied by a ‘Special Scottish Cabaret’ arranged by that doyenne of Brighton’s dancing class set, Vera Garbutt.
Even more daring was Hove Young Conservative’s dabble with witchcraft, when they held a Halloween Ball at Hove Town Hall in 1955.
By 1959, all restraint was thrown aside when the Brighton Herald gave over a whole page to Halloween. Local traders joined in with various adverts punning the day. Jack’s, Hair Fashions of Brighton, ran with the line “don’t let your hair stand on end” and Wade’s, drapers, of Western Road advised frightened customers to hide under bed sheets bought from their store.
Games were also recommended, although current Health & Safety inspectors would certainly baulk at this particular one; an apple and a lit candle are hung on either end of a stick suspended from the ceiling. The stick is twirled and the participant has to jump up and catch the apple in their mouth. The article does add a note of caution; you may receive burns and hot wax from the candle rather than catching the apple.
The ‘Specially for Women’ column in Brighton Herald’s October 1965 edition advised that ‘informality is the keynote of any Halloween get-together’. Suggestions were as follows; varied cheese boards, checked table cloths and coloured candles stuck in bottles to capture the right atmosphere.
In more recent years Preston Manor has put on a series of extremely popular Halloween ghost tours. According to the publicity, those brave enough can ‘Tour Brighton’s most haunted house on the creepiest night of the year’.
Paul Jordan, Brighton History Centre