Popular holiday for ‘kids of all ages’
It is almost that time of year again. Mostly little children, although sometimes teenagers, get into the mood of dressing up in their unique costumes of anybody and everybody.
For a few hours, the area in which you love is so saturated with costumed police officers that you wonder if the city is safe. The “regular” cops are probably back at the station playing gin rummy, or twenty-one, hoping that the phone doesn’t ring.
Halloween is when bowls of candy for the little ones who come in their newly-bought superhero garb do a jig to win some candy, or money, or anything else that is supposed to be construed as a prize. Nowadays, anti-this, or anti-that groups are ready, willing, and most able to protest that the prizes are lethal and should be forever and for all times be banned. The kiddies don’t understand the political implications of such restraints upon their having a great time, even if it is a school night, and their homework held off until they get back at home.
Most of the costumed trick-or-treaters know that the iconic Halloween figure is a witch. Just the thought of witches probably drive some would-be revelers from even going around the neighborhood in search of the almighty quarter or the sugar-laced Snickers.
Witches have traditionally been seen standing over boiling liquid, or riding through the sky on brooms, or even today as a suburban housewife. Yes indeed, how the times have changed, and all the evil doers on Halloween have had their civil liberties threatened to the point even they are afraid of going outside to raise havoc.
Witches are nothing new. The story of King Saul in the Bible tells of Saul seeking the witch of Endor to summon the spirit of the dead prophet Samuel to help him defeat the Philistines Army. As the story goes, Samuel was woken by the witch. Samuel prophesizes the death of Saul and his sons. The next day, Saul’s sons died in battle, and Saul committed suicide. If there is a moral to that story it is that you don’t get involved with witches.
In the 1400s, witch hysteria really took off. Many witches confessed to acting like, well, witches. Some were executed by burning at the stake or by hanging. Simple women and widows were targeted in specific.
In fact, between 1500-1660, some 80,000 suspected witches were put to death in Europe, and especially in Germany. It was just not the best time to be a witch.
And then came along the Salem witch trials in America. The first ones started in 1692, when a 9-year-old, Elizabeth Parris, and an 11-year-old, Abigail Williams, experienced body contortions and uncontrolled screaming. Today, a doctor would have diagnosed them as having been poisoned by a fungus, but in 1692 you had enslaved women being accused of witchcraft and using old black magic. Eighteen people, including six men were put to death by being hung at the Salem Gallows.
Witch mania eventually died down, but not until Grace Sherwood was brought to trial in Virginia in 1706 for killing pigs and hexing cotton. To determine Sherwood’s guilt or innocence of being a witch, her arms and legs were bound, and she was thrown into a body of water. If she sank, she was innocent of being a witch. If she floated, she was guilty. Well. Sherwood did not sink, and was convicted of being a witch. Grace Sherwood was put in prison for eight years.
So much for witches and their evil spirits. I was so scared of witches when I walked around my neighborhood on Halloween that I stuck to something common in St. Louis. Yes, I was a Cardinal baseball player, dressed in my Cardinal uniform, wearing my cap, and wearing my glove. Carrying a baseball bat would have hampered my ability to carry my bag with the loot.
But Halloween lives on for collectors as well. Just take a look at some vintage Halloween movie posters. There was The Mummy in 1932. It held the record for being sold at auction for $453,500 in auction. In today’s market its value would be well over a million dollars. The Dracula horror film poster from 1931 starring Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi sold in 2017 for $525,000. Other Halloween posters of the movies Frankenstein, Creature from the Black Lagoon, Dracula, Bride of Frankenstein, as well as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, all fetched large amounts of money at auction. A poster from the 1979 movie Halloween can go for around $1,500. And don’t forget those fairly recent scary movies Carrie and Psycho. Yes, Stephen King and Alfred Hitchcock are never too far away. Enjoy. But be careful little darlings.
Jeff Figler has authored more than 700 published articles about collecting. He is a certified professional appraiser and one of the world’s leading experts on collectibles. His latest book, “The Picker’s Pocket Guide to Baseball Memorabilia” has been #1 on Amazon. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.