Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Halloween Traditions on Ocracoke

Several readers have asked about Halloween traditions on Ocracoke. Please keep in mind that my father left the island when he was just a teenager, and we only came back home in the summer months. So I had never spent an October on Ocracoke until the early 1970s. However, the teenagers and young adults had a long tradition of playing pranks and getting into mischief on Halloween.

By the 1970s the capers and shenanigans had reached a questionable zenith. It was not unusual on the morning after Halloween to discover wooden skiffs and pilings dragged up on the highway. Many signs were pulled down, and outdoor furniture, trashcans, & lawn ornaments were scattered all around the neighborhood. But by far the most popular activity was throwing eggs. Teenagers would purchase cases of eggs and hide them in the woods weeks (or months!) before Halloween. You can imagine the results when rotten eggs hit commercial signs, houses, cars...and, of course, people.

Finally parents, teachers, ministers, and deputies made a concerted effort to stop the destructive behavior. The situation has gotten much better in recent years. Yesterday morning, for example, I only saw a few broken egg shells on Howard Street...and when the teenagers do go "egging" they pretty much know to just throw them at each other and not at neighbors' houses and businesses, or at passing automobiles. I haven't heard of any complaints lately.

It seems that modern day trick-or-treating didn't come to Ocracoke until sometime in the early 1960s or thereabouts. Much earlier, at the turn of the 20th century, young adults would dress up (perhaps in old clothes they found in the attic, with stockings pulled over their heads) and go door to door around the village. No treats of any kind were involved, and the young folks in costumes never spoke. The homeowners would try to guess who the young people were, but often they would simply leave without saying a word.

By the 1920s that tradition had waned, though six or eight young people revived the custom again after World War II, for two or three years. Again, no treats were involved.

Blanche tells me that when she was six or seven years old (about 1927) her mama let her dress up in a fancy dress and walk across the lane to her Aunt Sue's, but she went alone, and only to that one house. Blanche remembers about a half dozen youngsters coming to her house. Again, there were no treats.

Blanche does remember that her first or second grade teacher helped the students make paper pumpkins and black cats to hang in the schoolhouse windows to celebrate Halloween.

Today, Halloween, with a school parade, carnival, trick-or-treating in the village, and, alas, some egging is a popular holiday.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is an article, with a number of photos, documenting the history of water cisterns on Ocracoke Island. Click on the following link to go directly there: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news102110.htm.


  1. Anonymous10:16 AM

    Good article-thanks so much for taking the time. DISCO

  2. Anonymous11:20 AM

    perhaps the local newspapers of the time documented the destruction and cost to businesses to repair and clean up the mess --- no doubt the no one said a word because adults bearing grudges could have been involved to settle scores that night---- this notion that teenagers have such a mean streak in such an apparently cohesive environment strikes me as odd what teenage would plan ahead to methodically horde eggs to rot in the woods -- a sociopath? someone with a chip on their shoulder?? a calculating scheming type? or a fun loving punk high and giddy after finding the perfect costume in the attic?

  3. Anonymous6:55 PM

    This year's "spook walk" at the school was very creative and quite spoooky - not created by, but mentored by Ocracoke's own Queen of Haloween... Jen Kidwell