A little girl who was who was celebrating Halloween last night probably owes her life from the prompt action of the clerk of the Carleton Place C.P.R. office. The child’s paper Halloween costume caught on fire from a Jack o Lantern with a candle in it which one of her friend’s was carrying. Passing by station while trick or treating the clerk saw the girl’s dress blazing and quickly tore it off before she was burned. He took her to the train station and called her parents asking to bring her another costume. November 1 1928, Carleton Place Herald
AUTHORS NOTE? What??? Really?
One consistent news story from during the mind-20th-century rise in popularity of Halloween costumes is the safety aspect. Several deaths occurred due to costumes catching fire, whether by matches or candles in pumpkins, as the cheap synthetic fabrics of the masks and garments were highly flammable. Other warnings regarding the restricted vision of face masks were repeated year after year, with face paint being seeing as the far safer option, along with repeated suggestions to replace candles in pumpkins with a flashlight.
Costumes and some clothes made out of paper and some gauze, combined with candles and gaslight in a world before electricity, led to a multitude of children and women being taken by the flame. Matthews David wrote that in 1860, British medical journal, the Lancet estimated that 3,000 women in one year died by fire.
The most vulnerable to death by fire may have been ballet dancers, who often wore tarlatan and gauze costumes and who danced close to gaslight every time they were on stage. It wasn’t just the fabric, but also the shape of the dresses that caused women’s clothing to erupt in flames– like hoop underskirts.. they became a ‘ring of fire”.
The only commercial costumes available in the early 20th century were paper masks or aprons for children. The goal wasn’t necessarily to look like a ghost or a goblin, but to look creepy and hide the identity of the person beneath the mask. Disguises were especially important for kids and teens, who often spent Halloween night playing tricks by throwing flour at people, stealing neighbours’ fences or even stealing dead bodies.
Last Night I Saw Someone I Loved at the Halloween Parade
The Carleton Place Halloween Parade 1958 –Lorraine Nephin