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Celebrating Hallowe'en at the Hancock Hotel, 1902

JIM admits "I had a lot of fun putting this together." And readers will, too, when they see how, in his usual History Mystery Detective fashion, he follows through on the prognostications found in the cutting of the cake and finds some surprising outcomes. - CM
Click on headline for complete Halloween History Mystery and prophecies, facts & fallacies Fact Checker Jim uncovered in the dusty annal of the Adair County News


Several couples - "a majority of the young people of the community" - celebrated Hallowe'en in style in Columbia in 1902. On that long ago All Saints' Eve (it conveniently fell on a Friday that year), they began streaming out Burkesville street, arriving at the Hancock Hotel at or around 9 p.m., the agreed-upon meeting time. Soon "The parlors were alive with happy voices, the music the latest and much enjoyed."

As the witching hour neared, the celebrants filed two by two into the spacious dining room of the Hancock, where everyone heartily partook of a multi-course meal of delicacies, a midnight gustatory delight served by three phantoms whose "ghost-like appearances had no effect on the appetites."

To cover the cost of the late-night repast and the meeting place - a total of about twenty-five dollars - each young man paid a "tax" according the amount of jewelry displayed by the young woman he escorted. "There were rubies and diamonds on exhibition and the boys paid from one dollar to one-seventy-five each."

One postprandial feature, the cutting of a cake into which a number of items had been baked, drew considerable interest and elicited considerable amusement. "Miss Lorena Pile got the ring, Miss Sallie Rey Marcum the money, [and] Sam Nat Hancock the button. The ring indicates that winner will marry before the next Hallowe'en, the money will bring a wealthy husband, and the drawer of the button is to die an old bachelor."

About two a.m., November 1st, the crowd began to disperse to their respective abodes, after having spent "a most delightful time" in innocent revelry.

An afterword: The cake proved quite unreliable in prognosticating the future. Miss Lorena Pile, who served for years as the Columbia telephone operator and later ran a millinery shop in Elizabethtown, didn't marry until after America entered the Great War, two or three years before she turned 40. Miss Sallie Rey Marcum never walked the aisle to Mendelssohn's march, and Sam Nat Hancock thwarted the cake-dictum destiny of singledom by taking unto himself in 1904 Miss Margaret Robertson as his helpmeet, and he remained steadfastly by her side until death did them part almost three decades later.

(Based in the main on an article found in the November 5, 1902 Adair County News.)

This story was posted on 2016-10-30 05:23:14
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