Our antiques expert Allan Blackburn takes a look at Halloween toys and memorabilia...
In the next few days (and especially over the weekend) thousands of children will be getting ready to celebrate Halloween. I’ve never really enjoyed Halloween. My children used to love dressing up and going up and down our street “Trick or Treating”, but I can’t say I miss that particular activity, now that they are grown up!
Although an antiques centre is probably not the first place you would think of for Halloween toys, treats and memorabilia, we do get quite a lot of people browsing the stands for accessories to complement a fancy dress outfit, ornaments (of things like black cats etc) and lanterns and lamps. There are even rumblings amongst the cuddly toys with customers looking for black cats, spiders and bats. We have lots of vintage clothing on sale and things like long black dresses and hooded cloaks obviously sell very well at the moment.
The word Halloween dates to about 1745, is of Christian origin and is a shortening of All Hallows’ Evening also known as Hallowe’en or All Hallows’ Eve.
The traditional activities of trick or treating, costume parties, carving pumpkins, apple bobbing and playing pranks came to light here in England in the late 20th century.
A big part of the tradition is dressing up in costumes of witches, ghost and monsters. The practice of dressing up and begging door to door for treats goes back to the Middle Ages. Trick-or-treating as we now know it resembles the late mediaeval practice of "souling," when poor folk would go door to door on Hallowmas (November 1st ), receiving food in return for prayers for the dead on All Souls Day (November 2nd).
When we think of Halloween antiques, vintage items or collectables, one name comes up time and time again.
Beistle. The Beistle Company has been the largest producer of Halloween decorations since the 1920s. The company was founded by Martin Luther Beistle in 1900 from his home near Pittsburgh. More than 1,000 different designs and decorations have been added since 1921, ranging from witches, black cats, bats, owls, spiders and pumpkin lanterns. They are world renowned and the oldest and largest manufacturer in the party goods industry and still make decorations for all seasons and themes including Christmas and Easter.
The skull ornaments are part of a huge collection on a specialist stand in the centre.