Throwing a Halloween Bash? Take Some Tips from Party Planners of Wheeling’s Past

Halloween is fast approaching, right around the corner, in fact. Hopefully, you’ve got a few plans to celebrate (if not, check out what’s happening around Wheeling this weekend). There is a chance, though, you’re a bit like me and left the planning till the last minute. You could, also, have a great party planned but need something to make it just a touch more special. Instead of spinning ideas over in your head till your brain becomes as mushy as pumpkin guts, let me help you out a little. Let’s take a look back at some tips from Wheeling’s past party planners to make a truly happening Halloween.

Spooky Halloween Recipes

It’s not a party without some festive treats. Luckily, the Wheeling Intelligencer published an article in 1966 titled ‘When Witches Wail and Hobgoblins Gather’ to share some recipes that were sure to wow guests.1 Would you serve Apple Pots and Molasses Batman at your All Hallows’ Eve gathering?

Apple Pots

  • Cut two red delicious apples, unpeeled, cored, and quartered into matchsticks or small tidbits. Add 1 cup shredded raw carrot, ½ cup raisins (plumbed in hot water), ½ cup salted peanuts (chopped), 1 cup miniature marshmallows, and ½ cup celery (diced).
  • Combine ½ cup mayonnaise, ½ cup whipped cream, 1 tablespoon honey, and ½ cup flaked coconut. Toss lightly with fruit and nut mixture and set aside.
  • To make the apple pots, cut a slice from the stem end of 8 small apples, set aside. Scoop out the pulp, leaving a shell about ½ in thick. Dip in lemon juice and water to prevent darkening. 
  • Fasten 4 gumdrops to blossom end of each apple with toothpicks for ‘feet’. Set each apple pot on a leaf lined salad plate (maple or grape leaf, or a bed of curly endive). Fill pots with chilled salad mixture. Top with the slice from the stem end, tipped back to show filling.
Halloween apple pots. The Intelligencer, 25 Oct. 1966.

Molasses Batman

    • Shift 4 cups of sifted flour with 1 teaspoon salt and two teaspoons baking powder.
    • Cream 1 cup shortening, and 1 cup sugar gradually and beat until fluffy. Add 1 cup molasses and 2 egg yolks (reserve egg whites for frosting). Mix well. Thoroughly mix in flower mixture. 
    • Wrap dough in waxed paper and chill until dough can easily be handled (at least 2-3 hours).
    • Roll out small portions of dough, about ¼ inch thick on a lightly floured board or pastry cloth. 
    • Cut cookies out in Batman shapes (trace Bathman shape on heavy paper or cardboard to use as cutting guide). 
    • Place on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake in a moderate oven. 350 degrees F about 10-12 minutes (adjust baking time according to size of cookies). Remove from the oven. Cool about 2 minutes before removing from the baking sheet. Cool completely. Makes about 16 8-inch cookies.
    • Blend the two egg whites with 3 cups confectioners’ sugar until frosting is proper consistency to go through the decorating tube and hold shape. Decorate as shown in the photo. Makes about 2 cups of frosting.
Who wouldn’t want to serve these molasses Batman treats at their Halloween party? The Intelligencer, 25 Oct. 1966.

While celery, marshmallow and mayo don’t scream Halloween to me, and while “Cut cookies out in Batman shapes” are some vague instructions, perhaps these recipes from The Wheeling News-Register in 1962 will be just what your Halloween party needs!2

Witch’s Brew

  • 1 lump sugar
  • 1 ½ oz Benedictine (it’s a herbal liqueur)
  • 1 ½ oz brandy
  • 1 ½ oz juice of a lemon
  • Mix together in a 12 oz glass. Fill the glass with hot water. Float a slice of lemon as garnish. Makes 1 drink.

Goblin’s Goblet

  • 1 oz Pernod (it’s an anise-flavored liqueur, like absinthe)
  • 1 oz peppermint liqueur
  • Yolk of one egg (pro-tip, you’re going to want to close your shaker VERY tight when making cocktails with egg)
  • Shake well over cracked ice. Strain and serve in a cocktail glass as an after dinner drink. Makes 1 drink.

There’s another fun recipe featured in The Intelligencer, from 1963 that might be my favorite. 

Raisin Candy Corn Ears

  • 1 ½ cup dark seedless raisins, 5 quarts popped corn, 1 cup salted peanuts, 2 cups sugar, 1 ½ cups water, ½ teaspoon salt, ½ cup light corn syrup, 1 teaspoon vinegar, 20 long candy sticks.
  • Toss raisins popcorn and peanuts together in a large greased bowl. Combine sugar, water, salt, corn syrup, and vinegar. Cook to a hard-ball stage (250 degrees F). Slowly pour hot syrup over popcorn mixture, tossing until mixture is evenly coated. 
  • With buttered hands, quickly shape into ears around candy sticks, covering about ¼ of stick with corn. Makes about 20 candy corn ears.3

An article in the Wheeling Intelligencer by Judith Wilson from 1940 stresses that “Any party you give must be traditional down to the food or it won’t seem like Halloween.” I’m inclined to agree. To Judith, the ideal Halloween snack is cider and doughnuts. “A good hostess will never disappoint her guests. Either she will make up a batch of doughnuts early in the day or order them in advance from her baker.”  I, for one, don’t have a baker to order from, so let’s see what recipe Judith recommends.4

Halloween doughnuts. Wheeling Intelligencer, 30 Oct. 1940.

Halloween Doughnuts

  • 2 cups sifted flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, ½ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon nutmeg, ½ teaspoon cinnamon, ½ cup sugar, 1 egg (well beaten), 1 tablespoon butter (melted), ¼ cup milk.
  • To the flour, add baking powder, salt, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Sift together three times. Combine sugar and egg. Add shortening. Then add flour and milk, alternatively, a small amount at a time. Beat until smooth after each addition.
  • Knead lightly for 2 minutes on a lightly floured board. 
  • Roll 1-3 inch thick and cut with a doughnut cutter. Let rise for several minutes.
  • Fry in deep fat (385 degrees F) until golden brown. Drain on unglazed paper. Makes 2 dozen doughnuts. Sugar or spread with orange icing. 
  • ½ cup evaporated milk, 2 tablespoons orange juice, grated rind of orange, 3 ½ cups confectioner’s sugar.
  • Combine evaporated milk, orange juice, and part of the rind, saving part to sprinkle on top. Add sugar until the consistency is right for spreading. It is easier to dissolve the sugar if it is shifted. This icing is very sweet, spread it rather thinly. Makes enough for a dozen doughnuts.
  • Decorate with cherries or licorice candies for an orange-and-black color scheme.

Judith, of course, recommends this be served with cider. She did not specify hot, iced, or boozy, so you decide!

From a Wheeling News Register article written in 1965, there’s encouragement that Halloween is for all ages, “After the children’s celebrations have been arranged, let us adults get some fun out of Halloween”. This article proposes a fun Spanish-influenced Halloween party, inspired by an Autumn festival. Along with recommending faux Palomino grapes and Flamenco-themed decor, we also get another cocktail recipe.5

Spanish Sherry Goblin

  • 2 oz of Spanish sherry over ice
  • ½ oz apple cider
  • Garnish with twist of orange rind. Makes 1 drink.

Now that you have refreshments covered, let’s move on to setting the right vibe at your Halloween gathering. 

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Halloween Party Fun and Games

When it comes to party planning, the Wheeling News-Register has shared some great tips and tricks for curating the perfect Halloween party throughout the years. For instance, in 1983 they shared a brilliant idea to create a DIY Halloween lantern. They recommended “color the outside of a small paper bag with crayons, making your own design – reds, greens, and blues are particularly pretty. Fill the bag with enough sand to anchor it firmly, and place a glass-enclosed candle inside it. When the candle is lit, the wax will drop harmlessly into the sand and the lantern will glow beautifully in warm, rich hues.” You could also use the bag to make “safe and colorful masks” because “they hold their shape so well.” You could even cut neck and arm holes, and make a dress for a child that can be made to look like any number of things.6

DIY Halloween lantern. Wheeling News Register, 27 Oct. 1983

If you’re into scaring your guests, a 1908 Wheeling News-Register article titled “Why Not Have a Hallowe’en Party” recommended utilizing your cellar. Lead your blindfolded  ‘victim’ wearing a sheet ghost costume. A cowbell tied under a running faucet should set an eerie tone. Hang strips of newspaper or rope from the ceiling, so they may dangle mysteriously about the victim’s head and shoulders, suggesting bats. Run an electric fan for a cavernous breeze. Burst a paper bag at just the right moment to cause a shiver. Lay a cold, wet hand on the victim’s cheek as you warn them their past is about to be revealed. End with an ominous line, “three monkeys seated in a tree” who will hand the guest a caricature of their future sketched on paper. This activity surely isn’t for the faint of heart.

Going way back to 1897 in the Wheeling Sunday Register, there’s a whole slew of “Amusing Home Games for Young Folks on Halloween.” Apples have a place in nearly every game of Halloween, so “a good hostess would have an unlimited supply.” It is thus unexpected that “the old-fashioned custom of ducking for apples is rather out of favor with modern devotees of Halloween.” The reasoning behind this is pretty understandable. “Water is too unpleasantly wet and soaked hair and collars too limp and unbecoming  for popular enthusiasm.” Offered, though, is an alternative option that “need to instill no fear of moist linen and pompadours in the minds of merry-makers this Halloween.”7 

What was their suggestion for a more modern apple-themed game? “Place two wooden washtubs on small stools or chairs and into them pour as many apples as there are guests, half in each tub. A number written on a tiny paper square is pinned to each apple, corresponding to the number of a list of names held by the hostess. All the feminine names are in one tub, which is reserved, of course, for the service of the men of the party, the girls appropriating the other. Each participant in the game is given a tablespoon and all in turn dive one arm with its silver implement into the water and endeavor to capture one of bobbing apples. It is easier imagined than realized. The fruit is tantalizingly elusive and slips on and off the silver spoon in abrupt succession. The diver must stand also in one position. He is forbidden to wander after an apple around the circumference of the washtub and must take his choice from the bobbing balls close to his side of the wooden bucket. After much exertion and vexation of spirit, excited by the jeering laughter of the rest of the riotous company, the diver is finally successful and the shining, damp apple is held aloft on the spoon in trump. The number on its side is speedily compared with the number on the paper carried by the hostess. If it is a man who draws up the first apple the girl named as his prize is his partner for supper. When it is the girl’s turn to try her luck with the silver spoon the man she selects is the fortunate claimant for the opening dance.”

There is also a test for the “weal of woe of each individual forming the gay assembly.” A horseshoe is suspended in a doorway, with its ends pointing upward. Each person is given an apple (from the good hostess’ endless supply) and, in turn, tries to throw it through the upturned horseshoe. “The successful pitchers propitiate the goddess of fortune, while those whose apples fall lamentably short of the mark earn her growing disregard.”

One more apple game requires each guest to take an apple and pare its skin, carefully, so as to attempt one long, unbroken peel. “If the apple is divested of its covering without a single break in the shining skin the fate of the parer will certainly be molded by the choicest fairy godmother presiding over the realms of the to-be.” Good fortune from a long peel is not the extent of this game, though. One end of the april is clasped lightly between the thumb and first finger and then skillfully tossed over the shoulder, onto the floor. “The imagination of the thrower or his friends invariably fashions the paring into the appropriate letter of the alphabet to spell the name of the desired one.” So, it seems in your favor that your crush has a name that starts with ‘C’.

Having gathered sufficient inspiration for snacks, drinks and games, let’s move on to the best part of Halloween, costumes!

Halloween Costume Inspiration

Perhaps you can find inspiration in this copy of a list of guest’s costumes from the Halloween party of Missus Joan and Elizabeth Etz, of Woodsdale, circa 1926. There were such great costumes as; black cat, old witch, harlequin, ballet dancer, rosebud, Peter Pan, pumpkin eater, and queen of Halloween.8 Or maybe you’re feeling a bit more modern and would like to look to 1967 for a great idea…

To make a ladybug costume, “Gather a bath towel in middle, fold in half and stitch soft pleats at ends as shown in sketch. Sew hooks and eyes at ends of towel so it may be fastened at the shoulders. To  make the spots, cut three or four circles of different sizes from construction paper (use double thickness or mout on lightweight cardboard), and attach at random. The wings are made by tearing three Baggies jumbo or food wrap plastic bags in one length, fold, and gather at ends. Attach at front and back with pins or stitch on reinforce with clear tape at perfrations. Make four. The headpiece is made by wrapping washcloth around strip of food wrap bags. Make two tubes from construction paper for antenna. Snip and spread one end of each and glue to band. Add pompons at end of each antenna. Wear Lady Bug costume with leotard if the weather is cool.”9

Ladybug costume. The Intelligencer, 18 Oct. 1967.

Perhaps you just want to keep it simple with a good old-fashioned beauty routine. Check out these festive hairdo tips from 1965.

The Apple Bob: “If you’d rather bob for real apples and get your hair soaked, then go ahead – this way is much easier. You simply twist the hair into little piglets and tie a small apple to each one…make as many as your hairstyle will allow. Then, there’s no problem getting your apples, especially if the hostess doesn’t feed you soon enough. Just reach up, take one of your apples and crunch away. Makeup can be brite red apples painted on both cheeks with lipstick.”

Popcorn Pop: “Pop 2 cups of corn. Do not salt or butter. String it with heavy thread. Wind it into braids across the top of the head or use it to pile high in upsweep style. Popcorn beauty mark can be part of the makeup.”

Witches Wig: “Get heavy black paper and make witches hat. Cut off top. Pull hair through holes in brim of hat with as scraggly look as possible. Cut out bats and goblins and tie them on loose hair ends under hat. Makeup will be witchy – black out a few teeth and use pasty, white makeup.”10

Witchy Halloween Hairdos.” The Intelligencer, 27 Oct. 1965.

So, there you have it. A perfectly planned Halloween party, featuring elaborate hairdos, apple-themed romance games, and a mayo-centric desert. Maybe some of these trends went out of fashion for a reason, or maybe they just needed the right party to shine at. Give them a try, and if they go bad, chalk it up to the scarier parts of Halloween. Happy haunting!


• Makayla Carney, a Wheeling native, is the 2023-2024 AmeriCorps member for Wheeling Heritage, where she will get to write all about the history and culture of her hometown. She has a B.F.A. in Film and Television from DePaul University in Chicago. She adores all kinds of art, a lavender latte, and the occasional performance on the Towngate Theatre stage.


1 “When Witches Wail…and Hobgoblins Gather.” The Intelligencer, 25 Oct. 1966. Page 9.

2“Having a Halloween Party?” Wheeling News Register, 30 Oct. 1926. Page 3.

3 “The Goblins Will Get You If You Don’t Watch Out.” The Intelligencer, 10 Oct. 1963. Page 15.

4 Wilson, Judith. “Halloween Party Always Means Serving Doughnuts and Cider.” Wheeling Intelligencer, 30 Oct. 1940. Page 18. 

5 “Halloween-Just for Tots? Novel Party Idea for Adults.” Wheeling News Register, 27 Oct. 1965. Page 18. 

6 “How to: Utilize Paper Bags.” Wheeling News Register, 27 Oct. 1983. Page 15. 

7 “Amusing Home Games for Young Folks on Halloween.” Wheeling Sunday Register, 31 Oct. 1897. Page 14. 

8 “Why Not Have A Hallowe’en Party.” Wheeling News Register , 12 Oct. 1913. Page 37. 

9 “Food…Fun…Fantasy…It’s Halloween.” The Intelligencer, 18 Oct. 1967. Page 12. 

10 “Witchy Halloween Hairdos.” The Intelligencer, 27 Oct. 1965. Page 11.