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There was a ghost haunting the streets of Bismarck in 1892. At least, that's what the Bismarck Tribune reported as Halloween neared, stating: "Bismarck does not claim for itself anything out of the ordinary, but it does, just at present, rejoice at the possession of something which does not fall to the lot of every city; it owns a real, live ghost, with the white robe and all other appendages of dress, the possession of which is absolutely indispensable to the fashionable personal appearance of a well-dressed ghost."

The ghost, "he, she, or it," had "debuted" around 8:30 one night in front of a trio of ladies, who declined to engage with the character before it vanished. Another time, a young man fired four times at something he took for the ghost. As it turned out, it was the reflection of light through the slats of a nearby chicken coop. "None of the shots are thought to have injured the ghost," the Tribune reassured.

It was surmised that the "ghost" would soon realize it might actually scare somebody, and return from whence it came.

But with the advent of Halloween, came more mischief – especially since it was celebrated with plenty of tricks with the treats! On Halloween night, there was a lot of scurrying around of youth, prepping their pranks – or, as the Tribune christened it, their "tour of destruction." Anything that could be moved, was. Taking gates off the hinges was a common tactic. The newspaper reported, "The hen coop.... in front of Gussner's market was found in front of Brady's millinery store; the Western Union Telegraph office was adorned with a sign which advertised lunch and baker's wares; Charles Kupitz's delivery wagon was missing from its usual haunts and rescued from an out-of-town hiding place; [and] many other rather irritating pranks were played."

Bismarck was not alone. In Steele, the Hope Pioneer noted, "The boys – and some of them were quite large to be called by that name – raised particular mischief around town." This included moving and tipping all things possible, and in the process, a number of buildings were damaged. The newspaper intoned: "When it comes to the destruction of property, the miscreants should be severely dealt with by law."

Meanwhile, the Jamestown Weekly Alert noted, "A few citizens congratulated themselves that [Halloween] came but once a year and that certain buildings would stay planted for another 365 days."

Dakota Datebook by Sarah Walker


Bismarck Weekly Tribune, October 21, 1892, p3

Bismarck Weekly Tribune, Friday, November 4, 1892, p3, p8

The Hope Pioneer, November 4, 1892, p1

The Jamestown Weekly Alert, November 3, 1892, p5

Dakota Datebook is made in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, and funded by Humanities North Dakota, a nonprofit, independent state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the program do not necessarily reflect those of Humanities North Dakota or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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