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10 Stories: Scary Stuff! Chronicling America

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In celebration of the release of the 10 millionth page of Chronicling America, our free, online searchable database of historical U.S. newspapers, the reference librarians in our Serials & Government Publications Division have selected some interesting subjects and articles from the archives. We’ve been sharing them in a series of Throwback Thursday #TBT blog posts.

To commemorate Halloween on Saturday, we return to our historical newspaper archives for alarming tales of the unexpected and a few spooky pranks thrown in for fun.

Illustration of man bedeviled with hallucinations.
In the grip of the Green Terror! From the San Francisco Call, January 20, 1901.

A New Halloween Game: The Shivers
Wherein one passes carefully “prepared-to-make-one-shiver” items from hand to hand, without seeing what they are. (Obviously the source of that old peeled-grapes-as-eyeballs gag.) New York Tribune, October 26, 1919.

The Spirit of Halloween
Tips on celebrating the holiday (although frankly, this seems to be an excuse to print photos of a pretty girl). San Francisco Call, October 26, 1902.

Mars Peopled by One Vast Thinking Vegetable!
As reported in the Salt Lake Tribune, October 13, 1912. It doesn’t appear to be a Great Pumpkin, but be careful it doesn’t send spaceships to land in Grover’s Mill, N.J., on Halloween night…

Terror in the Country: An Automobile Is Coming!
The Richmond Times Dispatch of March 6, 1904, shows the small-town alarm caused by one of those newfangled horseless carriages. Run!

Breaking the Death-Grip of a Drowning Person
An unintentionally murderous monster may be swimming beside you in a public pool. Here’s how to save yourself, courtesy of Miss Adeline Trapp, America’s greatest endurance swimmer—who, presumably, has had to fight off a number of these types. Chicago Day Book, August 8, 1913.

Is San Francisco in the Grip of the Green Terror?
Not a masked marauder of the radio waves, but an insidious intoxicant: “Society is all agog over the recent discovery that a coterie of girls in a fashionable uptown boarding school have been caught tippling absinthe,” reports the San Francisco Call, January 20, 1901.

Says Ghosts of Men Executed Return and Cause Murder
This according to the librarian of the St. Louis Theosophical Society, in cooperation with the American League for the Prevention of Legalized Crime. Mrs. Helen Primavesi suggests that the “the European War was started by the evil spirits of dead rulers.” Chicago Day Book, September 5, 1916.

Tim – Tom: The Kelly Kids
These raffish cartoon pranksters, who bear an uncanny resemblance to the more-famous Katzenjammer Kids of the era in both appearance and modus operandi, play a ghostly prank on their old man. Daily Capital Journal (Salem, Oregon), August 30, 1919.

Oo-ey!! Slim Jim, Ghosts and Everything!!
More cartoon hijinks, as that outlaw scalawag Slim Jim again evades capture by his three bumbling police pursuers by chasing them around a graveyard in a bedsheet. East Oregonian, November 8, 1919.

The Ghost That Oberlin Doesn’t Believe In
And finally, to reassure us that there’s really nothing to be afraid of, “two professors and an amateur Sherlock Holmes try to fathom mysterious tappings” at the Ohio college town. Washington Herald, December 19, 1915.

Launched by the Library of Congress and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) in 2007, Chronicling America provides enhanced and permanent access to historically significant newspapers published in the United States between 1836 and 1922. It is part of the National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP), a joint effort between the two agencies and partners in 40 states and territories. Start exploring the first draft of history today at and help us celebrate on Twitter and Facebook by sharing your findings and using the hashtags #ChronAm #10Million.

Comments (2)

  1. Awesome Work!

  2. it was awesome

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