New Brunswick

Haunted history: 13 eerie Halloween images from New Brunswick's past

Extraterrestrial pumpkin men. "Soap Jokers." And the Devil's camping trip in Fundy National Park.

Questionable costumes, two-faced pumpkins, and candy cigarettes all part of N.B.'s Halloween heritage

A letterpress halftone Halloween card sent from Moncton to Saint Johner Ralph Marr in 1927. (New Brunswick Museum - Musée du Nouveau-Brunswick)

New Brunswick is a province with a rich, weird history — and our Halloween celebrations are no exception.

Whether it's terrifying pumpkins, problematic costumes or a Satanic visitation on Fundy National Park, New Brunswickers have been getting into the spirit of things for more than 100 years. 

We cracked open the crypt at the Saint John Free Public Library and the New Brunswick Museum to dig up these 13 freaky photos from historic Halloweens. 

1. Curious cards

(Courtesy of New Brunswick Museum)

Halloween wasn't always defined by images of jack-o'-lanterns, witches and black cats.

This early coloured collotype Hallowe'en card, sent to Miss Grace Hamm in Pleasant Point, Saint John, in 1912, features a gaily dressed young woman picking colourful flowers. Quite the change from the spooky iconography we associate with the celebration today. 

It wasn't until the early 20th century that scary costumes became a Halloween tradition in North America. Trick-or-treating followed even later — and didn't catch on in Canada until the 1920s and 30s. 

2. 'Weird attire'

(Courtesy of the Saint John Free Public Library)

In this photo from Oct. 31, 1950, four-year-old Linda Ricker of Erbs Cove poses with "one of the biggest Jack-O-Lanterns in New Brunswick." 

"Youngsters, and many adults, too, will don weird attire to join in the celebration," the Saint John Telegraph-Journal reported. "There will be crowds of children calling at residences looking for the Hallowe'en 'handout.'" 

"There will also be organized parties for the young in some centres in an effort to keep them off the streets and out of harm's way." 

3. 'Super Sussex' Halloween sundae

(Courtesy of the Saint John Free Public Library)

Nothing says "Halloween" like a nice ice cream sundae made with "Super Sussex" orange or vanilla ice cream, advertised in the Saint John Evening Times-Globe in 1934.

The Halloween treat was available at Wassons pharmacy, which had two Saint John locations — 9 Sydney St. and 715 Main St. — in those days. 

For those prone to overindulgence in the Halloween sundaes, an adjacent ad advises chasing the treat with a bottle of BonKera — a weight-loss tonic aimed at helping readers "reduce the harmless way."

4. Pint-size pirates

(Saint John Free Public Library)

Big moustaches, bandanas and eye patches were on-trend in Saint John in late October 1961.

Four tween pirates, pictured in the Saint John Telegraph-Journal on Nov. 1, 1961, "join in the fun and frolic of Hallowe'en," the paper reported. 

From left to right, 11-year-old Danny McIntyre, 13-year-old Gloria Doucett, in "pearls and finest furs," and "Blue Beard Kenneth Cole and his mysterious lady friend, Linda Cormier, both 12 years old."

5. Haunted hotel

(Courtesy of the Saint John Free Public LIbrary)

The Admiral Beatty Hotel, today a seniors residence, on the corner of King Square South, was the place to be on Halloween night 1929. 

This ad that ran in the Telegraph-Journal on Oct. 25 that year advertises both "supper a la carte at attractive prices" and live music included in the $2 cover.

That live orchestra was led by Bruce Holder, then just 24 years old. Holder — nicknamed the "Mr. Music of Saint John" was a conductor, violinist, and composer who taught music at what was then the Saint John Vocational School.

Holder helped found Symphony New Brunswick, the New Brunswick Youth Orchestra, and the Third Field Artillery Band — and his son, Bruce Holder Jr., is still involved in the St. Mary's Band in Saint John. 

6. Questionable costumes

(Courtesy of the Saint John Free Public Library)

​Dressing up in racist costumes is unacceptable on Halloween in 2019.

That wasn't the case on Oct. 23, 1929, when the Telegraph-Journal advertised "Paddy" and "Chinese" costumes, in addition to "Tramp," "Fireman" and "Uncle Sam."

In addition to the problematic costumes, Wassons advertised "Rubber and Soap Jokers" and jellies, kisses, and jelly beans at 29 cents per pound. 

7. The dark side of produce

(Courtesy of the Saint John Free Public Library)

A maniacal, two-faced pumpkin with a carrot nose and crazy eyebrows was on display at the Saint John City Market in 1961.

Three-year-old Donna Cuthbertson and five-year-old Brain Cuthbertson of Edith Avenue in Saint John "wanted to take the great pumpkin home to Mom but bought a smaller one."

No word on what Mom would have thought about having that thing in the house.

8. Fancy molasses

(Courtesy of the Saint John Free Public Library)

A splashy half-page ad for Allan's-brand molasses kisses — the "ideal shell out" — appeared in the Daily Gleaner on Oct. 28, 1964.

Some candy aficionados would vehemently disagree. The molasses kiss  — sold in Canada for more than 75 years  — is one of the most divisive Halloween candies of all time.

"The molasses kiss has a rich, spicy, earthy flavour, which is very specific," Ryan Martic, president of Kerr's told CBC in 2016. "It's one of those things that defines Halloween for adults

"It's definitely love or hate when it comes to molasses, and each side is very vocal with their view. The reality is the majority of molasses kisses that are sold this time of the year are for personal consumption as much as giving out."

9. Department store terror

(Courtesy of the Saint John Free Public Library)

​The "real spooky" offerings from Zellers on Oct. 29, 1964, included super-cool glow-in-the-dark and "sparkle-velvet-trimmed" costumes of flame-retardant rayon. 

In 2019, the once-iconic Canadian retail chain is as dead as the skeleton in the ad. 

Hundreds of Zellers locations across Canada were liquidated starting in October 2011  — and the final two stores still open in Canada are slated to close in January 2020. 

10. Satan goes to Fundy

(Submitted by David kelavey)

Third Vault Falls, a branch of the Salmon River that flows through Fundy National Park, "has an ancient campsite where grass never grows and weeds shoot through only to wither a few inches above the ground," wrote Albert County historian Mamie Steeves in the early 1900s.

One of the features of the falls, Steeves wrote, is a "grey sandstone slab marked with the print of a slender hoof."

According to legend, a camp caretaker at Third Vault was met one night near the old covered bridge by a mysterious stranger, who invited him to play a game of cards.

After several games, all of which the stranger won, the caretaker put another log on the fire.

"Coming back to the table he noticed, in the sudden glow, that his visitor had but one moccasin and in place of the other a cloven hoof rested against the rough table leg."

"The Devil himself!" he cried. The stranger stamped his foot on the hearthstone with such a blow that the hoofprint remain in the rock to this day. 

11. Freaky fundraiser

(Courtesy of the Saint John Free Public Library)

Saint Johners Judith Meinert, left, and Eric Teed pose with their prize-winning pumpkins at a 1989 UNICEF fundraiser in the Market Square atrium.

For generations of Canadian kids, collecting nickels and dimes in the little orange and black UNICEF boxes was an integral part of the Halloween experience.

After 50 years, the UNICEF coin-collecting campaign ended in 2006.

That pumpkin Meinert is admiring in the photo fetched the highest bid of the day — a whopping $12. 

12. False faces

(Courtesy of the Saint John Free Public Library)

​Quite the roster of candies was advertised in the Telegraph-Journal on Oct. 29, 1929  — from black and orange jellies, to Black Cat chocolate cigarettes.

In addition to the 14 various varieties of junk, you could have your "Fireman, Hobo, Old Timer" or Uncle Sam costume for just a nickel or a dime. 

13. Extraterrestrial pumpkin 

(Courtesy of the Saint John Free Public Library)

​Halloween, like everything else, evolves with the times.

In 1989, one creative homeowner riffed on the success of the Spielberg flick E.T., the Extra-Terrestrial, by assembling an extraterrestrial pumpkin on the porch, complete with the iconic ball cap. The photo appeared in the Evening Times-Globe on Oct. 25. 

This year, Google Trends predicts Spiderman, Fortnite costumes and Pennywise — a.k.a. the murderous clown from the Stephen King film It — will top the list of most-popular costumes.

About the Author

Julia Wright

Information Morning Saint John host

Julia Wright is a lifelong Saint Johner and the host of Information Morning Saint John. She has been with the CBC since 2016.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.