Thursday, October 31, 2019

Trick or treat: creepy Hallowe'en history

[This post first appeared on this blog October 31, 2006. It has been reposted from time to time :  a.Hallowe'en tradition.]

On Saturday, October 31, 1885, the Toronto Globe published a special Hallowe’en story on the pranks often committed by rowdy medical students, who went around in a gang, turning off the new gas street lights.

That night, Toronto and the Globe got more than they bargained for. The Monday edition reported breathlessly that police constable Jenkinson, making his rounds at Parliament and Gerrard late Hallowe'en night, had discovered a nude female body hanging from a meat hook outside a butcher shop. 

“Great ghosts!” the Globe reports him as saying.

The Globe writers, on behalf of Victorian decency, seems to have been genuinely horrified. “Suppose a delicate lady had to pass an exhibition of this kind. The result would have been terrible.” 

In the story, a good deal of disgust was directed toward the Trinity College medical students. They denied all culpability, though the body -- and two others found outside the school building -- had indeed been stolen from its morgue.

Police arrested an assistant at the butcher shop and some of his cronies. But on November 19, city police court magistrate Denison freed them, saying, “I’m afraid we haven’t got the right persons. I wish we had."

"Who perpetrated the Hallowe’en Outrage?" asked the Globe.

Just the candy this year, please, just the candy.

[Re the history of grave-robbing for medical research:  last week Katie Daubs of the Toronto Star had a long story on the subject.}
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