In many ways, Halloween night 100 years ago was similar to the many that had preceded it and the many that would follow.

In many ways, Halloween night 100 years ago was similar to the many that had preceded it and the many that would follow.

The young and the young at heart dressed up in costume and wended their way through the neighborhoods of Columbus, asking for "treats" — with the implied threat of a "trick" if something pleasant were not forthcoming.

But there were differences as well.

The Columbus of 100 years ago was considerably smaller than it is today, with only about 180,000 people living in Ohio's capital city. And it was more compact. Many people were living in the "suburbs" that had begun to be built along the streetcar lines that left the downtown in every direction.

But while people may have lived a few miles from Broad and High, most returned to the central city to work, to shop and to amuse themselves in the stores, restaurants and theatres of downtown Columbus. And, in fact, many people continued to live in houses and hotels located near the middle of town.

In our own time, Halloween is pretty much a neighborhood adventure punctuated with occasional parties for children and adults. In 1910, it was also a time for downtown revelry, as well, as the streets of the commercial district filled with costumed people seeking "treats" from local merchants whose stores stayed open to greet them.

After a rather tumultuous summer of violence associated with a lengthy streetcar strike, city officials wanted to see a Halloween that was fun but not too disorderly. A local newspaper reflected the new attitude:

"Aeroplanes, wireless and the (Philippine) insurgents are not the only progressive things of the day. To be real up-to-date, you've got to learn the trick of behaving and still having funÉ

"The 'new thought' Halloween regulations permit you to light up the pumpkins and scare anyone whose conscience or age make them scareable. You can also play the ghost with sheets, blow horns, defy dyspepsia with gingerbread, cider and the like. Anything innocent is all OK.

"But you cannot throw flour on people, insult girls and women on the street, carry away gates or property, damage doors with garbage or rocks, or soap up or injure windows."

With most of the day shift of the police department on patrol through the evening, in addition to the regular night shift, a different newspaper noted on the day after that "Halloween is passed with little rowdyism."

Reading on, one might wonder how the paper defined "little rowdyism."

"With a mop and hot water, janitors were out early on High Street Wednesday morning cleaning off the windows defaced Monday night by Halloween celebrants. Few windows on High Street escaped soaping.

"Gay revelers thronged the streets and many of them did not go home until midnight. It was a good-natured crowd and marked by an absence of serious trouble É One youth with a box of shoe polish attempted to paint everybody black he could get near and he was taken down to the police station for a lecture.

"In the outskirts, boys engaged in the pastime of throwing stones through windows, according to Oscar Payne of Broadbelt Lane, who reported to the police that several windows were broken out of his home."

A different paper reported, "Éthe spirit of vicious rowdyism was supplanted by the traditional spirit of the fete, as it is known in all Latin countries. Costumes were more numerous and confetti-throwing proved to be the most popular diversion. There were witches, fantastic goblins, Mexicans, Indians, sailors, soldiers, Pierrots, and fanciful grotesque female figures mingled in the laughing, good-natured throng which filled leading streets from early in the evening until the approach of midnight."

In addition to the revelry on the street, a large number of people attended parties in private homes and other locations.

"Popcorn, doughnuts, cider, jack-o-lanterns, apples and 150 young men aided last night in making the Halloween party at the YWCA boarding home, 64 South Fourth Street, a delightful affair for the 125 young women living at the home and 25 invited guests É The evening was passed in games peculiar to the eve of All Saints Day and the program was punctuated from time to time with guessing games, tete-a-tetes, and the serving of divers and sundry refreshments."

Some of the games played at the parties — like bobbing for apples — are still with us. Others have faded into obscurity. Let a couple of examples suffice:

"String a raisin in the middle of a thread a yard long. Two persons will each take an end of the string in the mouth, and the one who reaches the raisin first will be the first wedded."

"Take three dishes, one containing clear water, one soapy water, and one empty. Blindfold a guest and lead him to the table. With the left forefinger, he tries to dip into one of the dishes.

If he succeeds in touching the clear water, he will marry one who is young and handsome. If the soapy water, a widow. If the empty dish, he is doomed to remain single."

And one last thing: "The rooms should be grotesquely decorated with lighted pumpkin and cucumber jack-o-lanterns, green branches, bunches of wheat or corn stalks, strings of popped corn and autumn leaves. No light is used save that made by jack-o-lanterns and the fire."

I don't know about you, but I have yet to attend a party lit by cucumber Jack-o-lanterns. I suppose there is always next year.

Have a safe and happy Halloween.

Ed Lentz writes a history column for ThisWeek.