Trick or Treat!

In the spirit of Halloween fun and tricks, I’ve traveled from England to France to California, from 1865 to 1938 to bring you a Halloween grab-bag of fun and creepiness!

Let’s start with a creepy magazine cover from 1904!

L’ Assiette Au Beurre translates to The Butter Plate. The magazine was a weekly French satirical magazine, published from 1901 – 1912. This cover is a bit ghastly, if you ask me! The real genius is the juxtaposition of the idea of a butter plate with this ghastly skeleton.

The headline is Assez! which is French for “Enough!” Not sure exactly what that refers to but the magazine was said to have had strong anarchist sympathies.

L’ Assiette Au Beurre (LOC)


Let’s move on over to California in 1938, at the Shafter Migrant Camp in Kern County California. Here’s a little trick! To get ready for our next treat, check out this song, California Cotton Fields, from 1973 by one of my favorite singers, Gram Parsons. It’s not one of his popular ones but it’s perfect for this next little treat.

Deep in the Great Depression, millions of desperate people were struggling to survive. The farmers from Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and many other places, whose land and homes were swallowed up in the Dust Bowl traveled to California, the promised land, hoping for work and salvation. This picture, by the great photographer Dorothea Lange, touched me. I love their clothes and the girl’s hat in the background on the left and the ladies’ shoes!

Obviously this was a special occasion: a Halloween dance at the migrant camp. People in these camps had so little–just whatever they could fit in a car or wagon. The ladies’ finery tells us they found a little corner to bring a pretty hat or a pair of high heels with them. Definitely not for every day. Maybe as a tiny symbol of hope their fortunes would change one day?

At the same time, you can see the poverty and want on these people, especially the man in the foreground, with his worried face and patched clothing. We have no way of knowing who he was, but I would be willing to bet you he’s much younger than he looks.

Halloween party at Shafter migrant camp, California Photographer – Dorothea Lange (LOC)


Let’s fly back across the pond and about 75 years before the migrant camp and visit London for one more treat. I’m going to post a link to the Public Domain Review page for Spectropia, a book published in London in 1865.


Spectropia is a children’s book of optical illusions. It was very unusual to have a book with color pictures for children in the 1860s so that alone would have been a wonder for the children. It works by staring at the picture on the right for 15-30 seconds, then staring at the blank page opposite.

A quick tip that I missed at first. There’s a tiny dot in the middle of each picture that should be your focal point. You want the whole picture to be visible, but concentrate on the little dot at the center of each picture.

Enjoy, and Happy Halloween!