Halloween in Joplin

General Spook of Goblin-land ordered his army to invade the city of Joplin last night and the order was carried out to the letter,” the Globe cheerily reported the morning after Halloween.

“Everyone was out – young and old. Motor cars heavily laden with masqueraders raced up and down Main Street, causing traffic jams at times, which gave police officers not little concern. Horns were brought into play by children. In the various sections of the city an occasional revolver shot was heard and drivers of motor cars on Main Street added to the fun with blasts from the exhaust pipe of the vehicles.”

Dances were held at the Connor Hotel and Erickson’s Dancing Academy. Even the Joplin Children’s Home provided Halloween festivities for its residents, allowing the seventy-five children who lived there to invite a friend to the home to enjoy refreshments and play games.

The streets of Joplin swarmed with children decked out in a variety of costumes. Rudolph Valentino was a popular choice as was the “negro mammy, whose picture has adorned the packages of pancake flour.” The Globe observed, “Many girls became boys, while the boy got his one opportunity to strut the streets as a girl.” For all of the innocent youth seeking a treat, it seemed that there were even more intent on carrying out tricks.

Joplin police received more than thirty phone calls to break up gangs of delinquents destroying or removing property. The activity was concentrated in an area west of Main Street, between Fourth and Twentieth streets, though other neighborhoods were also vandalized. Pranksters placed “all sorts of objects” in the streets to stop traffic and a gang of rock throwers made a nuisance of themselves. Finding wooden fences too easy to tear down, one group of hoodlums tried to demolish a stone fence in North Joplin. Windows were soaped in residential and business districts. Despite all of the damage, no one was arrested, most likely because Joplin was home to “many potential champion sprinters.”

The Devil of East Joplin

Back one hot August summer in the 1920s, the Devil roamed the streets of East Joplin. A number of women and children reported a tall figure that resembled Beelzebub jumping out of the darkness at them and then running away. Mrs. W.H. Longacre watched in horror as a satanic figure ran in front of her car as she drove her children home. Mrs. Longacre’s report to the police went unheeded.

Doors were locked, windows were barred, and a small group of East Joplin men prowled the streets with their shotguns loaded. Rumors swirled as to whether or not it really was Old Scratch or just some harmless prankster. Some believed it was a prankster who wore armor underneath his costume to keep him safe from harm. After it became known that men were searching for the Devil armed with shotguns, Vard I. Cowan, a laborer for the Southwest Missouri Railroad Company, confessed to playing tricks on unsuspecting victims. He had used it at a church party earlier in the year and had such a good time that he continued to play tricks on residents the rest of the summer.

Some expressed their belief that Cowan’s antics were connected to the nearby Nazarene Church, but the pastor, Rev. F.C. Savage, denied that he or the church was involved with Cowan’s mischief. Mrs. Cowan, meanwhile, declared, “He has quit it. We don’t want to get into trouble.”

There were no further reports of the Prince of Darkness lurking on the streets of East Joplin.