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Drew Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow: A History of Halloween in the Forest 

By: Jocelyn Freeman | Staff Writer

7 mins read

Almost everyone on campus is aware that Drew University holds the title of the ninth most haunted campus in the US, at least according to College Consensus. Whether or not the ghosts are real is up for debate, but one thing is for certain: Drew University is great at Halloween, and Drewids have always been great at Halloween. This week, I will be exploring the haunted history of Drew’s traditions tied to Halloween and how the celebrations of today compare! 

As far back as 1935, the mentions of Halloween events, namely Halloween Prom, show up in The Acorn. In the early editions of this very paper, there are more than a few stories about the pranks that took place on Halloween night. In 1936, students supposedly led a group of horses to Seminary Hall’s second-floor chapel. For those that might not know, horses are more than capable of going upstairs but are incapable of descending them. The following year, extra security was hired to keep an eye on campus on the night of Halloween, which was “remarkably effective in dampening the ardor of any conniving miscreants,” as stated in the October 1937 edition of The Acorn. Yet, students’ pranks did not stop completely.

Photo courtesy of “The Oak Leaves” 1980. Students and staff in Halloween costumes at The Pub.

 Through the 40s and 50s, events such as annual parties, casual dances and bonfires were hosted by a variety of organizations in a variety of places across campus. These events were not completely like the Halloween parties of today. They included social dancing, bobbing for apples and lunch box auctions. These annual events were typically hosted by the Social Committee and at times were co-sponsored by groups such as the Women’s Athletic Association. In the mid-century, Halloween parties put on by Drew-sponsored organizations were held in the familiar lounge of Brother’s College. Other events were held in the lounge throughout the school year, but come the end of October, the lounge was decorated with cornstalks and pumpkins for the annual bash. 

In the late 70s and early 80s, Drew students began throwing Halloween events that more closely resemble the holiday we are used to today. Around this time, the first full-page spread of colorized photographs began to show up in “The Oak Leaves”, Drew’s former yearbook. The photos, some of which have been included in this piece, show students in makeshift costumes engaging in festivities across campus. The Pub held annual costume contests with cash prizes. The Social Committee held festive events in the old University Center. 

Meanwhile, various dorm halls held celebrations of their own, complete with free beer for all students before the drinking age was changed in the mid-80s. The dorm hall with the most Halloween spirit also happens to be the one with the most spirits supposedly roaming its hall: Hoyt-Bowne. An October edition of The Acorn from 1978 announces that “To celebrate this weekend, the residents of Hoyt-Bowne will light up all four stories with jack-o-lanterns in every window.” Hoyt Halloween Parties were so infamous that they were documented in the yearbooks! Drew alumni still recount memories of the Hoyt Halloween parties as some of the best on campus. 

As previously mentioned, the spooky atmosphere of Drew is not limited to the month of October. Ghost sightings, reports and stories have been a long-continued tradition of the University. With buildings as old as they are this should come as no surprise. Ghosts have haunted Hoyt, Asbury, S.W. Bowne, Seminary and Mead Hall. Another October edition of The Acorn, this one from 1988, details several spooky sightings on campus. Just be warned that it is quite a jarring read. Today the Methodist Archives host a yearly ghost tour of our haunted campus that is well attended by the student body as well as outside guests. Yet, a ghost sighting is not always promised on these guided tours. 

Today, many of these All Hallows Eve traditions continue on Drew’s campus. This year’s Halloween-themed programming started in the third week of October. RHA hosted two events, including the “Haunting of Hoyt Lawn” which, due to weather, was moved to Tolley-Brown and had an array of Autumn festivities, from apple cider to pumpkin painting. RHA also hosted “Spooky Suits and Sexy Treats” with Planned Parenthood Generation Action to hold Drew’s annual night of sex toy bingo. 

Photo courtesy of “Oak Leaves” 1987. A group of girls dressed up at one of Hoyt’s infamous Halloween parties circa ‘87

In this week leading up to Halloween, clubs across campus have spooktacular events scheduled. Over “Halloweekend” DNL is hosting a haunted house, WMNJ is hosting a Rave and DUDS is hosting their annual “Rocky Horror” show on the night of Halloween. All details about these events can be found on Instagram at @drewstuact, @wmnj_radio and @dudstheatre, respectively.  

While Halloween at Drew has changed over the years, the spirit of the night has remained constant. Going forward, I hope that the students and staff on campus can continue to take part in the festivities and keep this tradition alive. Based on the clubs dedicated to hosting creative events, promoting school spirit and encouraging students to decorate their dorm halls with freshly painted pumpkins, I have a feeling the tradition of a good old-fashioned Drew Halloween is not going anywhere any time soon. 

On behalf of everyone at The Acorn, I wish you a spooky Halloween! And make sure to snap a few photos to remember it by!

Featured photo courtesy of Oak Leaves 1980. Student-carved Jack ‘o’ Lanterns on the steps of Tolley-Brown.

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