Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » A Lion House Halloween, 1903

A Lion House Halloween, 1903

By: Ardis E. Parshall - October 30, 2009

This needs much more work to be written as a real story – as it is now, it is raw material only. But sometimes that’s what you’re gonna get, when time is short and discoveries are made at the last minute. I wanted to post something about this today, since most of you won’t be reading Keepa on Halloween itself.

The church bought the Lion House – one of Brigham Young’s residences, where most of his smaller families and the wives without children generally had their apartments – from the Young family in 1900. The Lion House later served as a dormitory for the women of LDS University which stood on the same block, as the home economics department for the same institution, as a social center, as auxiliary offices, and as the home to other such organizations and services over the years. I have not yet discovered how it was being used in 1903, but since it was owned by the church this activity must have been sanctioned, perhaps sponsored, by a church organization.

Eva Dehlin also needs to be identified – paging John Dehlin.

And we need a report of the event after the fact, not merely this preliminary account.

But incomplete as it is, maybe you’ll enjoy reading this account of plans for a Halloween party in 1903:

It is safe to predict that no such elaborate Hallowe’en celebration will take place in the state as that which the walls of the Lion House will witness tonight. The entire edifice from attic to basement has been converted into a maze of mystery, and not a room in the many comprised in the historic house, but will hold its uncanny secret for the mystification of the guests who will throng them.

In every nook and cranny of the long halls skeletons, corpses, and imps will lurk, and witches will brew caldrons while chanting incantations of eerie import at their tasks. A real fortune teller will reveal secrets of past and future; in a mystic pool will be reflected the features of guests’ future partners; refreshments will be served from a table lit with jack o’lanterns and decorated with scorpions and snakes. There will be priestesses of night and day, with costumes, carrying emblems of sun, moon and stars; and in a room decorated with weird draperies, and having uncanny sentinels set as watch, the guests will dance in robes suggestive of ghostly habiliments.

The very entrance is wrapped in mystery. The guests will present their invitations at a basement door, and will enter a room where they will be permitted to don costumes, or doff wraps; then they will be shown outside to seek the real entrance to the house, where weird pleasures await them.

Once inside, they will find every pathway beset with barriers impeding their way, and only by finding the cord of fate, which will form a network from top to bottom of the labyrinthine mansion will they be able to gaze upon the mysteries in store for them.

The entire affair, in fact, promises to be the most complete that can be imagined, and exceptional credit belongs to the
hostess, Mrs. Eva Dehlin, whose mind conceived, and whose deft hands have carried out the intricate details. The following verses composed by Mrs. Dehlin will form the separate passports at the two places of entrance.

Full blythe the night on Hallowe’en
When imps and goblins will be seen;
Your aid we ask in charm and spell,
In merry game and feast as well.
The ghosts admit no revelers here,
Unless they with a sheet appear;
To find the entrance to the Hall,
We send a challenge to you all.

Solemnly we greet you.
Joyfully we meet you.
Enter now the spirit’s den;
Fill your hearts with mirth and fun,
Whether you to depths descend
Or heights above explore,
All requests must be obeyed,
Or peace you’ll have no more;
Earthly robes must not appear,
Only ghosts may enter here.
Hooks you’ll find, O, use them well!
Your hosts you’ll find way down in —
Excuse me, please, take the enchanted cord
And follow it without a word.

What would Brigham Young say? What would Catherine Hurst say? What do YOU say?



  1. It think it sounds like alot of fun. If I received an invitation, I’d go.

    Such an activity wouldn’t fly in my current ward, though. I tried to put together a scary movie night for the scout troop, and even the B-rate science fiction flicks from the 1950s were deemed inappropriate. Evidently all Church-sanctioned activities today must have a “priesthood purpose” and all entertainment must be “virtuous, wholesome, and uplifting.”

    I doubt those imps, “real fortune tellers,” and priestesses of the night could get around today’s restrictions…

    Comment by Clark — October 30, 2009 @ 9:54 am

  2. I feel so much better about our ward’s annual Halloween party, complete with hockey masks, creepy music, scary teen age boys in costume, and our YW as witches. I think it is great.

    Catherine Hurst would say that it is impossible to give an answer unless you include a stamped, self addressed envelope. Or else ask your mother.

    Likely, Brigham Young would have said “I’ll loan you my extra clothes for costumes”, followed shortly thereafter with something along the lines of “Why do we adopt the gentile customs so intended to undermine our home-grown and homely amusements?”, after which he grab the “enchanted cord” and laugh his way through the various rooms with several eastern journalists who had stopped by to interview him. At least that’s my take.

    Comment by kevinf — October 30, 2009 @ 10:10 am

  3. Oops, in the last paragraph, should be ‘after which he would grab the enchanted cord’.

    Comment by kevinf — October 30, 2009 @ 10:11 am

  4. dang! where’s my time machine? That’s a party I’d love to go to!

    Comment by iguacufalls — October 30, 2009 @ 10:27 am

  5. I’d love to see what they came up with, especially without the cheap Chinese decorations we use now.

    Seems like they used to have more fun activities for adults back then. Have we replaced them with even more stuff for our arguably over-scheduled youth and extra meetings for the adults?

    Comment by Martin — October 30, 2009 @ 11:31 am

  6. Sherry Dew would be rolling in her grave. That is, if she were dead….

    Comment by Rameumptom — October 30, 2009 @ 11:46 am

  7. Eva Dehlin might be Eda Dehlin (obituary on p. B4).

    Comment by Justin — October 30, 2009 @ 12:01 pm

  8. Actually, B5.

    Comment by Justin — October 30, 2009 @ 12:05 pm

  9. I don’t know how you did that, Justin (how many times have I typed those words?) but I think you’ve done it again.

    This sounded like a fun party to me, too, and I’m glad everybody is liking the idea — and is being so funny about it!

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — October 30, 2009 @ 12:46 pm

  10. What a fun find! I hope you can later write up a more extensive account—are there photos (*fingers crossed*)?

    My grandmother used to tell me about haunted houses done at Enos Wall’s mansion (in recent times the LDS Business College). Her uncle, Harry, was the Wall’s houseman (he lived in an apartment over the stalls in back with his wife). I believe he also worked as a caretaker for the place when it was the Jewish community center, so perhaps the haunted houses date from then?

    I’ve done very little research on the Wall mansion outside of looking through the photographs of the interior at the Historical Society. My parents own some furniture and knick knacks from it passed down from Harry and I might have identified one of our tables in a photograph of the Wall library…

    *sigh* again reminded of projects I’d like to have time for…

    Comment by Mina — October 30, 2009 @ 1:11 pm

  11. Speaking of spooky places — if you haven’t read this guest post over at The Apron Stage written by someone who worked the graveyard (heh) shift at Utah State Hospital for 15 years, you should.

    Sounds like a great party at the Lion House; would have loved to have attended. ..bruce..

    Comment by bfwebster — October 30, 2009 @ 3:34 pm

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