A Hallowe’en Game: “The Shivers”: 1919

Vintage Halloween ghost and boys postcard

A New Halloween Game

“The Shivers”

By Kate Hudson

Halloween and shudders seem to go together; then how about this game for goose-prickles? It is one Mr. Mystery Man used to play while still seated around the Halloween supper table in the proper dim, shadowy light and with all hands well underneath the overhanging witch and black cat decorated tablecloth. We christened it “The Shivers.

We played it by passing carefully “prepared-to-make-one-shiver” articles form hand to hand, without seeing what they were. It is surprising how “creepy” things entirely innocent to the sight can be to the touch. Whoever squeals or drops what he gets hold of pays a fine.

The things to pass are brought on a covered tray to Mr. or Mrs. Mystery Man at the head of the table and handed from her right hand to her neighbor’s left and then right and so on around the table. As it returns to the left hand of the one at the head of the table she drops it and takes up the next article.

Anything woolly, fluffy, slippery, cold or wabbly will feel “spooky” to the unseeing receiver. A limp bean bag, a fluff of cotton-wool, the feathery end of a bric-a-brac duster, a lucky rabbit’s foot, a bit of fur, a string of cold glass beads, an angora mitten loosely stuffed and, above all, a kid glove firmly stuffed with wet sea sand and kept on ice till needed are some things with which successfully to play “The Shivers.”

Let the Mystery Man or Woman at the head of the table wear a long cloak and mask and let everyone guess for a prize the names of the objects passed, each one making a written list when the last “shiver” has gone around the table.
The New York Tribune 26 October 1919: p. 85

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: A diverting game for the servants’ hall Hallowe’en eve! Mrs Daffodil would add that chilled glass marbles in a light coating of lard suggest eye-balls. The kid glove stuffed with sand is absurdly evocative. It is a variant on this successful séance-room ruse:

One of the most effective tricks in the séance room was the “fiery hand.” As described by a witness who captured one at a séance over the strenuous objections of the medium, “the messenger from the other world proved to be nothing more supernatural than a dirty white kid glove, rubbed with phosphorus and stuffed with wet tow; this, at the end of a thin line, was suspended from a fishing-rod which could be reduced telescopically to a length convenient for the pocket. Thus the medium could cause all manner of appalling ‘manifestations’ without rising from his chair.” Chambers Journal, William and Robert Chambers, 1882

The one drawback of this delightful holiday pastime is that “The Shivers” is certain to send the Tweeny, who is a good deal more sensitive than her station in life would require, into convulsions. Mrs Daffodil remembers only too well the recent fuss and doctor’s bills incurred over a rubber spider on an elastic; a “prank” perpetrated on that young unfortunate by a now ex-footman. But Mrs Daffodil is prepared. She has primed several of the staff to suggest to the Tweeny at dinner that she looks a bit seedy. Mrs Daffodil will then inquire solicitously if she feels feverish and could she be coming down with la grippe? An early bed-time, a glass of mulled cider (laced with a mild sedative), and a promise to save her some caramels should allow the rest of the staff to enjoy their shivery entertainments without interruption.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.




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