Ghosts From the Past

check out these eerie old images of Chippewa Valley kids celebrating the spooky season

Photos by Chippewa Valley Museum , by Tom Giffey

Sure, you won’t find a Transformer or Pokemon in the bunch, but many of the Halloween costumes in these photos from the early- and mid-20th century look surprisingly familiar. As these images from the Chippewa Valley Museum archives attest, kids around her have been dressing up spooky – and silly – for about a century. (And probably longer: The custom of donning disguises on All Hallows’ Eve began in the 16th century.) Look close and you’ll find ghosts, witches, Mickey Mouse, and maybe inspiration for your own kids’ costumes.


Maybe it’s the Depression Era vibe, the creepy masks, or the thousand-yard stare of the un-costumed girl in the lower left, but there’s something definitely eerie about this group of kids at Sunnyview School in this undated photo. The one-room schoolhouse operated in the Town of Washington from 1882 to 1961, and now greets visitors in Carson Park next to the Chippewa Valley Museum.


You’ll never guess which prominent Eau Claire resident is behind this mask! One clue: He’s known much more for having worn judicial robes than a Halloween costume. Long before he served as a member of the state Assembly, an Eau Claire County judge, or chairman of the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, Thomas Barland was a 3-year-old ghoul ready to celebrate Halloween.


Teacher Pearl Moe posed with a mob of second and third graders decked out for trick-or-treating in 1965 at Barstow Street School, also known as Eighth Ward School. The school stood at the corner of North Barstow and Williams streets, in what is now called the North River Fronts Neighborhood.