Looking back at Halloween in Anaheim

This year mark’s the 100th anniversary of Anaheim’s Fall Festival, and to celebrate this occasion, the Muzeo has put together not one, but two exhibits showcasing not only Anaheim’s Halloween history, but some Halloween’s earliest traditions in a unique antique postcard exhibit.

Myself, wearing a black velvet dress, standing outside of the Muzeo, a small pale brick building with white columns. Banners on either side advertise two Halloween exhibits.

Myself, wearing a black velvet dress, standing outside of the Muzeo, a small pale brick building with white columns.

Halloween at the turn of the 20th century looked much different than today, with a plethora of pranks played on neighbors and various matchmaking rituals. These unique Halloween activities were depicted, along side icons we still maintain today, such as Jack O’lanterns, black cats, and witches, in postcards that people sent to friends and family. If you want to learn more about the forgotten matchmaking games of Halloween, check out this deep dive I wrote a couple years ago.

Overall view of the antique postcard exhibit, featuring vintage and copies of antique Halloween postcards. An enlarged postcard features a woman in a white cape surrounded by Jack O'Lanterns.

Vintage postcards of black cats and Jack O'Lanterns.

Display showcasing the postcards that told women to look in a mirror to see their true love on Halloween.

Vintage postcards of witches and Jack O'Lanterns.

Vintage postcard featuring the devil.

Display case of various vintage postcards.

Vintage postcards showing Jack O'Lanterns.

In the 1920s Anaheim was a rural town of various groves, but most notably citrus. The small town had its fair share of pranksters on Halloween, with soapy windows, broken fences, and more. In an attempt to curb the vandalism, local business owners put together a “Halloween Carnival and Festival” in 1923. The event was so successful they added a parade next year.

Myself standing in the middle of the exhibit space.

By the 1950s, Anaheim had “the biggest Halloween party in the nation” according to the Los Angeles Times and the town decided to invite the Walt Disney Studio to join in 1953. What they didn’t know was that Walt himself had been working on his “Mickey Mouse Park” idea and was considering Anaheim as a possible location. In a subtle attempt to woo the locals, Disney had studio artist Roy Williams design six floats, which were built by Anaheim volunteers, and dubbed “Walt Disney’s Fairyland.” In 1954, as Disneyland construction was underway, the Studio provided more float designs. Walt was even invited to be Grand Marshall one year, but declined due to a prior engagement.

You’ll spy a little fella in the shape of an A, that is Andy Anaheim, our city’s mascot, who was designed by the Walt Disney Studio and a gift to the city in 1953. Over the years he was featured on city marketing, documents, and Festival buttons. While his presence has fluctuated over the decades, the Anaheim Halloween Parade made sure his legacy was secured when he was built as a massive float to kick off the parade.

The exhibit features artifacts and photos from the festival and parade, showcasing how the current incarnation of the parade is inspired very much by the parade’s past, including float recreations.

Overall view of the exhibit space, featuring vintage photos, a recreation of a blue banner reading "Anaheim's 27th Annual Halloween Festival" October 31, 1950."

Portion of the exhibit featuring space themed floats and costumes.

Documents pertaining to the relationship between Anaheim and Disney. One features an illustration of a castle, artwork Disney provided to create floats for the parade.

Close-up of the clock, the face of which is a Jack O'Lantern and instead of 12 at the top it reads 31.

Display case of Andy Anaheim paper, pins, and patches.

Photos of the "Miss Slick Chick" pageant.

Close-up of an Andy Anaheim figure.

Close-up of my purse, which features a crescent moon with a face and a witch flying on a broom, in the background is Andy Anaheim holding a pumpkin.

Overall view of the Anaheim portion of the museum exhibit. A large black and white photograph of two women, one dressed as a witch, the other as a bat, stand in front of a sign featuring a witch and reading "Anaheim Halloween Pageant Parade Oct. 31 7 pm" A recreation of the sign stands in front of the photo. In the background are various photographs, display cases, and a large Halloween themed clock that was once part of a float.

A newsletter from Anaheim Progress featuring Andy Anaheim touting "City of Anaheim Prepares To Welcome Disneyland"

A wall featuring photographs of volunteers, including myself, working on parade floats.

Despite destruction of Anaheim’s historic downtown core, the Anaheim Fall Festival and Halloween Parade has survived. While most of the buildings that surround the festival are newer, the heart and soul of the event remains the same, to give joy to locals and visitors alike.

These two wonderful Halloween exhibits run through November 5, 2023. Those in or visiting the Anaheim area can see learn about Halloween’s treasured traditions at the Muzeo at 241 S. Anaheim Boulevard in Anaheim. For further details, please visit the Muzeo’s website.

What’s Nearby?

Anaheim Packing House

Linbrook Bowl

Leave a Comment!