Edition for Educators—Halloween

The Capitol takes on a new look under the full moon in this 1940s postcard./tiles/non-collection/1/10-31-CapitolNight-2005_083_000.xml Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this object
The Capitol takes on a new look under the full moon in this 1940s postcard.
“Mr. Chairman, since tonight is Halloween and I must get home and get my fierce mask on so I can reach the residence of the gentleman from Maryland and frighten him tonight—”

“If the gentleman will yield, trick or treat?”


-Reps. Morris K. Udall of Arizona and Robert Bauman of Maryland, on the House Floor (October 31, 1979)

In the mood for some Halloween yarns? The House has its own share of tricks and treats.

Featured Object in the House Collection

Capitol at Night Postcard
This postcard offers one of the spookier images of the Capitol in the House Collection. This East Front view shows the contrast of the monumental white building against an inky night sky. The linen-textured paper and bright, halftone-printed color were distinguishing features of postcards printed in the 1940s.

This nocturnal view of the Capitol from the west was originally sketched for <i>Harper’s Weekly</i> by Theodore Davis. Members of the House frequently work late into the night./tiles/non-collection/1/10-31-NightSession-2011_013_003crop.xml Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this object
This nocturnal view of the Capitol from the west was originally sketched for Harper’s Weekly by Theodore Davis. Members of the House frequently work late into the night.

Featured Historical Highlights

A 19th Century Halloween Prank in the Capitol
On October 31, 1885, a prank played on a new Capitol Police Officer led to gun shots in Statuary Hall. Patrolling the Capitol late at night, the officer roamed through darkened rooms until he reached Statuary Hall. The unsuspecting officer heard groaning from a corner and proceeded cautiously until he spied a spectral figure. And that’s not the only ghost story to tell in the Capitol!

Uncle Joe Cannon’s Colorful Words on the House Floor
On August 27, 1890, the House of Representatives fell into complete disarray after Representatives Joe Cannon of Illinois and William McAdoo of New Jersey exchanged verbal insults, followed by fisticuffs between John Wilson of Washington and Charles Beckwith of New Jersey during floor debate. The ruckus climaxed with the arrival of Representatives William Morrow of California and Bishop Perkins of Kansas, fresh from the House Barber Shop and covered in shaving cream. Their ghostly appearance disarmed the tension in the chamber, and set things back to order.

This photograph of the 1913 electoral vote count includes some ghostly images. The head of House Speaker <a href="/People/Detail/11000?ret=True" title="Champ Clark">Champ Clark</a>, seated next to Senator Bacon on the rostrum, seems to float. Toward the bottom appears a Representative so transparent that his papers are visible through his head./tiles/non-collection/1/10-31-photo-ghosts-redux-2008_069_000.xml Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this object
This photograph of the 1913 electoral vote count includes some ghostly images. The head of House Speaker Champ Clark, seated next to Senator Bacon on the rostrum, seems to float. Toward the bottom appears a Representative so transparent that his papers are visible through his head.

Featured Person

Robert Edward Difenderfer of Pennsylvania
Robert Difenderfer served two terms in Congress from 1911 to 1915. Originally trained in dentistry, the Congressman’s career spanned the world and a number of professions. He opened and ran the first woolen mill in the Chinese city of Tianjin, sold lumber wholesale, and worked as a contractor. Difenderfer’s career path took a sharp turn after leaving Congress, when the former dentist set up shop as a true patron of Halloween: a candy salesman.

Featured Blog Posts

Photography’s Ghosts
What’s that in the back of the House Chamber? Is the camera out of focus, or could there be a ghost in the Capitol? When photography first developed in the 19th century, the public thought that it showed the truth. With light, a camera, and chemicals, early photographers could create surprising facsimiles of real scenes and people. But the long exposures of early photographs often created ghostly images.

“Issue the Order, Sir, and I’ll Storm Hell!”
Harken to the tale of “Mad” Anthony Wayne, Revolutionary War hero and former congressman, who lost his head, or so the legend goes. Said to haunt the Pennsylvania trails where his skull was lost after his remains were disinterred for removal to a new burial site, this is one Congressman whose legend is truly eerie.

This is part of a series of blog posts for educators highlighting the resources available on History, Art & Archives of the U.S. House of Representatives. The series appears monthly. For lesson plans, fact sheets, glossaries, and other materials for the classroom, see the website's Education section.

Categories: Education, Holidays