4 Frighteningly Fun Facts about Victorian Halloween

by | Oct 16, 2019 | Blog, Heritage

Don’t let the stiff black-and-white photographs fool you. The Victorians knew how to have fun, and Halloween was no exception.

What we now call Halloween grew out of the ancient Celtic harvest festival of Samhain and the spiritual observance of All Hallows Eve. Scottish and Irish immigrants brought the holiday to North America in the mid-1800s, where it was often celebrated with elaborate house parties.

At London’s Grosvenor Lodge, we keep the tradition alive with an annual Halloween Haunted Mansion.  This year’s event features an escape room experience, October 25, 26, 27 & 30.

Guests will be locked in the mansion and asked to find clues and complete challenges in order to escape. If you’re brave enough, you’ll tour every inch of our property, from the creepy basement right up to the top floor landing. They’ll be volunteers to scare you silly around every corner!

To help you prepare for a good old-fashioned scare, here are four things that might surprise you about a Victorian Halloween. 

Halloween was a chance to make a match

Today, Halloween is about candy, costumes, and kids. In the Victorian era, it was opportunity to find love, as young men and women gathered for an evening of dancing, food, and frivolity.

Costumes were a must, even in the 19th century. Popular choices included witches, ghosts, bats, cats and devils, as well as Little Bo Peep, Mother Goose, Harlequins and clowns.

Homes were decorated to impress

Victorian hostesses set the scene with elaborate decorations, which included harvest centrepieces and doorways decorated with hanging apples and horseshoes. They also used more familiar images like black cats, bats, witches, ghosts, and devils.

And no Victorian Halloween party would have been complete without plenty of spooky candlelight and twinkling Jack-o-Lanterns – named in honour of an Irish trickster caught between Heaven and Hell after offending both the Devil and God.

We do not own any of the above images. All images were found through Google image search.

Candy was an afterthought

The Victorians loved their sweets, but nuts and apples took centre stage at Halloween. Nuts were roasted, while apples were often glazed in a syrup of sugar, water and butter before being browned over a bonfire – similar to today’s candy apples. Unmarried guests feasted on the “Halloween Dump Cake,” which included a hidden ring, a coin, and a button. Whoever found the ring would be married first. Finding the coin signified a future of wealth; whoever found the button was destined to remain single.

Spooky games were a must

The Victorians were fascinated by spiritualism and the supernatural. Seances, Ouija boards, and telling ghost stories were popular forms of entertainment throughout the year, but especially at Halloween.

Young women also enjoyed playing variations of the Magic Mirror game, where they stood in front of a mirror at midnight. If the spirits were pleased, the reflection of their future husband would appear in the looking glass. Sounds almost as frightening as our escape room!

“DO YOU DARE” Grosvenor Lodge Haunted Mansion 2019

The 2019 DO YOU DARE Grosvenor Lodge Haunted Mansion runs for four evenings, October 25, 26, 27 & 30. We’re also offering a daytime / lights-on version on the 27th for families and children.

Tickets are $10 / $15 and available now at the link below, or available for purchase over the phone at 519 432 6620!


All proceeds support the preservation of two of London’s spookiest historical buildings, Grosvenor Lodge and Elsie Perrin Williams Estate.