Halloween: Your family’s oldest costumes


We recently held a Halloween contest and asked you to share your family’s old Halloween costumes. We received amazing photos from all over the world, some date back to 1912!  Even more fascinating were the beautiful stories you shared about your relatives. Here are some of our favorites:

Jansine Saunders:

Jansine’s uncle, Eddie McGrath, during the early years of WWII

This is a photograph of my mother’s brother dressed up as an airplane for Halloween during the early years of WWII. My uncle was born in Brisbane, Australia in 1930. His airplane costume was made by my grandmother, Sine, who was an excellent and creative seamstress. Usually, if there was ever a costume contest, the McGrath children would always win. My uncle Eddie was only 15 when my mother (his oldest sister) and I left Australia on the SS Mariposa, which brought us to America. Eddie created the likeness of the ship from a piece of cake from a going-away party and sealed it in a jar. My mother kept this jar and gave it to me. Today, it sits on our bookshelf intact — the glass is a bit fuzzy from rolling around all these years, but what a treasure and memory it is! Unfortunately, due to the distance, I only saw my uncle a few times in my life.

Ruthanne Johnson Fresonke:

Ruthanne’s grandmother and mother with their cousins, celebrating Halloween and the end of WWII, 1945

This is a photograph of my mother – Irene Johnson nee Campeau and her cousins dressing up for Halloween in 1945 in Minnesota. Not only are they celebrating Halloween, they are also celebrating the end of WWII. I found this photograph while going through boxes of old photographs with my mother, who is now 97. My mother is wearing a Japanese coolie hat and another woman is holding my mother’s Japanese fan. My father, William A. Johnson, sent my mother many items from Japan while he served in the Marine Corps. My mother told me that my dad left Iwo Jima after the battle in 1945 and went to Japan. My father told me about the landing in Iwo Jima and his lifelong guilt for being a survivor, as many of those who served there felt.

Karen Harrison:

Karen’s grandmother, Bertha Olena Hanson Wold, and her great-aunt, Andrea Hanson, 1912

Don’t let these two in mens’ suits fool you! This is my grandmother, Bertha Olena Hanson Wold, and her sister, Andrea Hanson, circa 1912. My grandmother was born in 1887 and this photo was taken right before she married my grandfather, Martin Luther Wold. This was taken of the girls dressed up for a Halloween party in Norway Township, Clay County, South Dakota. My grandmother was a teacher in a one-room schoolhouse at the time so I wonder what her students thought about this costume! I am so proud of my Norwegian heritage and the strength of these immigrants. I have been doing genealogy for so many years and have collected tons of stories, so I better stop here before I turn this into a book!

Susan Allen McQuillen:

Susan’s grandmother, Susie Kusnir Allen, 1920

This is a photograph of my grandma, Susie Kusnir, on Halloween in 1920. She was 17 when this picture was taken and she was dressed as a fortune teller for Halloween. Her family immigrated from the former Czechoslovakia and were homesteaders in Columbia Valley, B.C., Canada. Sadly, my grandmother died at the early age of 27 from tuberculosis at a sanitarium in Arizona. Her son (my father) was only 5 when she passed away.

Tom Lathrop:

Tom’s clown costume, and his son wearing the same costume 22 years later

The black-and-white photo was taken in Braintree, Massachusetts, in 1957 when I was 4. The color photo was taken 22 years later, when my son wore the same clown costume I did back in 1957! My son was also 4  when his picture was taken.

Margie Wirth:

Margie’s great-great aunts, 1912

This is a photograph of my great-great-aunts with their school-teacher on Halloween in 1912, Dunkirk, Wisconsin. The women are the younger sisters of my great-grandmother. My great-grandmother had nine siblings, in total!

Claudia McGibben:


Claudia’s mother and her aunt (Helene and Esther Souza), 1936

While working on my genealogy project and looking through old family albums, I came across this picture of my mother and my aunt (Helene and Esther Souza) in their 1936 Halloween costumes. My aunt, who is now 93, told me that they made these costumes entirely out of black crepe paper! They were very proud of their creations, needless to say! My aunt told me they had a fun time that day; they decorated the room, played games and bobbed for apples. Sadly, my aunt is the last surviving member of that generation of our family. She is treasured by us all. She and my mother began the family genealogy project many years ago. Our family is very grateful to have this picture of their Halloween fun from so long ago.


Anna’s mother and her friends in Russia, 1952

This photograph was taken during a Halloween party in Russia in 1952. My mother, Sveta, is the first one from the left, and she is standing with two of her childhood friends. It was very hard to make costumes during those years because it was after a war and everyone was poor. Despite financial hardships, parents tried to make their children happy in any way that they could and attempted to attend every party. They especially wanted to attend this Halloween party, because it was new for them. I am very happy that I have this old photo of my mother on Halloween.

Tina Beaird:

Tina’s cousin Michael on Halloween

My mom always made our costumes from scratch. She would lay me down on the dining room table and trace my outline about a week or two before Halloween and then spend the next few days working till the wee hours of the night, making our incredible costumes. No fabric or material nor subject matter was off-limits! We were everything from a papier-mache daisy and hamburger, to a cardboard Mr. Peanut. To this day, I have carried that tradition down to my kids and have hand-made their costumes every year since they were born. Growing up with such a creative mother who put so much time and love into everything she made for us has made Halloween my favorite holiday.

Thank you for sending in your special family photos from Halloween. We loved hearing your stories and getting a glimpse into your family history. We hope that all those who celebrate have a wonderful Halloween this year!


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  • Ruthanne Johnson Fresonke

    October 31, 2017

    How exciting to not only have the honor to have my families photo used in your blog. But to see such a wonderful variety of creative Halloween costumes and the touching stories about those families. Thank you My Heritage and Jess for this wonderful opportunity to share family memories.

    • Jess

      November 1, 2017

      Thank you Ruthanne, we loved hearing your story and seeing your photo!

  • Michelle

    November 1, 2017

    I really enjoyed seeing these costumes and reading the stories behind them. What a treasure!