The pioneers had their own spooky traditions

By Mina Watson |

Although Halloween was not widely celebrated in the U.S. until the late 1800s, pioneers still had fun telling spooky tales and scary jack o'lanternsstories while they traveled across the country on the Oregon Trail. In particular, emigrants enjoyed the work of Edgar Allen Poe, a frighteningly talented author who was popular during the 19th century.

Poe, who was born in 1809, published a series of creepy short stories and poems in the 1840s, right at the time when the Oregon Trail was in its heyday. Although the pioneers were not often able to bring all of their personal belongings with them, many brought his books along or recited his poems from memory for enjoyment.

Two works of Poe's that were especially loved by emigrants were "The Black Cat" and "The Tell-Tale Heart." These creepy accounts both came out in 1843, a year when hundreds of pioneers set out on the trail, heading for a new life in the West.

Pioneers may have enjoyed spooky stories because they provided a distraction from the really frightening things they encountered on the trail on a daily basis. On their way across the country, wagon trains often passed by old Native American burial grounds and the graves of pioneers who had perished on the trail. By scaring each other with stories of ravens who knock on your door at midnight and hearts that beat after death, the pioneers were able to forget about their day-to-day experiences.


 

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