Thursday, October 7, 2010


  Candy Corn, Tootsie Rolls, Snickers, and Hershey's Chocolate products are popular with trick or treaters.  Other than how good they taste, what else is there to know about these yummy treats?  Take a look at some of these fun candy facts.

   Candy Corn was invented in the 1880s by George Rennigner. 
   The oldest company to produce the surgary corn is The Goelitz Company which is now known as the Jelly Belly Company.  They have used the same recipe for over 100 years.  Can't get enough of this Halloween classic?  At the moment, you can buy 10 pound for $81 dollars.   Approximately 9 billion pieces of it will be made each year.

   Tootsie Rolls were invented in 1896 by Leo Hirshfield.  The product is named after Hirschfield's daughter whose nickname was "Tootsie".  In 1896 Tootsie Roll cost one cent.  In fact, it was the first "individually wrapped penny candy".  Over 100 years later, consumers can still find Tootsie Rolls for a penny.  The Tootsie Company makes 64 million Tootsie Rolls a day.

   A fun online Chicago Tribune article suggested that if your favorite Halloween treat is Snickers, it means you probably have an indecisive personality.  "Do you want chocolate?  Do you want nuts?  You don't know.  Or do you?"  Snickers is the most popular chocolate bar in the entire world.  Snickers got its name from a horse.  There are around sixteen peanuts in each Snickers bar.  They are made by The Mars Company.

   Hershey's produces around 30 different chocolate products that can be given out to trick or treaters on Halloween.  Most people probably know that Hershey's Chocolates are made in Hershey, Pennsylvania.  The town got its name from the chocolate and its inventor Milton Hershey.  But did you know that before it was named Hershey, the town was known as Derry Church?  Here is a link to The Hershey Company.

   Think chocolate is boring? Archie Mcphee sells fun Halloween themed products such as gummy maggots, brain flavored zombie mints, and voodoo pop.
   According to AOL, the average American household spends $45 dollars on Halloween food and candy.  Candied apples are a popular Halloween treat, but their origin remains unknown.  Dan Walker is sometimes credited with the invention of the caramel apple, but others believe he was only involved in marketing caramel apples while working at Kraft Foods in the 1950s.


   Halloween, as we know it has been a tradition in our country for many years, but have you ever wondered where it came from?  The Celts, or people from and around Ireland, the United Kingdom and Northern France around 2000 years ago had their new year as November the 1st.  So that meant  the end of the year for them, the time when the harvest was over and the start of the long cold winter was October 31st.  Due to the facts that many people died in the winter, and the living world and the dead opened up.  On this day the dead could invade the world of the living and priests would be able to predict the future and talk to the dead more easily.  They would dress up and at a large central bonfire, pay homage to their Celtic deities, sacrificing animals to the gods.  They would also try to tell each others fortunes while dressed up in costumes of animal skins and heads.
   These festivals of sorts was known as Samhain (pronounced sow-in).
   Later on after the area has been conquered by the Romans, they combined two Roman holidays with the Celtic one, this occurred over a 400 year period that the Romans occupied the area.  Feralia, was the Roman day that they commemorated the passing of the dead,  it was held in Late October.   The other was to honor Pomona, the goddess of fruit and trees.  The symbol of Pomona is the apple, the origin of our present day bobbing for apples.

Pomona, the Goddess of Fruit and Trees

   In the 7th century, after Christianity had spread into the Celtic lands, Pope Boniface IV designated November 1st as All Saints' Day, a day to honor saints and martyrs.  The celebrations were call All-Hallows or All-Hallowmas and the night before became All-Hallows Eve, eventually becoming our Halloween.

Pope Boniface IV

   Trick or Treating has it's origins in a tradition in England, called the All Souls' Day parade.  During the festivities of the day, the poor would beg for food from the residents and those better off.  They would be given soul cakes, little pastries and were asked to pray for the souls of the relatives of the ones who gave the cakes away.  The practice which was sanctioned by the church as a replacement for the ancient practice of leaving out food and wine for the roaming spirits, was soon referred to as "going-a-souling".  Children soon took this practice up, leaving it to kids, to get food, ale and money from neighbors.  
   Wearing costumes come from both Celtic and European heritage, dressing up was thought to make the wearer unrecognizable to the ghosts of the dead.  The dead would confuse them with other spirits, and to further protect themselves, people would leave bowls of food outside their doors to appease the ghosts.  When immigrants came to America, the tradition continued with a few twists, adding mostly due to the varying beliefs of the groups in different areas and with different religious convictions.  The merging of separate groups of religion, nationality and even Native American traditions changed the All-Hallows Eve into more of a party for the harvests of the year and a celebration to honor the dead.
   At the turn of the century,in the1900's, the government and newspapers encouraged people to have more of a celebration and less of the ghoulish and frightening aspect of Halloween.  Parades and festivities were encouraged and over the years a national holiday emerged.  Sometime between 1920 and 1950 the tradition of trick or treating was revived. Thought of as a way for the whole community to share the holiday traditions.

      The Jack O'Lantern got it's origin from a popular tale from Ireland.  The story goes that a man named Jack was very stingy, an old miserable drunk who liked to play tricks.  One day he even played a trick on the Devil.   He got him to climb a tree and when the Devil was up in the tree he placed crosses all around the tree, the Devil could not get down.  Jack made the Devil promise that when he died, the Devil would not take his soul.  The Devil promised, and years later when Jack died, the Devil kept his promise.  After Jack was denied entry to Heaven for his miserable life and mean tricks, he met the Devil in Hell where the Devil told him he could not enter.  Jack was now scared, he would forever walk the dark areas between Heaven and Hell.  The Devil gave him an ember from the fires of Hell to light his way.  Jack put it in a hollowed out Turnip, which he always carried as it was his favorite food.  In Ireland, the Irish would place a candle in hollowed out turnips, gourds, rutabagas, potatoes and even beets to ward off stingy Jack.  When Irish immigrants arrived in America, they discovered the pumpkin, and found it could be hollowed out and carved much easier than the smaller vegetables.

    We get both the tradition of pumpkin carving and pumpkin pie from Native Americans.  The Native Americans used it as a food staple, before the first settlers in America knew about  the pumpkin.  They got this plant from South and central America, where seeds have been found dating back thousands of years.  The immigrants who arrived, soon used the pumpkin in many dishes including one that they would scoop out the seeds and pulp from inside of it and bake it with milk, honey and spices and then eat it, thus the pumpkin pie was born.

    Most of our traditions of Halloween do not come from America at all.  They all have their origins from European countries in both religious and spiritual beliefs.  The day of Halloween is not just about the dead or pranks to pull on other people but about the end of the harvest and the warm part of the year coming to an end.  The remembering and honoring the dead is not done by any one nationality or people, but by many.  Most people in one way or another honor and remember the people they have loved and knew on this day.  Halloween is a day that we can celebrate the people of the past and help to keep their memories alive.


Belcourt Castle
   One of Newport, Rhode Island's most exquisite landmarks is the French Renaissance-style  chateau known to locals as the Belcourt Castle.  Many believe it to be the location of paranormal phenomena and events that involve haunted chairs, ghostly armor, apparitions, a statue that has been declared as possessed, and a haunted mirror that is truly baffling as you cannot see your reflection, only moving images that shift back and forth.
  Belcourt Castle is not for the faint of heart as sightings are normal occurrence when visitors take the candlelight or the more favored haunted tour through the darkest corners of the property, especially the spooky Gothic Ballroom. Known as the hot spot for apparitions, visitors love seeing the vast collection of antiquities and the occasional spirit that lights up the room.

Belcourt Ballroom

     The Castle was built for the wealthy bachelor, Oliver Hazard Perry Belmont, who inherited a fortune from his father August Belmont.  Belcourt Castle was embellished with horses and armor, which was a direct reflection for his love of medieval and renaissance architecture.  Oliver Belmont hired 30 servants at $100 dollars per week to take care of the 60 room, 50.000 square foot estate and the grounds that displayed mythological sculptural pieces from nymphs and cherubs made from bronze, terra cotta, marble and stone.
   In 1896 Oliver Belmont married socialite Alva Vanderbilt, wife of his best friend and business partner.  Alva Smith, daughter of an Alabama cotton merchant, was educated in France, and married to William Kissam Vanderbilt.  The couple had three children before she divorced Vanderbilt in 1895 to marry Oliver Belmont.


Oliver Hazard Perry Belmont

Alva Vanderbilt Belmont

 The couple traveled extensively until Oliver's death in 1908.  Alva then designed a grand mausoleum for her husband in his favorite Gothic style that stands out in the Woodlawn Cemetery in Bronx, New York.  Against her better judgement, the following year Alva redesigned the entire first floor of Belcourt Castle.  Many people felt that Oliver would not have approved this drastic renovation as he loved his castle in its entirety just the way he had left it.

   Oliver Belmont Mausoleum
   Alva grew bored with her life at the castle, and Belcourt soon fell into disrepair as Alva traveled to New York, France, and anywhere else that her heart desired.  After her death in 1933, Oliver's brother Perry sold the castle in 1940 to entrepreneur George Waterman who envisioned Belcourt as an auto museum.  Jazz festivals were held at the estate regularly, the new owners never did anything to the castle and it fell even further into disrepair for about 2 decades.  In 1956 Belcourt was purchased by another family for 25,000 dollars and they began restoring the castle to it original grace and beauty.
      They later started tours of the castle once it was ready for the public beginning in 1957.  The 60 room museum is filled with mystery, intrigue, spirits, and furnishing from 33 European and Oriental countries.  The Gothic ball room is the prize of the castle with haunted chairs that give you chills running up and down your spine. Armor belonging to a man that died when a spear went through the eye and out the other end can be viewed during the tour, and many claim that he can be heard screaming in and around March, the approximate time of his death.