Happy Halloween Month, everyone! We don’t typically
associate legal research with celebrating holidays, but did you know you can find information about Halloween on a number of different U.S. government websites? Resources cover everything from how to stay safe during the holiday, ghost towns and cryptids in North America, the history of Halloween and Día De Muertos, and more.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission publishes safety information every year on how to stay safe while pumpkin carving, wearing long costumes that can trip unwary trick-or-treaters, and preventing fires by using battery-operated lights instead of candles. Likewise, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has safety tips for costumes, candy, and colored contact lens.
Interested in history, literature, and folk customs related to Halloween and Día De Muertos? The Library of Congress has links to film clips, audio recordings of traditional storytellers and fiction writers, articles on folklore, exhibition posters, photographs, and much more. Check out the Harry Houdini Collection and the McManus-Young Collection for material on spiritualism, magic, and a wide variety of other illusion practices. Selections from the LOC's Hispanic collections include readings from the Archive of Hispanic Literature on Tape, links to the Handbook of Latin American Studies, and a webcast on Santa Muerte, the Skeleton Saint. The site also features prints and photographs associated with the holidays from the collections of illustrators Edward Gorey and José Guadalupe Posada, photos of Halloween traditions from across the country, and spirit photographs.
Government agencies don't typically deal with fictional monsters, but the Bureau of Land Management has a series of posts using Government Land Office materials to showcase spooky aspects of American life. Part of
their “Record of the Week,” series, the GLO materials include land patents,
survey plats and field notes, land status records, tract books, and more. In its first year, the BLM used a story map to show
documents related to Washington Irving’s character Ichabod Crane, a real man
unfortunately named Fred Kruger, and various locations with exciting names like
Goblin Valley State Park, Witch Lake, and Skull Valley. The second edition, from 2019, focused on ghost towns. That
story map shows land records from Garnet, Montana; St. Elmo, Colorado; Cahaba,
Alabama; Bodie, California; and Rhyolite, Nevada, as well as describing a
little of each towns’ history.2020’s story map used maps, plat records, newspaper
articles, and photographs to tackle North American cryptids. Monsters discussed
include the Mogollon of Arizona, the Hodag of Wisconsin, the Van Meter Monster from
Iowa, Lake Erie’s South Bay Bessie, and the Witch of Pungo, Virginia.
And finally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have also contributed to the Halloween monster fun by publishing an online graphic novel about what to do in case of a zombie attack!
There is a wealth of information to be found on government websites, and Halloween is a fun way to showcase the wide variety of information available. Take a deep dive into ghost towns with the Bureau of Land Management, download some posters from the Library of Congress, and keep yourself safe with tips from the FDA. Most of all, have a Happy Halloween!
Posted by Ellie Campbell on Wed. October 27, 2021 9:00 AM