Queen Victoria Partied it Up on Halloween
Never one to let the potential for an opulent affair pass by, Halloween night with Queen Victoria was often a social event. At her part-time residence at Balmoral Castle in Scotland, the Queen would arrange for incredibly lavish parties and traditions. One featured a procession with everyone carrying torches in the wake of the Queen’s carriage. A “shandry dann,” or witch effigy, was carried around by a servant dressed as a hobgoblin until the gathering made its way to a giant bonfire, where the witch was tossed in. This grim scene was often accompanied by bagpipes and later morphed into a pseudo-courtroom dynamic, with the “witch” a metaphor for the accused. (Naturally, she was always found guilty and tossed into the fire.)
Other years, the Queen might arrange for a “demon” to bear a resemblance to someone she disliked, like Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone, whom she once dubbed “half-mad.” Then again, he wasn’t the one throwing witches into bonfires. The Queen sometimes received backlash for these displays, as it seemed unbecoming for a Christian Queen to indulge in such affairs. It was also sometimes possible for a large crowd of people wielding torches to get out of hand. In 1874, the Queen ceased festivities for the evening when she decided the partygoers were too raucous to let inside.