Minnetrista Blogs

A Halloween Masquerade

Halloween season is upon us. For weeks I’ve been surrounded by displays of pumpkins, candy corn, and costumes whenever I’ve run to the local pharmacy or grocery store. Seeing these festive items always transports me back to my youth. Each year I spent months carefully planning my costume—always giving lots of consideration to all of the options. Once I had selected my desired persona, putting together the perfect costume became my obsession.  The excitement always came to a head on Halloween night when I would don my garb and head out to treat-or-treat at all of my favorite houses.

Helen Ball’s 1911 copy of The Chronicle – Tudor Hall’s yearbook. Minnetrista Heritage Collection

Recently, while working in the Minnetrista Heritage Collection, I ran across a selection of yearbooks that had belonged to Helen Ball—daughter of Dr. Lucius and Sarah Ball. In them, I read about a different Halloween tradition. One that Helen participated in for several years while attending Tudor Hall in Indianapolis between 1910 and 1914.

In 1913 Helen Ball and her cousin Lucy were both members of the Junior Class at Tudor Hall, a private boarding school in Indianapolis. Minnetrista Heritage Collection

Tudor Hall (today known as Park Tudor) first opened its doors to students in 1902. In the years that Helen attended, the private boarding school was open only to girls. At the school you could find students as young as six and as old as nineteen or twenty, all taking academic courses preparing them to attend one of the nation’s leading colleges. At Tudor Hall, it was not all work and no fun, however. Socializing was considered an important part of student life so many communal activities were planned each year.

Two students dressed as nymphs for Tudor Hall’s Halloween Masquerade in 1914. Minnetrista Heritage Collection

One of the most popular activities at Tudor Hall was the annual Halloween Masquerade. This dance was the first chance for old and new students to get to know one another each year. Unlike some of the other social events, this one was only open to girls—no boys allowed. The students would dress in elaborate costumes of their own imagination. The delightful ensembles at times seemed to jump straight from the pages of fairy tales or stories of adventure. In addition to dancing, there were always tasty treats, fantastical decorations, activities such as palm readers, and occasionally a few pranks.

Students of Tudor Hall in costume for the 1914 Halloween Masquerade. Minnetrista Heritage Collection

In 1914, Helen’s class was responsible for putting on the event. About a week before the big day, the Seniors met to discuss the play they planned to put on at the masquerade. The performance would tell the story of the past, present, and future of Tudor Hall. Helen was selected to play the part of the past. While there is no record of how the play went off, Helen did make note of the Masquerade in her diary that year. In particular, she noted that her class sold “apples and doughnuts, which seemed to give everyone indigestion.” If the refreshments were meant to be a treat, they certainly seemed to have ended up as a trick. In the end, the grumbly stomachs didn’t seem to dampen the fun, and tradition of the Halloween Masquerade even continues today at the Park Tudor middle school where they hold an annual Halloween dance.