Oct 31, 2013

History-or-Treat, R. Standley


By Ryan Standley

Trick-or-treating in America originates with the Fantastics, a bunch of dirt-poor, drunken, cross-dressing hooligans who paraded behind the last of the retreating British troops after the Revolutionary War. Their parading continued annually on Thanksgiving.

The Fantastics strutted through towns all over the east coast, begged at wealthy homes and businesses, harassed women and shouted political propaganda.

Bringing up the rear of a Fantastics’ parade, were a group of children known as Ragamuffins. Ragamuffins dressed in costumes, carried baskets, begged from door to door, assaulted the property of those less giving.

Soon city officials feared the youth were being corrupted. Trick-or-treating was displaced to Halloween, so group leaders could accentuate the religious, puritan folklore of Thanksgiving. Child welfare committees formed rival clubs, offered alternative parades, and promoted a new Thanksgiving custom… football. By 1910 the Fantastics movement lost popularity and disappeared, while one Ragamuffin tradition holds strong.