Children involved in Halloween mischief has always been a concern for adults in Davenport. From outhouse tipping to pumpkin smashing or worse; adults have tried to keep children busy on Halloween night and away from trouble.
The Davenport Y.M.C.A. had those thoughts in mind when they invited local boys on a Halloween frolic that would start downtown and end in a field near Mercy Hospital (now Genesis – West Hospital) on October 31, 1922*.
The evening began with a movie being shown outdoors on a curtain near the Y.M.C.A. building (located at Harrison and 4th Streets) before continuing with a bike ride to a pasture near Mercy Hospital.
The pasture near the hospital was chosen for the spooky feeling it provided. It had woods nearby and an old abandoned shack that was rumored to be haunted. A perfect place for a Halloween Frolic.
The evening was led by Mr. Norman Macdonald, who was the Boys’ Secretary at the Y.M.C.A. The frolic continued in the field with games and activities. At about 10:00 p.m. about 200 boys listened as Mr. Macdonald regaled them with ghost stories.
Suddenly, the evening of fun was filled with terror as the boys heard a gunshot come from inside the abandoned shack. Stunned, they watched a man run from the building into the shadows of the nearby woods while his victim stumbled out and collapsed in front of them with blood running down his shirt.
Secretary Macdonald was the first to react as he tried to provide first aid to the man from a nearby First Aid kit. Another Secretary, Robert Vernon, and other men helped take the man into Mercy Hospital after first aid had been administered.
Needless to say, the boys were terrified at what they had witnessed. This was not the fun-filled Halloween event they had imagined. They had been visited by true Halloween terror.
Suddenly, Secretary Macdonald made a surprise announcement. It was all a Halloween Program!
Yes, this program was to remind the boys of good morals. Mr. Macdonald said the shed was the “Den of Bad Companions” that had housed the gunman who was influenced by the devil. The victim represented the attack on “High Ideals” saved by the Y.M.C.A.’s four remedies of physical, mental, moral, and spiritual cares.
After this reminder on making good choices and avoiding the destructive path in life the boys enjoyed more games plus apples and doughnuts before heading into the dark towards their respective homes.
We are sure it was a Halloween frolic that wasn’t soon forgotten.
*The Davenport Democrat and Leader, November 1, 1922.