1913 Halloween Prank Caused a Blast in Sheffield, Alabama

Every year around Halloween we hear of pranks ranging from harmless mischief to serious destruction.

The Halloween of 1913 in Sheffield, Alabama, was a little of both.

According to press reports, the destruction resulting from a Halloween prank gone awry was as much a surprise to the kids as it was to the town’s residents.

The kids’ plan was simple: they were going to load the town cannon with “several pounds of [gun]powder” and set it off at one o’clock in the morning.

It worked; the explosion was deafening.

As reported in the following Alabama newspaper article: “…the explosion shaking the [Sheffield Hotel] like an earthquake, in fact the guests thought it was an earthquake, and rolled out of their beds and room, scantily attired, rushing down into the lobby to ascertain the cause of the explosion.”

The cannon itself “…was thrown several hundred feet from the concrete foundation by the discharge.”

And the destruction from the prank was real: “All of the plate glass on the lower floor and all the window lights on the north side of the Sheffield Hotel…were broken and shattered.” The estimated damage was $1,000.

Hallowe'en Funmakers Cause Severe Damage, Montgomery Advertiser newspaper article 1 November 1913

Montgomery Advertiser (Montgomery, Alabama), 1 November 1913, page 8

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Written by Thomas Jay Kemp

Thomas Jay Kemp

Thomas Jay Kemp is the Director of Genealogy Products at GenealogyBank. Tom Kemp is an internationally known librarian and archivist – he is the author of over 35 genealogy books and hundreds of articles about genealogy and family history.

He previously served as the Chair of the National Council of Library & Information Associations (Washington, DC) and as Library Director of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania and the New England Historic Genealogical Society.

An active genealogist, he has been working on his own family history for 47 years. With the rapidly growing online archives at GenealogyBank – it is a great day for genealogy!

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About Thomas Jay Kemp

Thomas Jay Kemp is the Director of Genealogy Products at GenealogyBank. Tom Kemp is an internationally known librarian and archivist – he is the author of over 35 genealogy books and hundreds of articles about genealogy and family history. He previously served as the Chair of the National Council of Library & Information Associations (Washington, DC) and as Library Director of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania and the New England Historic Genealogical Society. An active genealogist, he has been working on his own family history for 47 years. With the rapidly growing online archives at GenealogyBank – it is a great day for genealogy!

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