Our Ancestors’ Humor: Halloween Jokes

Introduction: In this article, Mary Harrell-Sesniak searches old newspapers to find Halloween jokes that made our ancestors chuckle. Mary is a genealogist, author and editor with a strong technology background.

Just for fun, here are a few jokes to celebrate Halloween I found in GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives.

A Halloween joke, Greensboro Record newspaper cartoon, 4 March 1922
Greensboro Record (Greensboro, North Carolina), 4 March 1922, page 10

See if you can guess the answers to these Halloween jokes – then read the rest of this article, where newspaper clippings provide the answers.

(1846) Why is a grave-yard like a counter?
(1865) Why is a spider a good correspondent?
(1871) Why is a coffin like an axe with a dull edge?
(1872) Why do carpenters charge more for coffins than for tables and chairs?
(1885) Why is a ghost up a tree like a man eating his dinner? 

 

(1899) Why is a grave-digger like a waterman?
(1900) Why is a ghost like a muffin?

From 1846

Q: Why is a grave-yard like a counter?

A Halloween joke, Wisconsin Argus newspaper article 14 July 1846
Wisconsin Argus (Madison, Wisconsin), 14 July 1846, page 1

A: Because it’s the place where you must “down with your dust [money, or gold dust].”

From 1865

Q: Why is a spider a good correspondent?

A Halloween joke, American Citizen newspaper article 4 January 1865
American Citizen (Butler, Pennsylvania), 4 January 1865, page 2

A: Because he drops a line by every post.

From 1871

Q: Why is a coffin like an axe with a dull edge?

A Halloween joke, Catholic Standard newspaper article 20 May 1871
Catholic Standard (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), 20 May 1871, page 8

A: Because it has to be ground before it is used.

From 1872

Q: Why do carpenters charge more for coffins than chairs and tables?

A Halloween joke, Highland Weekly News newspaper article 31 October 1872
Highland Weekly News (Hillsborough, Ohio), 31 October 1872, page 2

A: “Because people won’t bring coffins back to us to be repaired.”

From 1885

Q: Why is a ghost up a tree like a man eating his dinner?

A Halloween joke, Daily Illinois State Register newspaper article 24 June 1885
Daily Illinois State Register (Springfield, Illinois), 24 June 1885, page 4

A: Because he’s a goblin up the hash [ash tree].

From 1899

Q: Why is a grave-digger like a waterman?

A Halloween joke, Denver Post newspaper article 1 November 1899
Denver Post (Denver, Colorado), 1 November 1899, page 9

A: He handles the skulls [sculling, i.e., rowing].

From 1900

Q: Why is a ghost like a muffin?

A Halloween joke, Repository newspaper article 22 April 1900
Repository (Canton, Ohio), 22 April 1900, page 19

A: They are both fancy bred (bread).

Happy Halloween!

Hope everyone enjoys the fun day, but please be safe and remember: it can be a very boo-tiful day! Just don’t go goblin up too much of your kid’s candy!

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