Friday, August 7, 2015

..._Games for Hallow-e'en_ (1912) by Mary E. Blain-- a deconstructed review of a deconstructed book...

MindLess’ comment in my last post really started me reflecting about what I love about Halloween. It really isn’t all the commercial stuff that I do tend to post this time of year. Yes, I’m super excited that Halloween is starting to trickle into retail stores but I also really love the one-of-a-kind pieces that tell a richer story of the season. Today I’m going to share one of my favorite Halloween treasures.

My friend Beth gave this to me a few years ago. It's a copy of Games for Hallow-e'en (1912) by Mary E. Blain that has been repurposed by book artist Kari Kruempel into a journal. She includes what she calls “inspirational out-of-context quotes from the original book” and gives credit to the original source by noting the page numbers and the copyright information on the back page.

It’s one of the best gifts anyone has ever given me. I love books; I love repurposed old things; and, I love Halloween.

I use this journal only on Halloween night to document the day. There are only two entries, one from 2013 and one from last year. Throughout the year it sits on one of my bookshelves in my home office.

I started thinking about this repurposed journal this week as I was making a craft project of the pages that shipped with my new Dracula book clutch.  She actually used some of the pages from Dracula as shipping paper. I felt like it was my responsibility to actually do something with these pages. I ended up making paper flowers which I’ll share another day (because they’re downstairs and I’m feeling a touch of the lazy so I don’t want to go take a picture of them).

While I was working on repurposing the pages from the book cover that had already been repurposed, I started thinking about original sources. I have one main copy of Dracula that I use. I have annotated versions and illustrated versions. I even have the Baby Lit version :p But, I teach from and read from my old Norton Critical Edition. I love the footnotes but even more than that, I love how the pages show my reading of Dracula over the years. There are wax drippings, wine stains… (I’m assuming at some point I was being dramatic with this book because I don’t normally destroy books)… there are highlights and annotations (I do annotate a great deal. I like holding the book that I’ve read before. It feels like I’m holding a bit of my own history. Alrighty…moving along become I’m starting to swoon over the text and that isn’t the point of this post.

I became curious about Blain’s actual text. Before I quit (out of supportive protest) my tour guide position, I was scheduled to create and give a Halloween History tour of a specific neighborhood in Richmond. I researched about the neighborhood, ancient Celtic traditions and Catholic All Hallows' celebrations. I was specifically interested in the historical aspect that evolved from early colonial practices and "play parties" held after the American Revolution, and how the immigrants in the mid-1800s influenced the way Richmonders celebrate Halloween today. Blain’s Games for Hallow-e'en offers a great deal of insight into these play parties. I downloaded an e-version on my Kindle and started reading through it.

At the introduction of the section of the party games, she writes, 

“The following games and tests of fate and fortune will furnish entertainment for children small and children of a larger growth. Of course, prying into the future with these tests at any other time, they may not prove infallible, but on the Eve of All Saint's Day, when all the elves, the fairies, goblins and hobgoblins are at large playing pranks and teasing and pleasing, why should they not ‘come true.’”

The text includes numerous examples such as this one.

A bowl is filled tightly with flour. During the process of filling, a wedding ring is inserted vertically in some part of it. The bowl, when full, is inverted upon a dish and withdrawn, leaving the mound of flour on the dish. Each guest cuts off with a knife a thin slice which crumbles into dust. The guest who cuts off the slice containing the ring will be married first.

Nearly every game is about predicting who a party goer will marry! I realize it was published in 1912 but the emphasis of boy-girl to girl-boy was really starting to get to me as were the predictions of marriage and children.

Another example:

All are blindfolded and go out singly or hand-in-hand to garden. Groping about they pull up first stalk of kale or head of cabbage. If stalk comes up easily the sweetheart will be easy to win; if the reverse, hard to win. The shape of the stump will hint at figure of prospective wife or husband. Its length will suggest age. If much soil clings to it, life-partner will be rich; if not, poor. Finally, the stump is carried home and hung over door, first person outside of family who passes under it will bear a name whose initial is same as that of sweetheart.

The book was amusing and certainly gave me a bit of insight into what people thought about the holiday in the early 1900s. It wasn’t really my taste which was wonderful since now I don’t mind that the book was repurposed. Book artist Kari Kruempel pulled the best excerpts from the text to include in the journal.

Kruempel has a website but it appears that it isn’t very active but she has an Etsy shop, Kari KArt which even has a Covenant with the Vampire journal for sale along with some other interesting journals.  

I like the inspiration in taking an old book and repurposing it into something creative and new especially when the original text no longer meets one’s taste. Some books can be precious friends; some are merely objects.  


  1. Just out of curiousity, the baby lit version of Dracula...does it have a purple cover? Because if it does, my baby bat has that one LOL I thought the illustrations were adorable!

  2. Sounds interesting. But I just love books too much, as a child my mum always taught me to respect and take care of them, so that when I see people 'repurposing' them, no matter how pretty the outcome, my heart sinks a little. It's like a real emotional 'gasp! You can't do that to BOOKS!' And I feel like mourning the book that was. That scene with the library books in The Day After Tomorrow always makes me wince! I know its silly. I can't help it!

    1. That isn't silly. It's how you feel and how you were raised.

      My parents were big readers and that influenced me. My fella tears magazines apart and gives me articles that he knows I will want to read. We recycle the rest.

      It took some of my students by surprise when I would tear out sections from my Norton Anthology. I think the African American Literature text weighs about ten pounds so I would tear out sections, staple them and carry them with me. The pages weren't destroyed; I read and annotated them. Once I was back on campus I would put them back in the cover/shell. As a commuter, I just can't carry around all the books that I use for my courses. I keep multiple copies when I can but it isn't always feasible. So I completely understand what you mean. I don't think I could have torn a book from the early 1900s either but modern editions... Well, to me, it's more about accessing the content.

  3. I love this re-purposed book, what a lovely gift.

    1. It was such a nice surprise when I received it.

  4. I yearn for a real physical diary (with Halloween material) now! This was a super cool post! <3

    1. I guess I should. :D I also found out about a blogging journal, today. One is supposed to write blogging ideas etc in it. I am determined to try that too and have it with Halloween material in it! ^_^

  5. I never wanted to imply that you like Halloween only for the Goodies! I'm just a bit jelous of all the good stuff you can buy in the States - Skeleton hand martini glasses, spiderweb and bat lace tableware, cuttlery and porcelain with spooky decors... I'd love to own any of these! But we are still united in our desire for the spookyness, for fall colours and fog and cold and crispy weather. For creepy reads and cozy blankets with hot chocolate. So please don't mind my jelousy and keep on posting your goodies!

    1. Not at all... but you did get me thinking ;)

  6. That is a gorgeous book! Fascinating to read about the original book it was before too! I know what you mean about it being annoying with the huge focus on courting!