The Beatles at Halloween

How to have a 1960s Halloween

As Halloween fast approaches, get prepared and take inspiration from the 1960s with our ultimate retro Halloween guide.

5 min read

As Halloween fast approaches, get prepared with our ultimate retro Halloween guide. From costume inspo to movie recommendations, vintage recipes to playlist ideas and much more – this is your comprehensive guide to celebrating the occasion like a true 1960s enthusiast!

 

What to wear:

While a lot of families still made their own costumes throughout the 1960s, there was a growing trend that had begun in the 1950s towards buying ready-made costumes that reflected popular culture, particularly in the USA.

The costume manufacturer Ben Cooper, for example, had been designing costumes since the 1930s, but it was throughout the 50s, 60s and 70s that the brand became somewhat synonymous with Halloween in America.

Why not take inspiration from our own Ben Cooper costume of George Harrison on display at The Beatles Story? The costume was released in time for Halloween 1964 following the band’s rise to fame in the US.

1964 George Harrison costume by Ben Cooper on display at The Beatles Story, Liverpool.

 

Popular Halloween costumes, like those of Ben Cooper, can often act as snapshots of popular culture of the time, and this George Harrison costume perfectly captures the moment in music history when The British Invasion captivated American teens, and Beatlemania was born.

 

“Costume options in the 1960s got even more expansive as a popular culture solidified.

You have The Addams Family, and Flipper the Dolphin, The Beatles, Barbie,” Bannatyne said. “[Costumes are] going into popular culture, even to products.”

– Insider.com

 

Whether you’re buying a costume or going down the homemade route, popular costume ideas from the 1960s might include Superman, Rocky and Bullwinkle, Spiderman, The Beatles, Casper the Friendly Ghost – or of course the traditional classics of mummy, witch, or ghost.

 

JFK with his children Caroline and John at The White House on Halloween 1963.

 

What to listen to:

No 1960s Halloween party would be complete without the spooky hit ‘Monster Mash,’ which was released by Bobby “Boris” Pickett & The Crypt Kickers in 1962. The single hit number 1 on the US Billboard Hot 100 that October and has remained a classic ever since.

The song was re-released in 1973 and peaked at number 3 in the UK.

 

Several tricks were used for the sound effects in the song ‘Monster Mash,’ including blowing through a straw into water to simulate the sound of a boiling cauldron. This same trick would later be used by The Beatles in their song ‘Yellow Submarine!’

Check out the full album below:

 

What to watch:

Would Halloween really be Halloween without some scary movies? Why not settle in for a spooky evening with the iconic horror film Psycho, or maybe The Birds? Both films were directed by the iconic British director Alfred Hitchcock – of whom George Harrison was a big fan! In the year that The Birds was released, 1963, George gave an interview saying he liked “driving, television, sleeping, Chet Atkins, eggs and chips, Eartha Kitt and Alfred Hitchcock movies.”

 

Psycho, released in 1960, inspired The Beatles song Eleanor Rigby! The film’s notorious score by Bernard Herrmann convinced Paul McCartney that classical strings could work in any song – and so he handed the score to producer George Martin who brought Paul’s concept to life in the 1966 song.

Can you hear the similarities below?

If television is more your vibe, you could check out US shows like ‘The Addams Family’, ‘The Munsters’, ‘Bewitched’ or ‘It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.’

 

 

Popular US TV shows from the 1960s included The Munsters, Bewitched, and The Addams Family.

Halloween specials didn’t really catch on in the UK until the 1970s, but nothing says iconic 1960s British culture quite like classic Doctor Who – which began airing on BBC One on 23rd November 1963. Just be sure to have a pillow ready to hide from the scary Daleks and Cybermen!

 

What to read:

The best-selling horror novel of the 1960s, selling over 4 million copies, was ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ by Ira Levin. The novel, released in 1967, was so popular that it became a catalyst for a so-called “horror boom” – and was even adapted for a universally acclaimed movie by Roman Polanski, which is since considered one of the greatest horror movies of all time.

“The spine-chilling novel behind Polanski’s eponymous 1968 film, Rosemary’s Baby plunges the reader into a world of terrifying dreams, paranoia and devilry in an old New York City apartment building.” – Waterstones.

The cover of Ira Levin’s novel ‘Rosemary’s Baby.

 

The New York City apartment scenes in Polanski’s film adaptation of ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ were filmed at The Dakota building in New York, where John Lennon lived from 1973.

 

A girls’ magazine cover from Halloween 1960

 

If you’re not in the mood for a novel, magazines in the 1960s could be a great source of inspiration for all things Halloween – including decoration tips, costume ideas and recipes. Which takes us nicely into the next section: what to eat.

 

What to eat:

Brach’s candy magazine advert, 1960s.

This magazine ad from Brach’s shows some of the popular sweets (or candy) from the time, including the iconic candy corn. Candy corn was invented in the 1880s and became synonymous with autumn and Halloween in the 1950s and 1960s. Other popular treats in the US included Swedish Fish, SweeTarts, Fruit Stripes and the intriguing playable Wax Harmonica by Glenn Confections Inc. Your ‘Trick-or-Treaters’ may also enjoy the British classic sweet Jelly Babies – which were George Harrison’s personal favourite.

The concept of ‘Trick-or-Treating’ was seen as a very American thing for most 1960s Brits, and particularly in the Celtic nations like Scotland youngsters tended to partake in the more traditional ‘guising.’ It was similar to ‘Trick-or-Treating’ as children competed to “earn the most sweets, monkey nuts or threepenny bits.” – The Scotsman.

Of course apples, too, have long been associated with Halloween. Whether you coat them in toffee, or partake in apple bobbing, this is a sure way to celebrate Halloween with tradition in mind.

 

If you’re looking for retro recipe inspiration for your 1960s Halloween party, here’s a recipe for Hallo-weenies! Why not also make these edible witches from a 1968 episode of BBC’s Blue Peter?

The fictional character Betty Crocker, who provided baking advice and products to America and the world, was introduced in 1921 and was well cemented as a household name by the 1960s. Watch YouTuber ‘Cooking The Book’ recreate Betty Crocker’s 1965 recipe for a Halloween Jack ‘o’ Lantern Cake below.

 

What to decorate with:

The 19th Century Celtic Samhain tradition of carving faces into a swede or turnip (or tumshie in Scotland) to ward off evil spirits stayed alive in the UK and Ireland well into the 1960s. This tradition had emigrated with the Irish to America in the 19th Century, where pumpkins were far more accessible and much easier to carve – the modern Jack ’o’ Lantern was born!

 

A Florida student carving a pumpkin in 1966.

 

Whether you choose to carve a pumpkin or the more traditional turnip, here is a Fab Four idea to inspire you. Mop top pumpkins!

 

A vintage newspaper article showing pumpkins inspired by our Fab Four!

 

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