STRANGE GH: Halloween day in GH history offers tricks and treats

Oct 31, 2011

Of the whimsical historical Halloween reports, one involved pranksters who, in 1903, stole a huge tin sign bearing the face of the Quaker Oats man and put it atop the flagpole at Central School.

Another amusing Oct. 31 event involved a Grand Haven woman who called police in 1961 to report a “flying saucer.” The caller said the UFO was circling the local “Democratic headquarters.” Sgt. Aubrey Goldman, who took her call, told the Tribune it was likely “a search light reflecting off the clouds.”

Area residents were literally shaken between 4 and 5 a.m. Oct. 31, 1895, when aftershocks from an earthquake were felt in Ottawa County. Some of the guests at the Cutler House Hotel in Grand Haven spoke to the Tribune — one explaining “the creaking of the (floor) boards and motion of her bed made her think there was a cyclone.”

On Halloween evening in 1878, the Grand Haven Life Saving Crew responded to a distress call from the vessel The L.C. Woodruff — which was anchored offshore 43 miles away at White Lake Harbor — being battered by waves. All but two crewmen from the vessel were saved. Interestingly, author Pete Caesar published a book in 1976 about the ship, titled “The L.C. Woodruff: Lake Michigan’s Ghost Ship Returns.”

On Oct. 31, 1917, a storehouse owned by the brothers Peter and Arie Kooiman was wiped out by a fire set by an unidentified group of “pranksters.” By coincidence, Peter Kooiman’s daughter, Antoinette, was born on Halloween day in 1903 and she was celebrating her 14th birthday the evening of the fire.
Perhaps the quietest Halloween night on record was in 1943. “There was not a single report (of pranksters) to either the city or county officers,” Police Chief Lawrence DeWitt told the Grand Haven Tribune.

Like something out of science fiction, on October 31, 1939, Grand Haven High School students were astounded when Professor Lewis Maloney Hoskins appeared at an assembly to demonstrate a new device that transmitted a person’s image from one side of the room to another. The apparatus was called a “television.” Hoskins had with him “the only portable type in the world,” according to the Grand Haven Tribune — and the device was valued at $8,000, the equivalent of $125,000 today.

Select students were asked to stand before a “transmitting” device and their moving images appeared on a “receiving” device across the room. Hoskins explained TV had exceptional qualities from a vocational angle, but didn’t see a quick pathway to the living room due to technological hurdles.

“Thus far, television has not been of sufficient value to attract commercial purchase,” the Grand Haven Tribune reported.

There are two notable area deaths on Halloween. One was John E. Killean, the son of Edward Killean, who built the Kirby House Hotel. Killean, who assisted in managing his father’s hotels, passed away in 1906. Len R. Patterson, who earned the distinction of being the first commodore of the Spring Lake Yacht Club, passed away at Spring Lake home in 1940.

One area historic birth on Halloween was Gerrit S. Yntema in 1873. Yntema, who died in 1947, was an Ottawa County supervisor and treasurer for many years, and once a mayor of Zeeland.

On a personal note, my son was also born on Halloween day.

A final item didn’t occur on Halloween, but rather in July 1987. Heavy-metal rock band Halloween teamed up with the VFW to stage an outdoor concert in Grand Haven to raise funds for a new homeless center in Eaton Rapids. Larry Deetjen, then city manager, protested — claiming the band was “inappropriate” for “this resort town.”

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