Female Playwrights, Playwrights of the Past, Unknown playwrights

A Halloween play/Edyth M. Wormwood

Ah yes. Time for that grand old holiday full of ghosts, goblins, witches and Halloween plays.

There exists a microscopic subgenre of Halloween-themed plays. Even more microscopic since we’re limiting ourselves to public domain work.

Halloween was celebrated a bit differently 100+ years ago. There seemed to be much more emphasis on the “trick” part as this headline attests:

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1915: Police Chief Grant sounds like a barrel of laughs. Via here.

Even Canadians could not restrain themselves:

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1902: Via here.

And this tragedy:

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1900: Via here.

Slightly less sociopathic activities included various methods on how to divine one’s true love, as this postcard attests:

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When humans obeyed their pumpkin king. Via here.

The reason this applies to Halloween plays is that “romance” on Halloween was a bigger deal then and the plays mention it.

Oh, Halloween postcards were totally a thing.

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The most disturbing thing you’ll see this Halloween (besides that drunk dude in the Trump mask). Via here.

The first plays I took a look at were by Elizabeth F. Guptill, who wrote a bunch of books for children, including many plays. She also wrote hymns and in 1915 published the The Big Book of Hallowe’en. Several plays are included. However the book should be called The Big Racist Book of Hallowe’en:

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Yeah, F that book right into the sun.

Fortunately there were Hallowe’en plays from the same era that weren’t drenched in the vile acid of racism.

Our play is The Haunted Gate by Edyth M. Wormwood, a one-act.

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Says it right on the cover.

Edyth M.’s maiden name was Guptill and she wrote plays for kids and came from the same state as the other Guptill. This makes me suspect she’s Elizabeth’s daughter/niece/kin. Perhaps racism skips a generation? Hopefully.

The plot (using the term loosely) has high schoolers Marion, Grace, Irene, Marie and Ruth huddled around making Halloween plans. They write all their ideas on pieces of paper and…

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Enter the “Booger Man’s Hole” at your peril, kids.

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A jardiniere, the real hero. Right here.

I do enjoy this example of the horror trope of dumb teenagers going where other people are smart enough to not go. Irene explains why:

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This play does not mess around! How many other high school plays start off with a double-murder and suicide? Tragical indeed!

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Yeah, Marie – only speak when spoken to, impudent child! Nice of the ghosts to re-enact a murder suicide once a year.

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Ruth and Marion lack critical thinking skills, probably because they’ve been running with unladylike and ungovernable young ladies.

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Angeline at the ripe old age of 35 (or 50) is the intelligent one here. But I do love Grace’s logic involving ghost pistols.

Ralph, Irene’s brother, had been kicked out earlier by the girls, but creeper extraordinaire, he’s been watching and delivers a maniacal monologue after they leave:

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Yes, Ralph, you weird bastard, “’twill be more fun than a barrel of monkeys.” And he’s making Halloween “spicier.” Ugh.

Ralph and his brother decide that they’ll re-enact the murder to scare the ladies, because these were before the days of internet trolls.

But didn’t the murder include a woman? Well, duh – they figured that one out:

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Poor Don Herrick is gonna get peer-pressured into cross-dressing just to scare some girls. Philip and Ralph could, ya know, find an actual girl. On second thought, probably not. I think we’re looking at the founders of the incel community.

While the proto-incels are planning to punish innocent women, the women are punishing themselves by trying to divine future husbands.

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They’re doing exactly this. From Ebay!

The women prepare to go to the Booger Man’s Hole:

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THIS PLAY DOES NOT MESS AROUND!!!

You bring that gun, Aunt Matilda! She’ll be killing a few incels anyways.

Meanwhile, the boys are at the Booger Man’s Hole and are learning the nuances of spooning.

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“I saw them spooning at the Booger Man’s Hole” should be a better example.

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I know you’re amazed the play has four scenes, too.

“I know I can’t talk like a girl.”

Please, you haven’t even tried.

“When did you get in your practice, and who was your partner?” #guytalk

“Oh, dry up.”

The ladies arrive and find the “ghosts” making out/spooning/engaging in foreplay…and…and…

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Let’s dissect what’s going on here.

  1. Voyeurism. The women stop to watch two ghosts make out, one of whom is a boy dressed like a girl. This fascinates them.
  2. Ralph has brought his own pistol and pretend-shoots the “lovers.” Talk about spoonus interruptus.
  3. Aunt Matilda is totally not scared but totally runs away.
  4. Ruth grabs her aunt’s pistol.
  5. The “wounded” lovers groan.
  6. Ralph pretends to kill himself.

So gunslinger Ruth decides to approach the “dead” ghosts with her pistol and you can see what happens…

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The play ends in a mixed message. Marie (the smartest character) gets a blackmail gift of Huyler’s chocolate and then everyone decides to cover for the boys’ stupidity. Boys acting dumb and not being held accountable? My how things have changed. Hehe.

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Huyler’s ad from 1910. No wonder Marie wanted Huyler’s. She’s really, really enjoying that hug with Santa. I like how the reindeer are all embarassed and pretending not to look. Via here.

You can read this jolly Halloween play in its entirety here.

Other works by Wormwood are here. She even has a couple books on Amazon.

Wishing everyone a happy and safe Halloween – even found a good song for you!

It is a creepy/campy cover of The Zombies’ Time of the Season. For those of you not familiar with the original, it’s right here:

 

And now the Batlord version. When I grow up, I wanna be like Batlord.

 

Join us on Monologue Monday where once again, we’ll have competing monologues!

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2 thoughts on “A Halloween play/Edyth M. Wormwood”

  1. Hey, this was a lot of fun, thanks for the deep dig on Halloween.

    P.S. – I’m not sure it’s fair to say something is racist because the person was talking in dialect (“eberywhar” instead of “everywhere.”) I can’t say whether the book was racist because I haven’t read it, but at the same time, it would be like saying “The Great White North” is racist against Canadians because the Canadians say “aboot” instead of “about.” Or like saying it is racist to depict Swedish people as saying “hey” instead of “hi,” because “hey is for horses.” (I believe it was my mom’s mom’s dad who was from Sweden, and it was kind of a tradition in our family to say “hey is for horses” anytime one of us said “hey,” which is like Swedish for “hi.”) Or like saying the poet Robert Burns is racist because his poems show Scots people saying “some hae meat and canna eat” (instead of “have” and “cannot”). Sorry to beat this into the ground. I agree with you that racism is bad, but people talk the way they talk, and I would rather have black characters included in old books rather than completely just deleting all the black characters because someone might be offended by the way they talk. It’s like that whole debate about Ebonics (are you old enough to remember that? Maybe not.) I think the adventures of Ralph and Marie could only have been improved if it were a mixed-race party (but that would never have happened in that place and time, not among upper-class teenagers, anyway). Anyway, fabulous post, and thanks again for sharing all this good stuff!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re incredibly welcome. Thank you for the kind words.

      I am familiar with the Ebonics debate. I feel if I reveiwed the Guptill play it would end up being a completely different post [and perhaps a post for another day]. Honestly, Wormwood’s is more entertaining and nutty. I’m pretty sure I linked both plays. Guptill’s can easily be found on archive.org and Womwood’s is on Google books.

      It sounds like you’re a fan of dialects [as am I] and I’d like to mention that 18th Century playwright Mary Robinson used West Country dialect in one of her plays and we cover it extensively in this post: https://unknownplaywrights.wordpress.com/2018/09/27/mary-robinson/

      Thanks again for the kind words. I hope you’ll check back soon. Next week we profile a contemporary playwright from Idaho and in two weeks (hopefully) a Chilean female playwright from the 1900s. She wrote comedies about women’s suffrage. And they feature lascivious Americans!

      Cheers!

      Like

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