How Halloween was celebrated in 1970s America

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  • The photographs were all taken at yearly parties in Kennett, Missouri, and collated by a former resident 
  • The outfits range from the innocent to the inappropriate, such as Nazis and KKK clothing 
  • But the owner of the collection, Steve Mays, says they were worn out of 'stupidity and a love of horror movies'

By James Draper and Ted Thornhill for MailOnline

Published: 07:51 EDT, 11 October 2017 | Updated: 07:57 EDT, 11 October 2017

Most people love Halloween because it's their one chance, all year, to be someone else.

And, as these fascinating images from 1970s America show, that's nothing new.

From a demonic incarnation of The Pope to a devilish Dolly Parton, they reveal young men and women showing off their spirited creative streaks with aplomb.

They've got bad habits: A man and a woman dress as devout nuns with a secret party streak - complete with a can of beer  
They've got bad habits: A man and a woman dress as devout nuns with a secret party streak - complete with a can of beer  

They've got bad habits: A man and a woman dress as devout nuns with a secret party streak - complete with a can of beer  

The photographs were all taken at yearly parties in Kennett, Missouri, in the 1970s
The photographs were all taken at yearly parties in Kennett, Missouri, in the 1970s

The photographs were all taken at yearly parties in Kennett, Missouri, in the 1970s

The photographs were all taken at yearly parties in Kennett, Missouri, and the outfits range from the surprisingly innocent to costumes most would consider highly inappropriate, such as Nazis and KKK clothing.

But the owner of the collection, 69-year-old retiree Steve Mays, who attended all the parties and collated the pictures online, told MailOnline Travel that they were worn more out of stupidity and a love of horror movies than a desire to express racial hatred.

He said: ‘We were young and stupid and pretty self-absorbed. More concerned with having a winner costume than racial sensitivity. Our little town was in southern Missouri and literally segregated until the mid-60s and culturally segregated for long after.

Goofing around: Steve Mays himself is pictured here as a fruity superhero, while another channels Stephen King with a scary clown 
Goofing around: Steve Mays himself is pictured here as a fruity superhero, while another channels Stephen King with a scary clown 

Goofing around: Steve Mays himself is pictured here as a fruity superhero, while another channels Stephen King with a scary clown 

Eerie imaginations: Mr Pumkinhead, a ghoulish Missouri housewife, a scary surgeon and a bloodthirsty boxer with a child 
Eerie imaginations: Mr Pumkinhead, a ghoulish Missouri housewife, a scary surgeon and a bloodthirsty boxer with a child 

Eerie imaginations: Mr Pumkinhead, a ghoulish Missouri housewife, a scary surgeon and a bloodthirsty boxer with a child 

Costumes ahoy! Long before Pirates of the Caribbean hit the silver screen, one man dressed as a creepy ship captain, while one woman dresses as a chicken
Costumes ahoy! Long before Pirates of the Caribbean hit the silver screen, one man dressed as a creepy ship captain, while one woman dresses as a chicken

Costumes ahoy! Long before Pirates of the Caribbean hit the silver screen, one man dressed as a creepy ship captain, while one woman dresses as a chicken

Retro style: Joined by a pal, one music fan sports a peroxide blonde wig and (possibly) a padded bra to party as Dolly Parton
Retro style: Joined by a pal, one music fan sports a peroxide blonde wig and (possibly) a padded bra to party as Dolly Parton

Retro style: Joined by a pal, one music fan sports a peroxide blonde wig and (possibly) a padded bra to party as Dolly Parton

Getting creative: A guest dresses-up as Carmen Miranda
Getting creative: A guest dresses-up as Carmen Miranda
A fun-lover embraces the festivities as a pageant queen
A fun-lover embraces the festivities as a pageant queen

Getting creative: A guest dresses-up as Carmen Miranda (left), while another embraces the festivities as a pageant queen 

‘Some have asked me to remove some of the Halloween photos but I have refused on the grounds we have to own those moments. And I’m pretty sure nobody was thinking about Nazi atrocities or the evils of the KKK. It was the stuff of movies for most of us.’

Mr Mays explained that the people in the photographs are his friends, people he grew up with, who went to college, but who ‘for some reason gravitated back to our home town of Kennett’.

He continued: ‘We started having an annual Halloween party and every year it got bigger and better. The competition for best costume became fierce. This party was the event of the year and people returned to Kennett from miles away.

Strike a pose: Guests gather for a group shot, including one woman who poses as Uncle Sam and a man who attends in drag
Strike a pose: Guests gather for a group shot, including one woman who poses as Uncle Sam and a man who attends in drag

Strike a pose: Guests gather for a group shot, including one woman who poses as Uncle Sam and a man who attends in drag

Getting the party started: Clearly having a blast, one woman embraces her devilish side by downing a bottle of white wine
Getting the party started: Clearly having a blast, one woman embraces her devilish side by downing a bottle of white wine

Getting the party started: Clearly having a blast, one woman embraces her devilish side by downing a bottle of white wine

Evil businessman: One man seems to assume the role of a horrible boss, complete with cigar, moustache and huge eyebrows 
Evil businessman: One man seems to assume the role of a horrible boss, complete with cigar, moustache and huge eyebrows 

Evil businessman: One man seems to assume the role of a horrible boss, complete with cigar, moustache and huge eyebrows 

‘Many of us remember these as the best parties we ever attended or hosted. We took a lot of photos, but the cameras were often cheap and the photographers were almost always drunk. So many parties, so many pictures, so many beers.’

Mr Mays, who now lives in Jefferson City, put the photographs online when he became fascinated by the internet in the mid-1990s.

To see more of Steve Mays’ nostalgic photographs visit his website, Basement Diaries.  

Some of the costumes were lacking in taste, such as this KKK outfit. Mr Mays said that outfits like this were worn because they were 'the stuff of movies'
Some of the costumes were lacking in taste, such as this KKK outfit. Mr Mays said that outfits like this were worn because they were 'the stuff of movies'

Some of the costumes were lacking in taste, such as this KKK outfit. Mr Mays said that outfits like this were worn because they were 'the stuff of movies'

Three's a cool crowd: One man dresses as a pimp, another hits the bash as Zorro while their friend takes a dig at tourists
Three's a cool crowd: One man dresses as a pimp, another hits the bash as Zorro while their friend takes a dig at tourists

Three's a cool crowd: One man dresses as a pimp, another hits the bash as Zorro while their friend takes a dig at tourists

Let the good times roll: Another group shot, populated with empty beer bottles, cigarettes and some wacky fashion choices 
Let the good times roll: Another group shot, populated with empty beer bottles, cigarettes and some wacky fashion choices 

Let the good times roll: Another group shot, populated with empty beer bottles, cigarettes and some wacky fashion choices 

Sweet and innocent: This couple shunned the scary for something a little more palatable and family-friendly 
Sweet and innocent: This couple shunned the scary for something a little more palatable and family-friendly 

Sweet and innocent: This couple shunned the scary for something a little more palatable and family-friendly 

One creative woman adorns herself with balloons
One creative woman adorns herself with balloons
A fancy man goes full-on formal in a top hat and tails
A fancy man goes full-on formal in a top hat and tails

That's pop culture! One creative woman adorns herself with balloons, while a man goes full-on formal in a top hat and tails

Caped crusader: A handsome highwayman wears a satin-lined cloak, while his beer-swigging buddy attends as a firefighter
Caped crusader: A handsome highwayman wears a satin-lined cloak, while his beer-swigging buddy attends as a firefighter

Caped crusader: A handsome highwayman wears a satin-lined cloak, while his beer-swigging buddy attends as a firefighter

Fright night: Four young women pose together for a photo opportunity as the free-flowing booze takes hold 
Fright night: Four young women pose together for a photo opportunity as the free-flowing booze takes hold 

Fright night: Four young women pose together for a photo opportunity as the free-flowing booze takes hold 

Holier than thou: A 'pregnant nun' carries a bottle of whisky, while her pastor partner is equally into his vices 
Holier than thou: A 'pregnant nun' carries a bottle of whisky, while her pastor partner is equally into his vices 

Holier than thou: A 'pregnant nun' carries a bottle of whisky, while her pastor partner is equally into his vices 

A ghoul pretends to pick his nose, while a baseball referee laughs at the rather unsightly pose 
A ghoul pretends to pick his nose, while a baseball referee laughs at the rather unsightly pose 

A ghoul pretends to pick his nose, while a baseball referee laughs at the rather unsightly pose 

This enthusiastic guest dressed himself in a truly scary kipper tie
This enthusiastic guest dressed himself in a truly scary kipper tie
Eerie: A pair of clowns freak people out
Eerie: A pair of clowns freak people out

Terrifying: This enthusiastic guest dressed himself in a truly scary kipper tie (left), while a pair of clowns freak people out  

No wonder there's a buzz at the party: A man dresses as a wasp while chatting to his pals in adult scout outfits
No wonder there's a buzz at the party: A man dresses as a wasp while chatting to his pals in adult scout outfits

No wonder there's a buzz at the party: A man dresses as a wasp while chatting to his pals in adult scout outfits

Dutiful guests in the form of a boy scout and girl guide
Dutiful guests in the form of a boy scout and girl guide
A 'police officer' keeps the order
A 'police officer' keeps the order

Uniforms aplenty: Dutiful guests in the form of a boy scout and girl guide (left), while a 'police officer' keeps the order

Something for everybody: Another group shots shows a 'skeleton', a 1920s lady, a college graduate and Darth Vader 
Something for everybody: Another group shots shows a 'skeleton', a 1920s lady, a college graduate and Darth Vader 

Something for everybody: Another group shots shows a 'skeleton', a 1920s lady, a college graduate and Darth Vader 

Two guests go undercover as armed aliens on a mission
Two guests go undercover as armed aliens on a mission
Another duo slap on the make-up as rock act KISS
Another duo slap on the make-up as rock act KISS

Scary stuff: Two guests go undercover as armed aliens on a mission, while another duo slap on the make-up as rock act Kiss

They're an unlikely duo! A man dressed as an Arab gets close to a one-eyed pirate as the party reaches fever pitch 
They're an unlikely duo! A man dressed as an Arab gets close to a one-eyed pirate as the party reaches fever pitch 

They're an unlikely duo! A man dressed as an Arab gets close to a one-eyed pirate as the party reaches fever pitch 

A man dresses as a bunny, another guest attends as Wonder Woman while one person courts controversy as a Nazi
A man dresses as a bunny, another guest attends as Wonder Woman while one person courts controversy as a Nazi

A man dresses as a bunny, another guest attends as Wonder Woman while one person courts controversy as a Nazi

Bad taste: A couple sport swastika armbands on Nazi SS uniforms. Mr Mays said that the party-goers at the time were 'more concerned with having a winner costume than racial sensitivity'
Bad taste: A couple sport swastika armbands on Nazi SS uniforms. Mr Mays said that the party-goers at the time were 'more concerned with having a winner costume than racial sensitivity'

Bad taste: A couple sport swastika armbands on Nazi SS uniforms. Mr Mays said that the party-goers at the time were 'more concerned with having a winner costume than racial sensitivity'

What a motley crew! Another fascinating colour photo of American Halloween  in the 1970s
What a motley crew! Another fascinating colour photo of American Halloween  in the 1970s

What a motley crew! Another fascinating colour photo of American Halloween in the 1970s

The good, the bad and the ugly: A 'pregnant' girl guide hangs off the humpback of Notre Dame's sturdy frame 
The good, the bad and the ugly: A 'pregnant' girl guide hangs off the humpback of Notre Dame's sturdy frame 

The good, the bad and the ugly: A 'pregnant' girl guide hangs off the humpback of Notre Dame's sturdy frame 

Perhaps they didn't get the memo about costumes? Two women seem to be lacking party spirit with their choice of outfits
Perhaps they didn't get the memo about costumes? Two women seem to be lacking party spirit with their choice of outfits

Perhaps they didn't get the memo about costumes? Two women seem to be lacking party spirit with their choice of outfits

The obligatory Satan costume is off-set with a fallen angel
The obligatory Satan costume is off-set with a fallen angel
Another pair represent ancient Greece at the party
Another pair represent ancient Greece at the party

Good, clean fun! The obligatory Satan costume is off-set with a fallen angel (left), while another pair represent ancient Greece  

Cool dudes: Three men show off their dance skills in the centre of the action...
Cool dudes: Three men show off their dance skills in the centre of the action...

Cool dudes: Three men show off their dance skills in the centre of the action...

Cheers to that! An eerie-looking nurse sips from a yellow party cup, while one man's outfit effort leaves a lot to be desired 
Cheers to that! An eerie-looking nurse sips from a yellow party cup, while one man's outfit effort leaves a lot to be desired 

Cheers to that! An eerie-looking nurse sips from a yellow party cup, while one man's outfit effort leaves a lot to be desired 

Cowboy: Seemingly inspired by Clint Eastwood, one man hits the bash as a cowboy, while a glam guest gets close for a snap
Cowboy: Seemingly inspired by Clint Eastwood, one man hits the bash as a cowboy, while a glam guest gets close for a snap

Cowboy: Seemingly inspired by Clint Eastwood, one man hits the bash as a cowboy, while a glam guest gets close for a snap

 

 

Larry White
By Larry White 11/10/2017 07:57:00