Vintage Ad Archive: Halloween Hysteria!

There's a chill in the air.Jack-o-lanterns are grinning madly on every stoop.Cobwebs stretch across shop windows.Witches, ghosts, and goblins lurk around each corner.And any moment now, hordes of trick-or-treaters will begin to congregate, marching madly through the streets on a desperate quest for sugary sustenance.

Yes, October is drawing to a close, and Halloween, that scariest of all holidays, is once again upon us.And personally, I must admit to a terrible fascination with the whole hoopla – the iconography, the costumes, the monster movie marathons on late-night TV, the parties, the wide variety of pumpkin ales, and the incentive to concoct some scarily elaborate custom cocktails.

And of course, Halloween provides a perfect excuse to creep down my spiral staircase, open up the basement vault, and bring out another round of classic alcohol promotions.So polish your fangs and prepare yourself – it's time for a trip back through time, to check out some classically spooky boozy imagery!

Schlitz, 1952
Schlitz, 1952

Ghosts are, of course, a common theme when it comes to Halloween-esque alcohol ads.  "Spirits selling spirits" is a natural – in fact, one could say supernatural – combination, and both breweries and distilleries have produced variations on this idea over the years.

Mount Vernon, 1937
Mount Vernon, 1937
Michelob, 1970
Michelob, 1970

Another recurring motif is that of pumpkin carving – a timeless seasonal activity that pairs well with all manner of beverages.

Schlitz, 1956
Schlitz, 1956
Brewing Industry Foundation, 1944
Brewing Industry Foundation, 1944

Of course, the results of said carving, jack-o-lanterns, also have their own distinct subset of advertisements.

In fact, one California winemaker utilized a jack-o-lantern to implore customers to try out their "California Champagne" (back when that was a term one could get away with using).

 Lejon, 1970

Lejon, 1970

Costume parties are another popular scenario for classic ads – a perfect setting for holiday revelry, with some sipping on the side.

In addition, I've run across campaigns that incorporate devils, vampires, and whatever other spine-chilling elements one can imagine.  Some were tied to specific promotions (like the mid '80s Bud Light "Fright Nights"); some showcased custom cocktail recipes; and some seemed to have no deeper motivation than "Frankenstein's Monster looks cool".

I've also run across quite a few seasonal retro recipes involving liquor – for after all, nothing says "Halloween" like serving punch from a hollowed-out pumpkin.

selection from "The 2 In 1 International Recipe Card Collection", 1977 [note the thoughtful safety warning]
selection from "The 2 In 1 International Recipe Card Collection", 1977 [note the thoughtful safety warning]
selection from Licensed Beverage Industries / Distilled Spirits Council's "Celebrate Together" pamphlet, circa early 1970s
selection from Licensed Beverage Industries / Distilled Spirits Council's "Celebrate Together" pamphlet, circa early 1970s

So on that note, I'm bringing this haunted spin down memory lane to a close...  After all, I still have to put the finishing touches on my costume, rake the graveyard out back, and prepare for the big night tomorrow.  And on behalf of all of us here at Alcohol Professor, I wish you a happy, safe, grim and ghastly Halloween!