Apple Peels for Love

Halloween Apple Peel

“S” for Sampo!

Along with the mirror “spell,” apples appeared in many divination games at Halloween parties. Apples are common harvest fruits, and we’re familiar with bobbing for apples, cider, and apple treats eaten in the autumn. But for a time, Halloween was directly associated with apples, even being called “Snap-apple Night” in some parts of England and Scotland. (Morton, 53)

“Snap-apple” itself was a game where players attached one end of a stick to an apple and the other to a burning candle. The whole thing was spun, and the players tried to bite the apple rather than get a mouth full of hot wax. (Morton, 53) Now, some call the game of trying to grab a hanging apple with your mouth “Snap-apple,” but there’s no way that’s as entertaining.


Um, what is she reaching for?


One of the most common Halloween games in the 19th century used apple peels for fortune telling. A young man or woman was to peel an apple and throw the peel on the floor. Then they interpreted the peel’s shape to learn about their future mate, either through letters of initials or shapes resembling suitors.


Apparently lots of girls would be marrying “S” guys.



She’s a little young to worry about this yet.

In most examples, the young woman had to throw it over her shoulder to get the effect.


She’s gonna keep trying until she gets a “J” for Josephus.


Other versions seemed more immediate, apparently giving young couples some “instructions” on how to behave.


“Any old thing”


It’s interesting how often peeled apples and even loose peels appear on the cards even when there’s no mention of lovers or even when depicting children obviously too young to care. Still, the icon was as ubiquitous as pumpkins and spiders are today.


Creepy ass owl.


Of course we’re now familiar with bobbing for apples, at the very least from It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. But many other games involving apples were also popular, some suggesting a fortune-telling aspect and others just for fun.




Morton, Lisa. Trick or treat: A history of Halloween. London: Reaktion Books, 2012.



Halloween Mirror of Love


So is the mirror cutting that guy in half?

In the 18th and 19th centuries, Halloween was a time for parties. These weren’t the elementary school kids parties with monsters and candy and haunted houses. Instead, they were adult parties where the main events were games for young adults to learn about their future spouses.


You’ll never escape the kitchen!

One of the most common involved mirrors. Although there were countless variations (as you can see by the differences in the cards), most of them involved gazing into a mirror on Halloween night in order to see the face of your beloved.


They have matching hair color!

Some versions said this had to be done right at midnight, most often carrying a candle. (Bannatyne, 73)


Call me crazy, but I’d be freaked out by a dude in the mirror behind me.

Others required you to eat an apple while looking into the mirror. (Some even mixed this with the apple peeling game.)


I’m guessing the ring is also a mirror…

Some required the young woman to brush her hair before the spell could work. (Bannatyne, 75)


Uh, that’s just a picture behind you.

A few went all out and figured that if one weird task was good, lumping them all together was better.


Gotta gather the reagents of the spell won’t work.

Some of the strangest required a young woman to walk down the stairs backwards at midnight while holding a mirror. Not exactly the safest way to do it.


She almost made it down!

It’s no surprise that this game was ripe for pranks and tricks, and many of the cards show people trying to scare those taking the game a bit more seriously. There are also legends that the game could backfire in terrifying ways Lisa Morton quotes a tale about just that:

A lady narrates that on the 1st of November her servant rushed into the room and fainted on the floor. On recovering, she said that she had played a trick that night in the name of the devil before the looking-glass; but what she had seen she dared not speak of, though the remembrance of it would never leave her brain, and she knew the shock would kill her. They tried to laugh her out of her fears, but the next night she was found quite dead, with her features horribly contorted, lying on the floor before the looking-glass, which was shivered to pieces. (Morton, 39)


Some see lovers, some see cultists.

I still haven’t quite figured out where it came from, but it may just be an old folk tradition that became a game. Still, I prefer this to saying Bloody Mary three times and freaking myself out.


Dear God, it’s evil!



Bannatyne, Lesley Pratt. Halloween: An American Holiday, an American History. Gretna, LA: Pelican Publishing Co., 1990.

Morton, Lisa. Trick or treat: A history of Halloween. London: Reaktion Books, 2012.