The Ball of Fate - Vintage Halloween Game

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Early Halloween celebrations in St Louis, MO and all over the US, followed the long Irish tradition of playing fortune telling games and came into fashion around the turn of the 19th Century. If you are looking to add a little vintage Halloween fun to your activities this year here’s an easy way to combine an old fortune telling game with our current tradition of trick or treating.

The Ball of Fate is a game from Spooky Halloween Entertainments from Paine Publishing Co, 1923. I’ve added the treats to make the game a little more in keeping with our modern Halloween traditions.

What you’ll need to play:

  • A ball of yarn

  • Tissue paper or a good sized paper treat bag that isn’t too hard to tear open

  • Small Halloween candy or toys

  • Small slips of paper

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Instructions:

  • Print or write out your fortunes onto small slips of paper. You can make up your own or use some of the original examples below.

  • Place your treats and/or toys in the center of your tissue paper (you may want to use a few pieces to make sure it holds together) or into a paper treat bag.

  • Gather the tissue paper around the treats shaping it into a ball. Tie the yarn round the top to secure it and trim the excess paper. For the treat bag just close it and tie your yarn around the top.

  • Start wrapping the yarn around the package of treats. Once it feels pretty secure start adding a fortune every so often. You can space them out however you like. Make sure you have at least one fortune for every person playing the game.

How to play:

  • The original rules of the game: The ball is thrown to a person who who unwinds it until reaching a slip; this is taken out and the ball is thrown to someone else. When each has secured a fortune they are read aloud. The only thing to add is tearing open the tissue paper once you reach the center and enjoying the treats inside.

  • You can also have the person throwing the ball turn around and throw it over their shoulder to the others. Whoever catches it gets the next fortune.

Fortunes:

  • Good luck is following you but - it will be some time before it overtakes you.

  • You are going to be kissed - by November’s chilly breezes.

  • You can climb high in life - if you use a long enough ladder.

  • This very night something nice will happen, 'Twill thrill your heart and your whole life gladden.

  • The witches say, 'tis sad but true, That you must die when you're ninety-two.

  • Loving hearts and faithful friends, For Fortune's tricks will make amends.

Happy Halloween from the Mourning Society of St. Louis!

Sources: Halloween Entertainments from Paine Publishing Co, 1923; Farm Boys' and Girls' Leader, Volumes 2-4, 1920