Attend the resurrection of Albany’s All-Hallow E’en Festival this October! Visit for a full list of festivities during this month-long celebration. Follow the All-Hallow E’en Festival on Instagram @albanyhalloween.

Albany's All Hallow E'en Festival Logo

It’s an enchanting tale of magic-making, revelry, and revenge and it all took place in the Capital city in 1904 and 1905.

 The Origin

Wilbur W. Judd, Originator of the All-Hallow E'en Festival

The original concept for a Halloween festival in Albany stemmed from the mind of Wilbur W. Judd a newsman from the Press-Knickerbocker-Express. Once he presented the idea to the Albany Chamber of Commerce, plans began to flourish for a Halloween event hoped to be as grand and famous as Mardi Gras in New Orleans. 

The businessmen of Albany were quick to establish a Carnival Association to plan and promote the festival. Merchants and businesses eagerly donated to the cause. The result of their tireless planning, funding, and efforts was the transformation of Albany into an enchanting Halloween-Dreamland.

Photo from Collection
of the Albany Institute of History & Art
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 The First Festival - October 31, 1904
All-Hallow E'en Festival 1904 Souvenir
From Collection of the Albany Institute of History & Art

Festival organizers decked the city in carnival colors up to a week before the big day. Flags and banners sporting burnt orange, white, and emerald green were strung up throughout the city. Jack-o’-lanterns lined the streets, and four city gates were erected to welcome visitors from near and far. 

The ceremonies commenced with the crowning of the Halloween Festival's Queen Titania, a title that was bestowed to Miss Elsie Marie Smith in an elegant ceremony on the Capitol steps. Following the coronation, the mayor of Albany presented the court with an enormous gold key reaching three feet in length and valued at over 5 million dollars. The Queen and her court set off with the key, unlocked the city’s gates, and welcomed an estimated 50,000 festival attendees into the city. 

In the afternoon, crowds of revelers gathered in the streets and on rooftops to witness an impressive automobile parade. Cars cruised the streets adorned with pumpkins, witches, and other mysterious creatures. The excitement continued as the night drew on, bringing with it a second parade featuring dazzling, elaborate floats and an alluring collection of masked marchers. The marchers were disguised as "every creature on earth, and a few of those popularly supposed to dwell beneath it" according to a report published the following morning by The Argus

Visitors were left completely charmed by the affair and there was little doubt that the festival would return for a second year. 

Queen Titania 1904 and her Court All-Hallow E'en Festival   1904 All-Hallow E'en Festival Crowds
Left: Queen Titania and her court; Right: Festival crowds from the grand staircase
From Collection of the Albany Institute of History & Art

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 The Second Festival - October 30 & October 31, 1905
1905 All-Hallow E'en Festival Postcard  
From Collection of the Albany Institute of History & Art

Following the success of the 1904 All Hallow E’en Festival, the Carnival Association knew they wanted to make the 1905 festival even grander, extending the event into a two-day affair. They predicted the crowds would double in size and promoted the festival everywhere within a 100-mile radius. 

Once again, planners fashioned the city into a Halloween wonderland up to a week in advance. They draped flags and banners of the carnival colors throughout the city. They illuminated the parade route with an impressive display of electric lights and secured grandstand seating next to the city gates giving parade-viewers an easy vantage point. 

The first day was simple, with a businessmen’s parade in the morning and an afternoon dedicated to sightseeing and shopping along the city streets. But the program for the two-day event was designed to become more mystical as the hours passed. As the city grew darker, it was easy to note the eerie glow of green shining from mercury lights positioned along the Capitol steps. In the morning, the Queen and her court would unlock the city gates, but the mayor would not simply hand the key over this time. Instead, he had to be bewitched by otherworldly creatures to relinquish it. 

On the morning of the 31st Miss Catherine Hess was crowned as Queen Titania II and the royalty unlocked the gates to welcome more revelers. Once again, an automobile parade whirled past parade-watchers in the afternoon and the night drew on, promising another enchanting evening parade. 

Those who delighted in fair festivities geared up for this Halloween celebration to become an annual tradition. But the original All-Hallow E’en Festival was met with an untimely demise. 

All Hallow-E'en Festival Coronation of the Queen Postcard  1905 All-Hallow E'en Festival Postcard
From Collection of the Albany Institute of History & Art

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 The Demise

True to the vision of the Carnival Association, the 1905 festival was two times larger than the year before. 100,000 people flooded through the gates leaving neighboring cities and towns all but deserted. Though the second festival began with the same excitement as the first, it wasn’t long until the carnival descended into chaos. As the second night drew on the crowd became unruly in numbers too large for the authorities to handle.  

Reports of pepper dashed into the eyes of parade-watchers were rampant, either as a result of the spice mixed with confetti thrown into the victims' faces or by being hit by a pepper-sprinkled duster. The event left the city reeling and doubts for the future of the festival began to creep into organizers’ minds. 

San Fransico Call
From Fulton Search newspaper database

The year ended with another scandal adding an eerie aftertaste to the tale. On Christmas Day, 1905, the original Queen Titania received a box of chocolates through the mail. But this was no ordinary gift of sweets. The mysterious chocolates oozed a sickly green color and there was no sender to be identified. Miss Elsie Smith turned the box over to a druggist who analyzed the deadly Christmas present. According to a report from the San Franciso Call, the druggist discovered the candy to contain “enough Paris green and other poisons to kill a whole family.”   

News of the toxic treats quickly spread throughout the town, but the identity of the gift-bearer remains a mystery to this day. Many suspected the poisoner to be another young girl perhaps jealous of Miss Elsie Smith’s crowning as the Halloween Queen or the presence of Clayton D. McKinley as Prince Charming on her court, a young man who was evidently very sought-after in early 20th century Albany. 

When the time came to plan a third festival in 1906, the Carnival Association came to the unanimous conclusion that the grand affair had met its end. 

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 The Resurrection 

Capitol Building in Fall

Despite the fate of the original festival, Albany has remained a popular Halloween destination. Every year crowds flock to the area during the fall for apple-picking, leaf peeping, and sweet pumpkin treats. Tours of the Capital’s haunted spots always book fast, and locals and visitors alike come year after year to celebrate Halloween traditions across the county.  

Discover Albany’s resurrection of the All Hallow E’en Festival draws on this story of magic and merry-making unique to Albany and revives it for the 21st century. The festival combines the county’s familiar Halloween traditions and new Halloween programming into one month-long, county-wide event. 

This October, explore Albany’s haunted history through various tours. Enjoy an enchanting walk along Albany Center Gallery's Halloween Art Path. Participate in Albany's Annual Trick or Trot 5K along a beautiful Halloween-inspired course. Dress your four-legged friend in their best costume for Downtown Albany BID's Hounds of Halloween. And close out the weekend before the big holiday at Albany’s first Halloween House Ball hosted by In Our Own Voices.  

For updates, events, and more information visit Follow @albanyhalloween on Instagram for festival fun facts, history, memes, and a look behind-the-scenes as Albany prepares to bring this bewitching festival back to life. 

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Acknowledgements: Primary source accounts of the original All-Hallow E'en Festival courtesy of the Albany Insititute of History & Art and the Fulton Search historical newspaper database. Images courtesy of the Collection of the Albany Insititute of History & Art. Special thank you to Discover Albany's Community Engagement Manager, Maeve McEneny-Johnson. 

Albany's Hallow E'en Festival Partner Organizations:

IOOV Logo UPDATED Albany Center Gallery Downtown Albany BID logo Cap Rep logo City of Albany Logo


*This project is made possible in part by the City of Albany’s Albany for All funding program and President Biden’s American Rescue Plan.
*This project is being supported, in whole or in part, by federal award number SLFRP1752 awarded to the City of Albany, New York, by the U.S. Department of Treasury.