Serving the Southern Illinois University community since 1916.

The Daily Egyptian

Serving the Southern Illinois University community since 1916.

The Daily Egyptian

Serving the Southern Illinois University community since 1916.

The Daily Egyptian

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Riots, unruly behavior, arrests lead to Unofficial Halloween in Carbondale


Newcomers to SIU might be confused by the existence of “Unofficial Halloween,” which is a relatively new tradition. Here’s a primer on how we got to have two different celebrations for the same spooky holiday.

The 1970s were prime time for momentous parties in Carbondale. From police road barricades to Colks Wagons being rolled down Main Street, the early ‘70s were the beginning of the road to Unofficial Halloween.

As the decades turned, the 1980s Halloween activities were broadcast on an NBC special, Roadside, hosted by comedian John Candy.


As the ‘80s continued, the attendance of Halloween in Carbondale increased to tens of thousands of people. Wild costumes and big parties came with it. Party goers saw Halloween as an opportunity to do whatever they wanted resulting in a lot of out of control behavior.

Property damage of high expenses, sexual assault and injuries from a number of things resulted in Southern Illinois University banning alcohol sales during the time around the event.

School organizations hosted other events in an attempt to lower the rates of crime and injury during Halloween week. There was even a time when a panel of university faculty, community members and students voted for even more regulations during Halloween week.

The University had canceled classes from Saturday through Wednesday, but allowed the dorms to stay open. The only people allowed in the dorms were residents. Bars, restaurants and the only liquor store on the Strip were banned from selling alcohol and conducting business for the week, and the transportation of beer kegs was banned until Halloween day at 2 a.m.

In 1995, the Chicago Tribune wrote an article about the five-day break given to students in hopes of decreasing the damage caused by Halloween week.

The Tribune said, “in recent years, the size of the crowd has diminished to a few thousand but the Halloween mood has gotten less festive and more confrontational.”

The perception was that national publicity about the Halloween celebrations was not a good look for the university or the city as a whole.


Halloween was no longer an enjoyable time for many in Carbondale. As many restrictions were put on the town during Halloween week, the event got even more out of hand. At one point thousands of students living in university dorms were sent home for a mandatory five-day break.

The university had even taken measures in relation to students partying at off-campus housing. The Carbondale Police Department visited residences in their “ party log” to remind them of the anti-noise rules, and to reiterate that there should be no partying the week of Halloween.

By the 1990s Halloween traditions had been completely thrown out.

With a new era of students coming to Southern in the early 2000s, the mandatory five-day break during Halloween week was still in place.

As a result of this, students would throw invite-only house parties the week before Halloween in secret. This created the Southern Illinois tradition of “Unofficial.”

These parties were allowed by the city as long as they stayed calm.

As the parties continued to grow, in 2013 the ban on Halloween was lifted. While the majority of party and bar goers keep their festivities calm, there are always a few who want to “reminisce” on the old days of Halloween in Carbondale.

The year after the ban was lifted, 60 people were arrested, 31 of whom were SIU students. A car was flipped and those responsible were not identified.

While some Carbondale residents miss the tradition of riots, unruly behavior and partying in the streets, Unofficial and Halloween weekends in Carbondale remain relatively calm these days.

In 2020, fraternities were encouraged not to throw Unofficial or Halloween parties in order to keep students and members of the community safe from the COVID-19 virus. While many followed these rules, others didn’t resulting in suspension of their organizations for a period of time.

In recent years, Unofficial has been hosted by fraternities and bars on the strip the weekend before Halloween weekend.

This year, the InterFraternal Council voted for Unofficial to take place this year on Oct. 27 and 28, because of the university’s Homecoming taking place the weekend prior.

This caused a lot of controversy on social media. Many students were upset about not being able to celebrate Unofficial and Halloween on separate weekends.

While IFC decided that Unofficial will take place this upcoming weekend, bars in the area – Levels, Traxx, Hangar 9, etc. – hosted their own “Unofficial” the weekend of Friday the 13th.

With changes over the last few decades of Unofficial it remains many Salukis’ favorite “holiday” of the year and hundreds of students are looking forward to celebrating Unofficial at fraternities this weekend.


Staff Reporter Joei Younker can be reached at [email protected]


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