Frightening history

By Gus Bode

If a car is upside down and surrounded by burning clothing in Carbondale, it’s not because students were out of control for Halloween – not this time at least.

Due to conflicts in Carbondale during previous Halloweens, bans have been placed on many aspects of traditional celebrations associated with Carbondale’s Halloween bash. A ban on keg sales and closing the Strip are two ways Carbondale officials have tried to calm the city during the last week of October, which has been susceptible riots in previous years.

During the 1970s and early ’80s, Carbondale became famous for its elaborate Halloween parties and imaginative costumes, which attracted many visitors.


In 1977, about 6,000 people in Halloween costumes partied at the bars for the holiday, but daylight savings time caused the bars to stay open an hour longer than usual. Inebriated patrons then emptied onto the streets and lit a bonfire, throwing bottles and stones and removing clothing.

In 1978 and 1979, Halloween parties in Carbondale reached a peak, and despite police attempts to intimidate participants, the parties got out of hand.

According to “Carbondale After Dark” by HB Koplowitz, in 1980, despite an ordinance prohibiting new bars from opening on the Strip in an attempt to do away with the Strip entirely and the banning of all liquor for the weekend closest to Halloween, tens of thousands of students and Carbondale residents took to the Strip in violent riots.

Yearly riots still occurred but were not as large, and parties moved to more residential areas but led to more ordinances, such as noise violations.

In 1994, the Daily Egyptian reported that an ordinance passed in October forced bars on the Strip to close at 10 p.m. As bars closed, patrons began to push back police barricades on Illinois Avenue. The students then began to flip over cars and light articles of their clothing on fire with firecrackers. Police responded by Macing rioters in an attempt to control the crowds.

In 1995, the city announced a ban on keg sales to help diminish the parties.

The ban was lifted in 2000. The lift of this ban brought about, what some consider, the worst riots in Carbondale history.


Since these riots, the bars from Walnut Street to Grand Avenue and University Avenue to the railroad tracks have been closed along with the ban of kegs for Halloween day and weekend. Students living on campus are also not permitted to have visitors during the week of Halloween.

This year, despite students creating an unofficial Halloween a week before the weekend before Halloween to celebrate the holiday on the Strip, so far there have been no riots and many less infractions compared to previous years.

Christian Holt can be reached at 536-3311 ext. 268 or [email protected].