Removing signs and placing objects in the way on sidewalks and streets was popular in the early part of the 20th century. Horses roamed from where they were tied to points far away. When automobiles became the preferred mode of transportation, they had a tendency to disappear from their parking spots only to reappear across town.
In 1910, the Idaho Republican reported that “Half a dozen of the home boys were caught putting things into the sewer while playing Halloween pranks and were taken into custody.”
Many papers editorialized against the semi-sanctioned mischief. In 1915, the Blackfoot Optimist opined that “There is no questioning the fact that in recent years the spirit of Hallowe’en has become so lost sight of; Hallowe’en celebrations have become so perverted by many youngsters that instead of it being romantic, delightful and pleasing to all, Hallowe’en has become a time of terror to householders and a period of ribald license to many youngsters.
“It is a good idea to teach boys and girls that soaping windows, defacing property and committing acts of malicious mischief are not more to be sanctioned on Hallowe’en and during the weeks preceding that occasion than at any other time of year.”
The Mountain Home Republican covered the tipping over of small buildings—likely outhouses—and the soaping of windows in 1917. Damage for the night was estimated at $150. The paper noted that some residents vowed that “next year they will guard their property with shot guns.”
In 1918, The Idaho Republican in Blackfoot reported that someone had placed a “small building” on top of a drug store in Murtaugh, nearly destroying the roof of the business. Calling outhouses “small buildings” was apparently a nod to decorum.
All of these minor pranks pre-dated trick or treating. Dressing up like your favorite celebrity or throwing a sheet over your head with eyeholes cut in it to go door-to-door begging for candy didn’t become a widespread tradition until the 1930s. The first reference to the practice to appear in the Idaho Statesman was in 1938 in an ad for trick or treat candy, which was on sale for ten cents a pound at CC Anderson’s Golden Rule Store.