Written By: Erin Livingston
During LIFE’s near 40-year history as a weekly publication, it produced one Halloween cover story. The cover, an experimental photograph taken by LIFE staffer George Silk, is a skeleton-costumed boy leaping into the air with a pumpkin.
Most of LIFE’s covers featured current events, politics or celebrities. This makes the October 31, 1960 issue unique: the Halloween photographs were an artistic spread, free from an accompanying news article. Each image grouping was composed across double pages of the magazine and was paired with short paragraphs of Halloween poetry:
“Listen! Was that a knocking? Only a trickster, you say, wrapped up in a shroud, and bent on a treat. Or masked impostors caught by a camera with a crooked lens.”
Silk’s ‘crooked lens’ was an altered strip camera. Strip photography, sometimes called slit photography, is a technique that creates a 2-dimensional image using a sequence of images over time. The final image is a collection of thin vertical or horizontal strips patched together to make one.
Silk used a strip camera to photograph running movements at the 1960 Summer Olympics, and was one of the earliest photographers to use the technique for creative use. In doing so he produced the epitome of Halloween. Children masked and cloaked, gleefully running to fill their bags with treats and goodies before the night is up.
As the original foreword in the 1960 issue advises, please enjoy this “gaudy gallery of characters who ride the night wind, clank skeleton shins and make a trick picture treat. It’s funny and it won’t scare the kids.”