October 31, 1918 marked the end of the deadliest month in United States history: 195,000 Americans died in one month as a result of the Spanish influenza pandemic. By the time the pandemic had run its course, an estimated 500,000 Americans had died of the flu—and worldwide, the flu may have claimed as many as 100 million lives.
The first known case in the United States was reported on March 11, when a mess cook in Fort Riley, Kansas, reported to the infirmary complaining of fever, headache, and a sore throat. Despite its name, the flu did not originate in Spain. It came to be called the “Spanish flu” because Spain seemed at the time to be particularly hard hit by the virus. The reality was that the Spanish media were actually reporting the outbreak accurately, unlike the media in other countries — namely the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and Germany — which were censoring their newspapers in an attempt to keep morale up during the war.
One Illinois newspaper reported, on this Halloween in 1918: “The ghost parties, masquerades and dances which have always been so popular at this time of the year, are as scarce as the corn and eggs, not because of Mr. Hoover, but because of Mr. Influenza. Many parties which have been planned for Friday and Saturday night have been postponed as the quarantine will not be lifted before next Monday. But not all of the Halloween spirit has been killed by the influenza. Crowds of boys and girls have been using ticktacks on the windows, tearing down gates and beating the porches with planks, for the last three nights, and they are all prepared to be out tonight, so be not surprised if you hear mysterious noise tonight.”