HISTORY: THE ‘DEVIL’ AT THE DANCE
And the devil danced among them
The following account was published in the Freeman Courier 100 years ago — on Jan. 20, 1922
A well authenticated report — that the devil appeared in person at a dance held in a pavilion at a lake resort near Hutchinson, Minn. the other day — is being circulated.
This particular dance hall, so the circulating report has it, has had a rather shady reputation for some time and things have been going on there that have aroused a good deal of resentment on the part of the decent people of the community.
At the last dance held there, only a few days ago, the devil, in all his majesty, stood all of a sudden in the center of the floor, fire streaming from his fingers, mouth and tail. All the dancers saw him, but no one could tell whether he came up out of the floor or dropped from the ceiling. Every person in the ball room became so frightened that the hall was emptied in no time and they all beat it for home as fast as they could. Many of them are reported to say that they have danced their last dance. This is not a “story” nor is it a pipe dream, but an actual fact. Of course, opinions will differ as to who this particular devil was, but that there was such a sight, seen by the dancer, goes undenied, for there were too many who saw it to allow of their being any question about the truth.
The above from a Hutchinson, Minn. paper makes interesting reading matter just now when the dance question is a live topic in many cities. Many letters of inquiry were mailed to Hutchinson and we will give the answer of one written by Rev. Richardson of the M. E. Church of that place. He says:
“It is true that the 100 people who were present were mysteriously frightened by the supposed devil, all leaving the dance pavilion never to return, some of the ladies suffering from nervous prostration for weeks. The cause is a mystery, but the conditions or event is positive. No more dances have been held in this wicked place.”
But be that as it may, the dance has become a problem and a very important one at that because people begin to realize that it’s a place where many a girl has taken her first step in a life of shame and many immoralities are traceable to it.
Follow-up to last week’s devil sighting in Minnesota
Last week The Courier reprinted an account from the Jan. 20, 1922 edition in which a news report out of Hutchinson, Minn., stated that a devil appeared at a dance in a shady hall there. This follow-up was printed on Jan. 27, 1922.
Quite a number are inquisitive about the Hutchinson, Minn. “Devil” and ask whether anything more is said about it. We have read several articles in Minnesota papers the past week. One of the longest descriptions was in the Worthington paper. We will reproduce a letter written by Rev. A. L. Richardson at Hutchinson to Mrs. C. L. Bartlett at Bertha, Minn., who sent an inquiry to the reverend. He writes the following:
On Sunday night, October 30, last, a dance was in progress there and it’s generally agreed that there were 100 dancers on the floor when the devil came and was in the midst. Some claim he came up through the floor, others that he came down from the roof.
He was the regular fellow, they say horns, hoofs and tail. The light flared, the musical instruments flew from the hands of the players and were splintered. Lurid lights filled the place and the devil danced among them. Women and girls screamed and some fainted. One or more are still confined in bed with hysteria. They all fled terror stricken from the place. Some hid in the woods all night, others found shelter at farm houses. Twenty-six cars were left standing by the pavilion until the day light came and the party rallied and kept their courage up by keeping close together.
Many and varied stories are told about the details, but the above is generally told by all. If it was a hoax, it was cleverly done and the perpetrators are keeping still. The proprietor has offered $1,000 for an explanation of it. His hotel and all is deserted and abandoned. He nor his family dare remain there. If it was the real devil he hurt his own business, for dancing among that class has ceased. It has been a real sensation, and I suppose has been widely advertised. The hardest people to convince that it was a hoax, are those who were there.
One more word about the dancing Minnesota devil
This is the third and final writing about the appearance of the supposed devil at a dance hall in Minnesota that the Freeman Courier carried 100 years ago. It was printed in the Feb. 2, 1922 issue.
To get the facts a letter was written to Rev. A. L. Richardson from here and the following is the answer received from Mr. Richardson: I did not hear that the devil left foot prints, burned in the floor, that is news. Am unable to confirm it. The number of stories and versions of the affair are surprising indeed. The facts that seem to be established are, that about 100 people got frightened at a Sunday evening dance. They ran away in great confusion. They have never run that dance hall since. They said and continue to say they saw the devil. They themselves, told many varying details. Many telling of attempts to grapple and hold him, but he had no substance to grapple, also many telling of his walking out over the open waters of the lake and disappearing in a yellow blaze in the center. Some who were present say nothing at all, but joined the stampede. I think it can all be explained; naturally the dancers had been drinking moonshine whiskey. It was Halloween. For three days warnings had been given, that the devil was coming to that place – these warnings were burned on the floor and walls. Don’t you suppose property owners could throw light on it if they would talk?