By Anthony Paradiso
The First Village Halloween Parade took place 47 years ago on Village streets that we walk today. One of those streets that the first parade walked down was Charles Street, where this newspaper’s publisher lives.
The witches, goblins, and ghouls used to walk the little side streets, like Charles Street, for about ten years, before the NYPD asked parade founder, Ralph Lee, to move the parade to the bigger streets of the Village because the amount of people participating had become so large. I spoke to Ralph Lee who described what took place along the route of that first parade.
“We staged events in various places along the route—on the doorsteps of brownstones, in little parks, and in playgrounds all along the route,” Lee said, “We all took off as a group and moved to these various locations where our wacky little scenes would take place”
This newspaper’s publisher, George Capsis, remembers the first Halloween Parade vividly, because the parade passed by his house on Charles Street. George remembered, that one day, when his daughter was 10 years old, she came back from school to tell him that her best friend’s dad was a mask-maker. That mask-maker was Ralph Lee. George agreed to let the Village artist use his townhouse as part of the parade route.
“Ralph brought a number of people, adults dressed in costumes, medieval costumes, housemaids and what not,” George said. “Ralph wanted to stage them in the windows. So, we had to ask our tenant’s permission [and] they went throughout the building through the windows, leaned out as far as they could and screamed down at kids who marched in single file.”
Only a handful of them compared to the thousands that walk the streets today. A handful of children smiling and hearing these voices shouting at them and encouraging them from a house just a few feet away.”
Ralph Lee told me last year that the Parade went on like that for the first 12 years, before it became as big as it is today, and he explained the challenges that came with that growth.
The parade continued to grow every year so it became difficult for people to move in the parade, because there were so many people coming to watch the parade and it became clear we needed barricades all along the route so that the marchers could move.
But George Capsis and his children remember that first parade like it was yesterday. The house on Charles Street became a haunted mansion full of goblins, witches, and ghosts. When you walk by Charles Street on Halloween, it is rumored that once the parade starts, there are noises on the roof and in the attic rooms. It seems the goblins, witches and ghosts have come to wait for the children along the parade route that once went past 69 Charles Street. Happy Halloween to all.