The Trumps Win When It Comes To Being Presidentially Spooky Compared To Previous White House Halloweens

white house halloween decorations through the years

To compliment POTUS, FLOTUS and this administration in any way whatsoever is a difficult thing for this liberal blog. We are fundamentally opposed to many of their policies and disgusted by much of their rhetoric. That said, when it comes to decorating the exterior of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. the 54th President, whose own head looks like a jack-o-lantern, has the Obamas and all the administrations before him beat by a mile.

White House Halloween Decorations

According to White House history, First Lady Mamie Eisenhower decorated the White House for Halloween for the very first time. She hosted a lunch for the wives of staff members in the State Dining Room of the White House. Decorations on October 30, 1958, consisted of skeletons hanging from the wall lights, yellow jack-o’-lanterns and shocks of dried corn in the corners of the room, and State Dining Room columns that were decorated at their bases with brown corn stalks, pumpkins and red apples.

Skeletons and Jack-o’-lanterns for Halloween in the State Dining Room in 1958.

The tables had miniature witches on broomsticks and 16 silver bowls filled with yellow and bronze chrysanthemums. Scattered on the tables were autumn leaves and autumn nuts, ears of dried corn, as well as dried gourds and dried squash. Black cats, black owls, disembodied witch heads and goblins hung from the chandeliers in the foyer. The exterior of the White House, however, remained unadorned.

The Kennedy administration brought young children into the White House (which meant cameras) and since that time first families have observed the holiday by hosting Halloween events accommodating trick-or-treaters and family parties with friends and staffers- much to the delight of the American public. But still, the holiday’s decorations were all indoors. See the time Jackie dressed as Black Ghost for Halloween here.

Caroline and John Jr., dressed in costume, visit President John F. Kennedy in the Oval Office on Halloween in 1963.

The tradition of sharing a White House Halloween with the public began with the Nixon family, during their first year in residence there. The north door entrance to the White House was converted into the mouth of huge 17-foot high pumpkin for the Nixon administration’s Halloween, the first large exterior signs of the holiday and it was the Nixons who first invited children to the White House for treats.

Tricia Nixon and actor Jonathan Frid handed out treats to costumed children entering the White House North Portico for a Halloween Party 1969

The Carter administration erected a 16-foot jack-o’-lantern built of gypsum and plywood at the North entrance door as well during their stay.

The front of the White House decorated for Halloween with a giant jack-o’-lantern over the door (1973)

All the Presidential administrations since have held costume parties. Some for friends, some for charity, some for schoolchildren. In the cases of Amy Carter and Hilary Clinton, both October-born, their birthdays were included in the Halloween festivities.

Amy Carter’s Halloween Birthday party at the White House
First Lady Betty Ford during a Halloween benefit for the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund on the White House South Lawn. You can see the White House’s iconic Portico was not decorated at that time.
In 1982 President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan returned to the White House from a trip to Camp David greeted by a Halloween pumpkin carved to read “Stay the Course.”

The Carter, Ford, Reagan, Bush and Clinton Administrations all celebrated Halloween in the White House but without any grand external decorations. A few simple holiday hints like cobwebs, real pumpkins and bails of hay could be spotted outside and on the lawn but for the most part, the North and South porticos remained bare.

The White House North Portico on Halloween, 2009

At the Obama’s first Halloween at the White House in 2009, they handed out goodie bags with presidential M&Ms, cookies, and dried fruit to 2,000 children and although they held events on the south lawn, the White House exterior remained largely undecorated.

The Obamas hand out Halloween candy in the White House, 2009

In 2010, the Obamas became the first to truly decorate the exterior of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue with bats and cobwebs hung from the North Portico’s light as stacks of pumpkins and gourds decorated the grounds.

The Obamas were the first to decorate the White House exterior in 2010

President and Mrs. Obama welcomed trick-or-treaters from local schools and the children from military families every year except 2012 when Superstorm Sandy hit the East Coast. However, It wasn’t until 2013, during Obama’s second term, that the South Portico of the White House really began getting its freak on. From then through 2016, The Obamas decorated the White House’s South Portico for the Halloween holiday with giant spiders, webs, pumpkins and streamers. The decorations were fun and festive, but far from spooky.

The White House South Lawn decorated for Halloween, 2013

The White House South Lawn decorated for Halloween, 2014

The White House South Lawn decorated for Halloween, 2015

The White House South Lawn decorated for Halloween with an Alice in Wonderland theme, 2016

The Trumps, since moving into the White House, have really raised the bar for Halloween decorations. The portico on the South Lawn has moved beyond crepe paper streamers, smiling pumpkins and bails of hay. Since 2017 through this year, the South Portico has been given movie-set-like treatments for All Hallow’s Eve under Trump’s administration.

The White House South Lawn decorated for Halloween, 2017

The White House South Lawn decorated for Halloween, 2018
The South Portico of the White House is decorated in cornstalks, pumpkins and Autumn colors Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018 (Official White House Photo by Amy Rossetti)

For this year, the White House’s South Portico is wrapped in spooky trees lit from behind with an orange glow.

The White House South Lawn decorated for Halloween, 2019

Happy Halloween!

Thanks to the following sites for images and information:
White House History
Nixon Foundation
Reagan Library, JFK Library