A Burton-Judson Halloween

A pleasant delight amidst the fright of midterms
“The guy who was Buckingham Fountain appropriately spit a bunch of water into the air.”

For most UChicago students, Friday of 5th week was scary for all of the wrong reasons.

With midterm season underway and paper deadlines and exams looming, the Life of the Mind risked overshadowing the macabre delight of Halloween. Add in a dash of October hail to the equation, and it’s safe to say that the cauldron wasn’t brewing favorably for spooky campus traditions.

Yet, nestled within their thick stone walls, illuminated from above by the custard-colored moonlight, Burton-Judson residents worked well into the witching hour preparing for their annual Halloween contest.

The contest is comprised of three elements: pumpkin carvings, door decorations, and costumes. This year, the contest was held on the Saturday of Halloween weekend. Judging is performed by members of the Housing Staff and faculty fellows; this year’s judges were Sophia Chaknis, the Director of College Housing, Rina Foygel Barber, Assistant Professor in Statistics and Faculty Fellow for Vincent House, and Matthew Barber, Professor Barber’s husband.

All were first-time judges, and thoroughly impressed by the presentations. “It’s great to see so much passion and creativity from the students,” said Chaknis. “Each house had dedicated people who were very excited, and it seemed like a lot of hard work went into it.”

Each of the six houses was responsible for selecting their own theme and carving that into how they completed the different elements of the contest. Houses’ themes for this year were:


Dodd-Mead: Chicago Landmarks
Chamberlin: Dictators and Dissidents
Vincent: HUM
Coulter: Hallowthreen
Linn-Mathews: 90’s Movies and TV Shows
Salisbury: Idioms


Coulter House, which placed first overall, adapted the template for their door decoration from Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes. The front door was transformed into a clock stuck at 3:00, and opening the doors revealed an entrance into the clock—as well as a dream-like representation of what the clock face would look like when viewed from the inside. Two images of nightmare trios—the three witches from Macbeth and Dante’s three-faced Satan—were also featured inside of the building.

Costume judging was held in the Burton-Judson library, and participants were given the chance to explain their outfit and tie it to the overall house theme. Members of Dodd-Mead arranged themselves into the downtown cityscape, with each dressing up as a building, landmark, or Chicago fixture. Some individuals even dressed in blue and lay on the floor to model Lake Michigan.

“The guy who was Buckingham Fountain appropriately spit a bunch of water into the air,” said second-year Dodd-Mead resident Clara Stahlmann Roeder.

In many ways, the contest served as a conduit to further connections with housemates and discover each other’s talents. “Most of our house contributed in one way or another, and it was a great way to bond,” said Stahlmann Roeder. Over 150 Burton-Judson residents participated in the contest this year, approximately half of the total residence hall population.

For others, it served as a uniquely UChicago introduction to the late-autumn tradition. “Since I lived in Korea for the last 11 years I never really celebrated Halloween,” said first-year Chamberlin resident Sydney Ko. “This year’s celebration was a chaotic and pleasant experience.”