Friday Fascination

A Hit of Halloween History

I love Fall.  There’s something in the crisp air that whispers of anticipation, of change. Now I’m not saying I like surrendering my daylight for extra darkness, but snuggling on the couch with a good book, listening to the rain on the roof…it’s a nice transformation from summer time’s go-go-go.

photo courtesy of Evgeni Dinev
photo courtesy of Evgeni Dinev


But one of the highlights of Fall? Halloween. How many holidays let children stay out late on a school night, going to strangers’ houses and asking for handouts? Dressed up like Martha Stewart and Freddy Krueger and My Fairy Zombie Princess?  Talk about awesome. In celebration of the scary season, I did some digging into some Halloween traditions. Today’s highlight: Jack-o’-lanterns.

I realized I knew nothing about Jack-o’-lantern history. Did you know its origins stem from a sinister Celtic tale? Stingy Jack, to be exact. Poor ol’ Jack was an Irish farmer who liked his drink and tricks. Hey, I appreciate a good trick too. But Jack had been in his cups one fateful Halloween night (I’m sure it was dark and stormy) and ran into the Devil. Out of money and needing just…one…more, he offered his soul in exchange for a final round. The Devil (and I have to question this tale because the Dark One doesn’t seem the brightest coal in the fire) changed himself into a sixpence to pay for the drink. Jack, quick-witted despite his booze level, grabbed the coin and put it next to the silver cross in his pocket, preventing the Devil from changing back. Jack refused to release the Devil until Lucifer agreed to give him another ten years. Is that a Supernatural theme I’m sensing?  Maybe this was just your average crossroads demon. We’ll never know.


Ten years rolled by and the Devil came to collect. The Father of Lies, showing amazing compassion, agreed to climb a tree to get an apple for Jack as a last request. Jack, still spry and apparently always prepared, placed crosses around the tree. Shoot. Trapped again. Jack weaseled another deal – no Hell for his soul.  (At this point, I’ve lost all respect for Jack.  He made the deal in the first place and now he’s taking advantage of a mentally challenged demon. Not cool.).

Jack finally bit the big one and floated up to the pearly gates. Whoops! No help wanted from deceitful drunkards, so he slithered on down to Hell.  Which makes no sense. I mean, who’d choose to go to Hell?  This story has a lot of plot holes.  The Devil, more honorable than Jack, kept his promise and refused to let him into Hell. To kick Jack’s sorry hiney on his way, Lucifer tossed him an ember from the fiery pit. Jack placed the coal in a hollowed out turnip (another handy item he always had) and slunk through the dark roads of Hell and back to earth, doomed to roam in unrest.

In case you’re wondering, the turnips became pumpkins when the Irish immigrated to America, as pumpkins were more plentiful.

Are you carving pumpkins this year? Trying any creative faces?



  1. That is one creepy pumpkin. I will probably not do any pumpkin carving this year. Nobody ever comes to my house on Halloween night (maybe because where I live if someone knocks on your door after dark, you greet them with a shotgun), and my hubby has to work so I’ll be home by my lonesome. No sense getting all charged up about a holiday that I’ll be spending alone.

    I do love to carve pumpkins though. And I love to drive through the trick-or-treat neighborhoods to see the decorations. Maybe next year I’ll be more festive. I did put out the haunted house village this year and hung a few ghosts around the living room. Nothing crazy, just a little festiveness.

    Interesting story about the jack-o-lantern. I’m not sure I’m buying it, but interesting story.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

    1. CJ Burright says:

      I can’t believe you’d pass up the opportunity to tap dance for trick or treaters. Could be a trick…or a treat, depending on the POV. 🙂 I’ll keep in mind not to knock on your door after dark.

      1. Well, I’d love to see you, but definitely let me know you’re coming. I live in the sticks and if I threw a rock as hard as I could I still wouldn’t be able to hit my closest neighbor’s house.

        Tap dancing for trick-or-treaters would not be a treat for them, I’m sure. Usually kiddo’s that age don’t appreciate the finer things in life – like tap dancing.


        1. CJ Burright says:

          So you’re saying you live in the perfect place for tricksters to scare the bejeebies out of you on Samhain, when the veil between worlds is thinnest? You’ll be all alone, no treats to give out…I hope you’re planning to watch a horror show marathon. But you’re probably right–tap dancing might scare off ghosties of all ages. Definitely the little goblins. I’m sure you’ve got one of those silver crosses like Stingy Jack–you’ll be fine. 🙂

  2. I agree with your assessment–far too many plot holes in this story. Alas, yes, I will be forced to carve. I loathe it b/c my kids will always buy those pattern thingies and then pick the hardest one. After 10 years now, I’m quite accomplished. Nothing like the one you showed though.

    1. CJ Burright says:

      I always carved scary pumpkins – different sized eyes, jagged teeth, misshapen noses…not because of my awesome carving skills, but lack thereof. My daughter’s now in college, so I don’t have to be tortured. Have fun!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.