Day 1 of the 31 Days of Myths, Magic, Mayhem, and more…
I will be your host for the evening, and tonight I will take you on a journey of discovering why certain items have come to define the holiday where the supernatural and the living intertwine. What is it about buying costumes, purchasing mountains of candy, exploring haunted houses and decorating our homes that makes Halloween so special?
What are the myths behind the traditions?
Craving of pumpkins
The devil is in the details, as this myth will prove. The Irish has a story about a man named Stingy Jack. A name that he was given because, you guessed it, he was stingy. One night, he was sitting in a local pub and invited the devil to have a drink with him. When it came time to pay, Stingy Jack refused and tricked the devil into turning himself into a coin. Once the devil did, Stingy Jack pocketed the coin next to a silver cross, trapping the devil in that form. He eventually released him – but only after making a deal with him: the devil couldn’t claim Stingy Jack’s soul for an entire year.
The Devil waited until the year was up, then came to collect. But Stingy Jack thought fast and talked the Devil into climbing a tree in order to get him a piece of fruit. Once the Devil had clambered up the tree, however, Stingy Jack swiftly carved a cross into the trunk – trapping the Devil. After much negotiation, Stingy Jack offered to remove the symbol if the Devil agreed not to take his soul for ten more years.
Now obviously, the devil was upset but he upheld his side of the bargain. Stingy Jack must have felt like he had won the lottery. That is until he died.
When Stingy Jack’s soul was ready to be collected- no one wanted him. The devil couldn’t take his soul, and god wasn’t keen on having him in heaven. So Stingy Jack was forced to roam the earth, looking for a place to call home. But the devil wasn’t completely heatless; he left him with a burning piece of coal, which Stingy Jack placed in a hollowed-out turnip to light his way.
Hence the name- “Jack of the Lantern,” and then, simply “Jack O’Lantern.”
The myth that particularly caught my attention when researching the need for costumes was about the Morrigan. This goddess of war and fate had many shapeshifting abilities, some of which included a raven flying over battlefields or a cow, an eel, and even a female wolf. She persuaded her people to harness their self-transformative abilities to rise above their enemies.
This transformation was more than just about being scary; it was a way to empower people to take control of their lives. Nowadays, people dress up as vampires, werewolves, witches, and other ‘frightful’ creatures to show that evil has no power over them. Or they could choose to become kings and queens or dress up like their favorite celebrity, believing – even if only for one night – they can be something more than what they are.
It has been suggested that people in the past used to disguise themselves when bringing gifts for the dead, so as not to be identified by them.
Haunted Houses are not a modern invention, but rather an extension of horrifying exhibitions dating back to the early 1800’s.
1802- Marie Tussaud opened her exhibition of wax sculptures of decapitated French nobility- notably, King Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette, Marat, and Robespierre. When she set up a permanent collection, she called it the “Chamber of Horrors.” We will be talking more about Marie Tussaud in a future blog about her inspiration and methods of creating such realistic figures.
In Paris, the Grand Guignol Theater made the newspapers when it featured on-stage performances of graphic dismemberment. It is said that the director, Max Maurey, prided himself on how many of the audience would pass out or leave from shock.
In 1915, Patrick Collins built the first haunted house as a gift for his wife Flora. It was a huge success and it still in operation today in in Liphook, England at Hollycombe Working Steam Museum.
Popularity sky rocked during the Great Depression when families sought a way to entertain children on Halloween and scale back on the ‘mayhem’ they were causing on gardens, homes, and city buildings. Parents band together to create ‘haunted basements’ or rooms, and children would follow the ‘trail’ from one home to another- always under the watchful eye of an adult.
But the cherry to the sundae was came from an unsuspected place. Disneyland. The Haunted Mansion at Disneyland opened in 1969, almost 20 years after Disney gave the green light for the project. The attraction was modeled on Evergreen House and Winchester Mystery House and was an immediate hit. Not long after it opened, over 82,000 people flocked through the gates in a single day.
There are so many more aspects of Halloween that we get to discover during the next 30 days, and I look forward to walking the line between myths, reality, and the frightening with you!
When witches go riding,
And black cats are seen,
The moon laughs and whispers
‘Tis near Halloween.
If tales of legend, myth and fantasy topped with a nice cup of coffee interest you, I suggest taking a look at my book The Writer and the Librarian. It’s a historical fantasy about a middle-aged woman faced with a decision: accept what is written in books or find out for herself the truth behind the stories. Now available on
And on any of your favorite Indie Book Store website!