Archive for halloween

The Trick-or-Treaters

Posted in Fiction, Horror with tags , , , , on October 31, 2009 by smilingjacks

Halloween is one of the most exciting nights of the year. People dress up, go to parties, children go trick-or-treating–it’s one of the few times where the night is truly enjoyed by everyone. It’s ironic that a night devoted to spirits, monsters and terror is the one night where we feel safe in the darkness.

Just think about it: we walk through unfamiliar neighborhoods, visits the homes of strangers, and open our doors for people dressed as monsters and serial killers. Would we do that on any other night? Of course not–it would be far too dangerous. Halloween is just a special exception, isn’t it?

No. The dangers we fear by instinct in the dark are still very much present on this most revered night.

It was last year on Halloween. I was giving out candy to trick-or-treaters, as all good neighbors do. They were showing up pretty regularly throughout the early evening. There were young children accompanied by parents, teenagers enjoying their night of independence, and even a few nostalgic adults. You never know who’s going to show up at your door on Halloween.

Eventually, it got late and things started to die down. I hadn’t received a trick-or-treater in about an hour and I was just about turn my porch light off when there was a knock at the door.

It seemed a little late for children to still be out, but I grabbed my bowl of candy anyway. I opened the door, ready to greet the eager trick-or-treaters, when I saw two children wearing the strangest costumes I had seen all night.

Their skin was pale–ghostly white, in fact. Their eyes were completely black. Not just their pupils or irises; their entire eyes were pitch black. Their teeth were jagged like sharks’ teeth. They looked more monstrous than any trick-or-treaters I had seen before, but their clothes were plain. They wore ordinary t-shirts and shorts–normal attire.

Confused, I asked them, “What are you supposed to be? Some kind of monsters?”

“No,” the trick-or-treaters responded with discomforting smiles. “We’re dressed up as humans.”

Startled, I slammed the door and locked it. The trick-or-treaters stood outside the door for a few terrible minutes, banging on the door and calling for me to let them in. Their knocking caused the whole house to tremble. I could only watch the door as it shook in its frame. I was sure that it would fall off its hinges at any moment and they would be in, and yet I couldn’t find it in myself to do anything. I was paralyzed where I stood and transfixed on the door and the sounds of the trick-or-treaters calling to me.

Suddenly, it stopped. There was no pounding on the door, no voices outside, and when I looked out the window, I saw nothing.

I’m not sure what stopped them from getting in. Maybe they never wanted to. Maybe by closing the door, I chose “trick,” but I don’t really care. I just know that I never want to see those trick-or-treaters again.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not opening my door for strangers anymore–not even on Halloween.



The Legend of the Jack-o-Lantern

Posted in General, Non-Fiction, Urban Legends with tags , , , , , , on October 29, 2009 by smilingjacks

Jack-o-Lanterns are an absolute staple of Halloween customs in the United States, the United Kingdom, and many places in the world. Each year, children and adults alike are delighted to paint and carve the faces of pumpkins in unique designs. There are even contests centered around the practice and a number of people who actually make a profit from carving Jack-o-Lanterns.

We’re all familiar with pumpkin carving, but have you ever wondered where the practice came from? Like many Halloween customs, the Jack-o-Lantern originated in Ireland.

There’s an old Irish legend about a delinquent trickster by the name of (you guessed it) Jack. He was a debouched man who liked to engage in sins of the flesh, loved to drink, and made all sorts of mischief. His neighbors considered him an impossible nuisance, but no one could capture him because his lucky turnip always kept fortune on his side. It’s said that he even managed to play a mean trick on the Devil himself.


Jack met the Devil one dark Halloween night on the Irish countryside. The Devil had heard that Jack’s slyness rivaled his own, and he was determined to show the mischievous mortal who the one true hell raiser was.

After they made their introductions, they both went about getting chummy with one another. They bantered and drank and laughed together, both sizing each other up until an opportunity could present itself.

It was Jack who made the first move. Seeing some fruit in a nearby tree, he asked the Devil to climb the tree and fetch some fruit for the two of them. Despite his reluctance to respond to the request of a mortal, the Devil was happy to oblige. After all, there were a lot of cruel things that could be done with fruit. He could poison the fruit, or convince Jack that the fruit could give him magical powers and then challenge him to a flying contest off the roof of a barn, or a whole score of other things. The possibilities were vast.

The Devil made his way up the tree, smirking at all of the treacherous thoughts he was having. He didn’t notice soon enough that he was in fact the victim of Jack’s treachery. While the Devil was up in the tree, Jack took a cross out of his pocket and placed it on the tree’s trunk. When the Devil tried to climb down with the fruit, the cross repelled him. He was trapped in the tree and at Jack’s mercy.

“You wretched mortal,” the Devil said. “Just as soon as I get down, I’m going to make sure you never forget this!”

“I’ll let you down,” replied Jack. “As long as you swear never to take my soul into Hell.”

Jack knew he wasn’t righteous enough to make it into heaven, and he had no plans to change his ways. By forcing the Devil to submit, he figured he could come away with the certainty that he would never be made to suffer for his deeds. The Devil was beyond annoyed, as he would have loved to see Jack face damnation, but he was quite literally stuck, so he agreed.

The Devil didn’t get his revenge that evening. Midnight came too soon, and he had to yield with the coming of All Saint’s Day. Jack had won.

Then, years later, Jack fell ill and died. When he faced Judgment, to no one’s surprise, he was rejected from entering Heaven. Unfortunately, this meant he was forced to go to Hell.

The Devil laughed gleefully at the sight of the dejected Jack.

“I have no place to go but here,” Jack admitted upon seeing the Devil.

“That’s right,” said the Devil. “You have nowhere to go. After all, you won fair and square, and a promise is a promise. I will never take you into Hell”

Jack’s dead heart sank as even Hell wouldn’t have him. He was an orphaned soul with no home.

“Then where will I go?” asked Jack.

“Nowhere,” the Devil replied. “You were hated in life, you’re too wicked for Heaven, and you have no home here. No one wants you, Jack. You’re all alone.”

In a moment of genuine sorrow, the pitiful Jack muttered, “But how will I find my way?”

Just to mock the poor mortal, the Devil grabbed a single ember of hellfire and threw it at Jack. Then, he returned to his pit, leaving Jack all alone.

Jack sat by the light of the ember, wondering where he would go and how he would find his way in the darkness. Then, seeing the glow of the ember, he got an idea for how to light the way on his travels: with his lucky turnip. He took the turnip out of his pocket, hollowed it out, and placed the ember inside to make a lantern that he could use as he wandered about in search of a home.

Out of sympathy for the wandering ghost of Jack, his old neighbors put out lights to guide him on his endless travels. As the story spread, so did the tradition of placing out lanterns for Jack.

Even today, the people of the world carve Jack-o-Lanterns and light them on Halloween. Most of us think of it as just a fun pastime–a way of being festive, but these fun little decorations were originally meant to light the way for Jack and other wandering spirits.

Don’t let the lore deter you, however. In fact, I encourage you to all to set a Jack-o-Lantern out on Halloween. The drifting spirits will appreciate it, I’m sure. Who knows? The home they decide to settle down in might even be yours.

Happy Halloween.