Concerning the facts and fictional use of Jack-o’-lanterns in Halloween.
With an orange face and a jolly smile,
The jack-o’-lantern gives your home some style.
Carved with skill or just for fun,
This pumpkin’s face is made to stun.
Born of Halloween and folklore fright,
The decoration is now all about delight.
Tradition that comes from old times past,
Enjoy these works of art while they last.
When it comes to Halloween the first creature you think of is a Jack-o’-lantern. Originally used in Ireland to celebrate Samhain, an early version of the holiday Halloween, they used carved turnips with a candle inside to light the way for visiting spirits or to protect their homes from mischievous ones. In America, pumpkins were used instead because they were more plentiful and easier to carve due to their larger size. They were first used on Halloween in 1866. The name Jack-o’-lantern came from an old Irish folk tale about a greedy farmer/ thief who makes a deal with the devil for his soul and then gets away with it by tricking the evil fiend. The upset devil then curses Jack to never be able to enter Heaven or Hell, so his spirit must wander Earth forever. To keep him company he carries his favorite food, a turnip. He carves it into a lantern to light his way as his restless soul wanders the world, and hence forth he is called “Jack of the Lantern”. In fiction and movies jack-o’-lanterns almost never appear as monsters, but appear often on the book covers and movie posters for stories that take place on Halloween. The best use of this image is the poster for the movie Halloween (1978). One of the first uses of a jack-o’-lantern as a monster is the French story La Citrouille Hunget by Ansel Dashiell (1894). “The Hungry Pumpkin” is a slow brooding tale of a pumpkin-like creature who carves his victims. A very ghoulish story for its time, it was quickly banned. With movies the two most well known films where jack-o’-lanterns are referred to coming to life are, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charley Brown (1966) and Trick ‘r Treat (2007). There isn’t much out there in the world of fiction, jack-o’-lanterns are a vastly underused creep.
For Halloween the jack-o’-lantern is king of the crop. The image of a jack-o’-lantern is by far the number one used Halloween decoration ever, with both homemade and paper decorations. One of the first Beistle decorations was a jack-o’-lantern produced in 1921. As for costumes surprisingly there is very little. The best being a Don Post pumpkin mask replica of the one used in the movie Halloween III. Now the real treat about jack-o’-lanterns is going to a pumpkin farm, finding a pumpkin, carving it with the family, and using the beauty to decorate the entryway of your home. If you find any strange jack-o’-lanterns in your yard, be careful it may be a monster waiting to carve you up!