An Origin Story of the Jack-O-Lantern
Throughout history, various peoples in what is now the United Kingdom carved monstrous faces into vegetables such as turnips, beets and even the thick stems of cabbages as a way to keep evil spirits away from their homes. The Jack-O-Lantern’s name comes from the strange phenomena of lights flickering over peat bogs, once called Will’o’the Wisp. It wasn’t until settlers came to the New World that pumpkins were used.
There are several folk stories of who Jack was, most commonly he is called Stingy Jack and had a reputation for deceiving and causing trouble for the townsfolk. As the story goes, the Devil heard of Stingy Jack’s notoriety and decided he must see for himself just what this character was up to. On this fateful night, Jack was wandering, drunk, through the countryside when he came upon a body laying on the ground. Upon approaching the body Jack realized this to be the Devil and knew that his time was up and he would soon be taken to Hell. Jack, in his usual trickster spirit, asked the Devil if they could go to the pub for one last drink. Having had several, Jack asked the Devil to pay his tab and suggested the Devil transform himself into a silver coin with which to pay. Once the Devil had switched form Jack placed him in a pocket along with his crucifix which then prevented the Devil from returning to his usual form. Stingy Jack made a wager with the Devil that if his soul would be spared for another 10 years he would release the Devil from the clutches of his pocket. Begrudgingly the Devil agreed.
Right on schedule, 10 years later, the Devil returned to Jack. Now being of this specific character, Stingy Jack was not about to accept his fate laying down! He asked the Devil to fetch him an apple to eat. Once the Devil had climbed the apple tree Jack surrounded it with wooden crosses, which prohibited the Devil from climbing down. Having realized he has been foolish to fall for Jack’s prank yet again, the Devil agreed to another bargain- Stingy Jack would remove the crosses if the Devil swore to never take his soul to Hell.
Eventually Stingy Jack had succumb to his gluttonous lifestyle. Upon approaching St. Peter at the gates of Heaven he was turned away for his troublesome behavior. Feeling a bit defeated Stingy Jack decided to try his luck and see if the underworld of Hell would accept him. The Devil reminded Jack of the final bargain they had made and sent him back to earth with an ember, as a way to warn others of Jack’s misdeeds and marking him as a citizen on the netherworld. For all eternity Stingy Jack wanders between the planes of both worlds carrying his “Jack-O-Lantern”- a turnip filled with an ember- to illuminate his path.