The Story of Jack
Pumpkins are carved into Jack O'Lanterns for Halloween. We bake them
into Pumpkin pie. Tales of terror have used pumpkins to create an eerie
atmosphere. How did the pumpkin become associated with Halloween? Well
the answer is in the tale of an unfortunate soul named Jack. Here are
just a couple of variations of the story.
Legend tells us that a blacksmith named
Jack made a pack with the Devil, giving his soul in return for mastery
of his trade. One day, a saint named Peter came to Jack and offered him
three wishes, hoping that he would choose wisely and save his soul. Jack
instead used the tree wishes to trick the devil. When his time on earth
was up, neither God nor the Devil would have anything to do with him.
So, Jack scooped up some coal from the fires of Hell and placed
them in the turnip that he was carrying. He uses the lantern to light
his way, and roams the earth until his judgment day.
jack-o'-lantern once took the form of a carved turnip, the favored
vegetable in Europe. The tradition was brought to America in the 1840s
by Irish immigrants fleeing their country's potato famine. Since there
was a lack of turnips in America and pumpkins were plentiful, the
pumpkin was used instead.
According to Irish folklore, a man named Jack, well known for his
drunkenness and quick temper, got very drunk at a local pub on All
Hallows Eve. As his life began to slip away the Devil appeared to claim
Jack's soul. Jack, eager to stay alive, begged the Devil to let him have
just one more drink before he died. The Devil agreed. Jack was short of
money and asked the Devil if he wouldn't mind assuming the shape of a
sixpence so Jack could pay for the drink. After the transaction the
Devil could change back.
how the Devil is quite gullible in almost all of these folk tales, he
agreed again to help Jack out and changed himself into a sixpence. Jack
immediately grabbed the coin and shoved it into his wallet, which just
happened to have a cross-shaped catch on it. The Devil now imprisoned in
the wallet screamed with rage and ordered Jack to release him.
Jack agreed to free the Devil from his wallet if the Devil agreed not to
bother Jack for a whole year. Again, the Devil agreed to Jack's terms.
Realizing he now had a new lease on life, at least for a year, Jack
decided to mend his ways. For a time Jack was good to his wife and
children and began to attend church and give charity. Eventually Jack
slipped back into his evil ways. The next All Hallows Eve, as Jack was
heading home, the Devil appeared and demanded that Jack
accompany him. Once again Jack, not too eager to die, distracted the
devil by pointing to a nearby apple tree. Jack convinced the Devil to
get an apple out of the tree and even offered to hoist the Devil up on
his shoulders to help him get the apple. The Devil fooled once again by
Jack, Climbed into the tree and plucked an apple. Jack took out a knife
and carved a cross into the trunk of the tree. Trapped once again the
Devil howled to be released, and told Jack he would give him 10 years of
peace in exchange for his release. Jack, on the other hand, insisted the
Devil never bother Jack again. The Devil agreed and was released.
Almost a year later, Jack's body was unable to keep up with his evil
ways and Jack died. When Jack tried to enter Heaven he was told that
because of his meanness he would not be allowed into Heaven. When Jack
attempted to gain entry into Hell, the Devil, still smarting from years
of humiliation refused Jack admission. However, being the kind Devil
that he was, the Devil threw Jack a piece of coal to help Jack find his
way in the dark of limbo. Jack put the piece of coal into a turnip and
it became known as a jack-o’-lantern.
On All Hallows Eve if you look you can still see Jack's flame burning
dimly as he searches for a home.