How a Drunk and the Devil Shaped Our Most Iconic Halloween Symbol

fire-398808_1280

I’m taking a break from NaNoWriMo preparations to enjoy the holiday. We slammed some Halloween fun and a birthday celebration into the last couple of days. The weekend festivities ended with the traditional carving of the pumpkins.

You are likely aware that most Halloween traditions have roots in the Celtic holiday of Samhain which marked the end of summer and final harvest time. It was also a period when supernatural forces were particularly active. On this night the door to the spirit world opened and spirits were allowed to freely roam the Earth. To keep evil spirits away, raging bonfires were lit.

In the middle-ages the festival morphed into All Hallows Eve. Eventually the bonfires were toned down to hallowed out gourds and turnip lanterns. When Irish immigrants came to America they found that the native pumpkin was a superior way to create these lanterns. Ta-dah, the jack-o-lantern was born.

You might not believe this looking at my profile picture but my Pop is pure Scotch/Irish with the surname to prove it! There is an Irish folktale that tells a much more interesting story about how jack-o-lanterns came to be.

Stingy-Jack forever doomed to roam the Earth.

Stingy-Jack forever doomed to roam the Earth.

There once was a man named Stingy-Jack. He liked to drink, hang out at the pub, mooch off of everybody for drinks, and to play tricks on them because he fancied himself so much smarter than they. He wasn’t an especially likable fellow. So much so, that one Hallows Eve he found himself face to face with the Devil.

Stingy-Jack was sure he could outsmart the Devil, so he offered his soul in exchange for a drink. The Devil quickly changed himself into a coin to pay for the drink. He didn’t know that Stingy-Jack had already mooched a coin from another patron to pay for the drink. He snatched up the coin and put it in his pocket next to a silver cross that he always carried. Because of the cross, the Devil could not change into his real form and was trapped as a coin. Stingy-Jack refused to free the Devil until he promised not to claim his soul for ten years. The Devil agreed and Stingy-Jack released him.

Fast forward ten years. Stingy-Jack was walking along a darkened country road when the Devil came to collect what was due to him. Again, Stingy-Jack used his tricky ways. He told the Devil he would go but could the Devil please climb the tree and get him an apple first?

For whatever reason, the Devil went up the tree to get the apple and Jack quickly etched a cross on the trunk. The Devil now could not climb down from the tree. Jack made the Devil promise not to collect his soul now or when he eventually died. The Devil was furious but had no choice other than to agree.

Several years later Jack passed-away. He presented himself to the gates of heaven but was told he could not enter because of his deceitful, drunken life. He then presented himself to hell. The Devil remembered the promise he had made and refused him entrance. Instead, he was banished to roam the Earth forever with only a turnip lantern to light his way. This doomed ghostly figure was referred to as Jack of the Lantern and eventually Jack O’Lantern. In Ireland and Scotland people began placing their own version of Jack’s lantern in windows and doorways to keep evil spirits at bay.

As you carve your own jack-o-lanterns keep poor Stingy-Jack in mind. I think he actually got it easy compared to an eternity in hell!

My Family's Creations this Halloween.

My Family’s Creations this Halloween.

Until next time, Never Turn Off the Lights!

Advertisements

Cursed Objects?

I was searching around on the internet in the pursuit of football cleats and storage systems, and as is common with me, I strayed from my task at hand. When searching storage items a result popped up for burial urns. You did know that cookies and previous search history affect your search results, right? For most writers, if the police had to check out our search history we’d be in big trouble.

I followed the burial urn finding which eventually led me to Ebay where I found several “haunted urns” for sale. This led to haunted dolls, jewelry, photos, paintings, furniture, and more. This got me thinking about the validity of the claims. Can an object be haunted or cursed? Can an inanimate object retain energy from a previous owner? So much for football cleats and organizing the basement playroom.

I started searching around the internet and along with some episodes of “The Haunted Collector” I found some weird stories. The one that follows stood out for reasons I’ll reveal later.

The Basano Vase

The Cursed Basano Vase via Pinterest

The Cursed Basano Vase via Pinterest

This is a 15th century Italian silver vase with a disturbing history. Italian folklore says that it was a wedding gift to a young woman who died on her wedding night with the vase clutched to her chest. As it passed from family member to family member it brought death to anyone who owned it. The family reportedly hid the vase away but it was found again in 1988 with a note tucked inside that read “beware – this vase brings death”.

The person who found it was apparently not a believer in such things and threw away the note and sold the vase to an auction house. It went through the hands of a pharmacist, a surgeon, an archeologist, and an unlisted fourth owner. All of these owners died unexpectedly just weeks after purchasing the vase.

The last owner’s family tossed the cursed thing out of the window in desperation. It almost hit a passing police officer who promptly issued a disorderly behavior ticket. The officer tried to return the vase but the family member stated he would rather be arrested than take it back! It is reported that the police buried the vase.

Why is that Significant?

As with most things I find interesting, I was sharing all of this information and the possibility of making it a blog post with my husband. I usually spring this stuff on him in the car or very late at night, that seems to be the only time we ever have to chat.

He told me that a few days before, a woman had brought a very old copper pot with intricate inscriptions on it to his shop. The handle had broken off and she wondered if anyone there could repair it for her. After repairing it they were unable to get her to come back and pick it up, to the point that she stopped returning their phone calls. Jokingly, my husband told the guy who volunteered to fix it that it had better not be some kind of cursed thing.

Coincidence? I don’t believe in them and told him to get rid of it just to be safe, but take a picture first for my post! By the time he got back around to it she had already picked it up, no picture for me!

Just a side-note, as I was getting ready to post this I remembered that I have a silver vase in my house. It was purchased at a thrift store to use in staging our house when we sold it a couple years ago. I liked it so much I kept it. Now I’m wondering if I should be wondering about its history!

myvase

Think you have a cursed object? The good news is that you can probably sell it on Ebay or at the thrift store, the bad news is the rate of return might be high. And the bad-bad news, it may return itself! Until next time, Never Turn off the Lights!

Double 13 Whammy

Perhaps you have realized that tomorrow is Friday the 13th, 2013!

Friggatriskaidekaphobics (people who suffer with a phobia of Friday the 13th) will certainly not miss the double 13 whammy of this date. Even those who don’t overly fear Friday the 13th, this date looms in the back of their minds. Perhaps they won’t fly on this date or drive any further than necessary or avoid eating out.

friday-the-13th-meme

How did Friday the 13th get such a bad reputation? Well horror fans will tell you it’s because of the movie franchise, but no, there’s more to it than that. It can be nearly impossible to tell when a superstition very first come to be but there are some interesting ideas around why 13 is so feared.

Christianity had a hand in it. Judas, the betrayer of Jesus, was the 13th guest at the last supper and Christ was crucified on a Friday. According to historians Friday was already known as Hangman’s day so it wasn’t a stretch for medieval Christians to marry the two fears. There is also an obscure belief that Cain murdered Abel on a Friday the 13th, role model for Jason? Perhaps.

jason

Even earlier than that there is a Norse myth about a party of 12 gods being crashed by a 13th uninvited guest, Loki. He arranged the assassination of Balder the Beautiful, god of joy and gladness, causing the whole earth to mourn. This may lend to a superstition that if 13 people sit down to dinner one of them will be die within a year, bon appétit!

We couldn’t possibly forget about witches on this day, right? Ancient Romans believed that witches gathered in groups of 12, the 13th member was the devil.

witches

You may scoff at such superstition but it’s been estimated that hundreds of millions of dollars are lost in business on this day due to people avoiding business they would normally do. As for myself, this is the only date I ever buy lottery tickets because that’s how I roll. I have yet to win. Coincidence? Perhaps.

Paul Walker Brings Up Another Hollywood Tragedy, James Dean

The sudden and shocking passing of actor Paul Walker in a horrific car accident has deeply affected his fans and friends. His acting career started when he was 2 in a diaper commercial but he will be remembered for his portrayal of undercover officer Brian O’Conner in the successful Fast and Furious movie franchise. They created a moving tribute to Paul on YouTube.

This reminded me of another young star that was also cut down by a car accident, James Dean.  He didn’t star in as many movies as Paul Walker, only three. Most famously as the dark teenaged Jim Stark in Nichols Ray’s Rebel Without a Cause in 1955. Yes, a bit before most of our times but worth taking a look at.  During the filming of this movie he acquired a new car that he intended to race, a rare Porsche.

On September 30, 1955, James Dean was driving his personalized Porsche 550 Spyder to an auto rally. He had a custom paint job with the number 130 on the hood, trunk, and the doors. Also painted on the rear of the car was Dean’s nickname, “Little Bastard”. When he first acquired the car friends were concerned. Alec Guinness (you know him as Obi-Wan Kenobi from Star Wars Episode VI) said the car was sinister and Dean would be dead within a week. Eerily, the car would perhaps prove him right.

As Dean and his passenger, Rolf Wuetherich, headed westbound on what is now State Route 46 in California, a heavy ford sedan pulled out in front of them. Wuetherich was thrown clear of the car but suffered broken bones, the driver of the Ford suffered minor injuries. James Dean was the lone fatality at only 24 years old.

The story certainly doesn’t end there.

George Barris, the man who did the custom paint, paid $2500 to acquire the wreckage of the car with the intent of selling it for parts. As soon as the car got to Barris’ garage it slipped off the trailer and broke a mechanic’s leg.  Barris sold the engine to Dr. Troy McHenry who put it in his racecar. He was killed when his car crashed into a tree at the Pomona fairgrounds. Dr. William Eschrid bought the drive train for use in his car. He was seriously injured when the car rolled on a curve; he later said that it just locked up on him. Another unfortunate recipient of parts bought two tires that simultaneously blew causing the car to crash but the driver survived. A teen boy who tried to steal an emblem from the car slashed his arm open on a piece of jagged metal.

The California Highway Patrol used the remnants of the car for a highway safety program. During this time the car was stored in a garage in Fresno, California. A fire broke out and incinerated the entire contents of the garage with the exception of Little Bastard. On the way to Salinas for a display the flatbed truck hauling the car lost control and ejected the driver. He survived the ejection but then Little Bastard fell off the truck and crushed him to death. In 1960 the car mysteriously disappeared on the way to Miami and its whereabouts are unknown.

Cursed car? Some are convinced it goes beyond the car. Consider James Dean’s cast members from Rebel Without a Cause, Sal Mineo and Natalie Wood.  In 1976 Sal Mineo was fatally stabbed in an alleyway behind his apartment in West Hollywood. The motive and killer have never been satisfactorily determined. Natalie Wood drowned in 1981 under suspicious circumstances. Originally deemed an accident new evidence in 2012 showed she had bruising prior to drowning pointing to the possibility of foul play. No one has ever been charged.

Cursed car, people, or movie? Coincidences? Unrelated tragedies? You’ll have to draw your own conclusions.

Curses and scary stories aside, my heart goes out to friends, family, and fans of Paul Walker. It’s always a tragedy when someone is taken before their time. He’s left more than a legacy of good entertainment, his charity Reach Out World Wide is providing first-responder type aid all over the globe in disaster situations. Check them out at https://www.roww.org/ and consider making a donation in Paul Walker’s memory.