Legend of Stingy Jack

Jack O’ Lanterns can be found on nearly every porch during Halloween – often with extravagant designs that took hours to perfect.


As we inch closer to Halloween, the sight of carved Jack O’ Lanterns sitting on front steps and porches becomes familiar. But did you ever stop to think why we engage in this curious tradition? Pumpkins have been carved and illuminated for centuries, yet few people know the origins behind the practice. How did we decide to start carving pumpkins, and how did they become a universally-recognized symbol of Halloween?

With the season of spooks upon us, it seems only fitting to explore the history of the Jack O’ Lantern, and the lore that led to this now ubiquitous symbol. To tell this story properly, though, we must go back to the Irish legend of ol’ Stingy Jack and his encounter with the Devil.

Dealing with the DevilDealing with the Devil

Stingy Jack was not well liked in his community; an overt drunk, liar, and manipulator, his poor reputation knew no bounds. It went so far, in fact, that the Devil himself heard rumors of Jack’s malevolence. So intrigued was the Devil, that he had to see if the stories were true.

One dark Halloween night, as Jack stumbled home, he came across a body on a cobblestone path. Suddenly, the body arose and took the form of the Devil. Jack realized he was in trouble. Thinking fast, he offered the Devil his soul in exchange for one last drink. It was a deal the Devil could not refuse.

Back at the pub, the Devil turned himself into a coin to pay for Jack’s drink. But rather than giving the coin to the bartender, Jack stuffed it into his pocket where he also kept a silver cross. Held captive and unable to escape, Jack made the Devil agree to leave him alone for a period of ten years. The Devil agreed. Jack took the coin out of his pocket, and the Devil went free.

Exactly ten years later, the Devil returned. This time, Stingy Jack was prepared. Before the Devil could claim his soul, Jack convinced him to climb an apple tree and retrieve a piece of fruit so Jack could enjoy one last earthly delight before his soul was collected. And so up the tree did the Devil climb, to pick the biggest, shiniest apple available. As he did this, Jack quickly surrounded the tree trunk with crucifixes, ensuring that the Devil couldn’t come down. Once more the Devil was held captive. This time, Jack made the Devil promise that he would not come for Stingy Jack’s soul even after he died. Seeing no way out of the trap he’d fallen into, the Devil reluctantly agreed.

Stingy Jack walks in the darkThe Jack O’ Lantern is Born

Upon his death, Jack went to the Gates of Heaven and asked for entrance. But so terrible were his sins on Earth, that his request was denied. With no other options, Jack was forced to go down to Hell where he begged the Devil to allow him to enter. However, the Devil would not go back on his promise and refused to claim Jack’s soul.

Denied entrance to Hell, and unwelcome in Heaven, Jack found himself doomed to walk between the worlds of the living and the dead in endless night. Unable to navigate in the dark, he pleaded with the Devil to give him a light. As a final parting gesture, the Devil offered him a single ember from the eternal fires of Hell. Before embarking on his journey, Jack placed the ember in a hollowed-out turnip (his favorite food, which he always kept close at hand) to help illuminate the way. From that day on, Stingy Jack has roamed the eternal darkness between worlds, guided only by the light of his makeshift lantern.

The Tradition Spreads

From this legend grew a European tradition of carving wicked faces into turnips and beets in hopes that the scary faces would keep ol’ Jack away. These fruits were then hollowed out, and illuminated from within using coals from the fireplace. However, carving a turnip or beet is not easy to do, and once the Europeans began to colonize what is now the United States, they were introduced to the pumpkin. Larger than beets and turnips (and much easier to carve) pumpkins quickly supplanted their smaller relatives to become the standard canvas for Jack O’ Lanterns.

Fast forward to today, and Jack O’ Lanterns can be found on nearly every porch during Halloween – often with extravagant designs that took hours to perfect. And while they make for great holiday decorations, its unclear whether they’re actually effective in warding off Stingy Jack.

78 comments

  1. power to the people says:

    Hmmmmm…..yay. The uber-religious and God blessed jack-o-lantern. With a complete and utter fairy tale as it’s history.

    I’m impressed.

    1. Rev. Thomas says:

      But thats the America way! slander and smear anyone els’s traditions into Satanism and devil worship! Christians are so 2 faced! they literally demonize any religion that isn’t like theirs! The story the posted isn’t even real. Its completely made up! Just like their “one true god”!

      1. Lea Weisenbach says:

        Spot on

      2. power to the people says:

        Well……way to generalize. Not “all Christians” are like that.

        Oh, and I guess as long as it’s what YOU believe, it’s true, right?

        Just sayin’.

  2. Lionheart says:

    Are wandering spirits just a figment of our imagination, or is there sufficient evidence yet that they are real?

    1. power to the people says:

      SHOW ME THE PROOF! Ahahahahahahahahahaha.

      1. Rev. Thomas says:

        Show me the proof Jesus existed! There is NONE! Yet you insist your delusion is real!
        You know the difference between a CULT and an organized religion? The number of members!!!!

        1. power to the people says:

          WHOA “Rev.” Thomas!

          You are just talking out of your a ss when you say things like that. That makes for -0- credibility.

          So, what’s your cult called?

      2. Rev V says:

        How do you know it’s not true

        1. power to the people says:

          Oh, ghosties and demons and angels could all be “real”. Or maybe not……no one can say for sure.

    2. Lori says:

      They appear to be real to those who believe they are. For some strange reason people seem to want demons, devils and ghosts to exist. Personally, I have no need for such things, so I’ve never encountered them.

      1. power to the people says:

        I have no want or need for demons, or ghosts. I was being sarcastic.

        1. Lori says:

          I wasn’t responding to you. You can be as sarcastic as you like, but it’s good to hear you’re not into the whole demon thing.

          1. power to the people says:

            I LOVE the way the web convolutes everything. lol.

      2. Rev. Thomas says:

        appear to be real… just like the christians think of their Jesus!

        1. Terence Humphrey says:

          John 3:17-18

        2. Lori says:

          Rev. Thomas… yes, Jesus is dead and gone, but Christians still believe he is present and there is nothing wrong with that if it brings them comfort. If they think that theirs is the only way, then they have problems. It is pure arrogance to think you have all the answers…..and many do.

          1. power to the people says:

            Then there are those who insist THEY are right, of course they have no proof either, lol.

          2. Lori says:

            Anyone, Christian, Pagan, atheist, whatever….if they think theirs is the only and correct path they are part of the BIG problem that plagues the world. Each person has their own way of looking at spirituality, or not, and we all make our way to the same destination. If people could grasp that and accept it, it would be a better world.

          3. power to the people says:

            Right on Lori.
            Live and let live, to each their own.

  3. The Pastor says:

    yep just like Santa and the Easter Bunny. All made up to scare the daylights out of us so Steven King can get rich.

    1. Tooth Fairy says:

      You’re scared of Santa and the Easter Bunny?

      1. Hate the evil in this world says:

        No only Steven King. You mis undertook me.

  4. STOP THE HATE says:

    Ever notice how there seems to be more evil in the world than good these days? And the tv news alwsys reports the Bad. That’s because we allow it.
    Time to try Peace and love. Don’t let your child dress up as the devil. Take control. Start by being nice to the people around you. Open the door for someone.
    Say goog morning to the person serving your coffee at Star Bucks. I don’t know about you, but I think we have had enough hate in this world. Let’s make it stop.

    1. Janine Salisbury says:

      God is love and love is the answer

      1. Lionheart says:

        Yep! God is love, that’s why he drowned men, women, and “children” on the face of the earth, apart from that drunkard and his family.

        He had major anger management issues. I thought Hitlers genocide was bad!

        1. power to the people says:

          Where’s your proof?
          lol.
          Rediculous.

          1. power to the people says:

            Call me delusional all you want. I’d rather live in Janine’s world than one where you have to find hate and doom in everything.

          2. Lionheart says:

            Sure! You can live in Janines delusional world, and why not, millions do. They always say God is love, which is clearly obvious they haven’t read the Old Testament. He’s one very angry jealous dude!

            Personally, I find the Harry Potter books better than the one most Christians like to blindly follow.

        2. power to the people says:

          You love your assumptions, don’t you?…..and your generalizations.

          Have you read the New Testament?

          1. Lionheart says:

            Please don’t tell me the things I’ve stated about the Old Testament are assumptions. If you do, then you haven’t read it. You’ll be telling me next that I’m generalizing if I mention that God struck down all the first born babies in Egypt. He didn’t just stop there, he was having such a temper tantrum he also struck down the first born of all livestock. Do you think I’m still assuming? Take a look at Exodus 12. Exodus is in the Old Testament being as you think I’m assuming and generalizing.

            As for the New Testament, it’s my understanding that it’s still the same God….right? Or am I assuming and generalizing? Please tell me where in the New Testament your God, or Jesus, denounced slavery. He had some wonderful commandments that he told everyone like don’t kill, don’t steal, don’t tell lies, love your neighbor. Wouldn’t you have thought it was the perfect opportunity to denounce slavery? I guess he must have been happy with it. I’m sure those that were still in bondage at that time must have been thinking “WTF”. “What about us? Where’s the “love” for us in bondage”?

            But, I’m sure you still think I’m just generalizing, because your Jesus is such a wonderful guy. After all, he oozes love, he could walk on water, and turn water in Merlot 🙂 , and ignore those in slavery.

  5. John Owens says:

    Seems almost as real as Sasquatch and space aliens, more real than socialist Utopia.

    1. Tooth Fairy says:

      Kids these days are being indoctrinated by this nonsense from the left. These kids need the Bible. They need to know about a talking snake, multi-headed monsters, an old man constructing a ship all on his own without modern tools that fit 7.7 million animal species despite being smaller than the Titanic, god-ordained incestuous rape, god demanding the murder of an innocent child as a practical joke, and the requirement that members of other religions be killed and their property destroyed or stolen. Most importantly, they need to memorize the word of god and keep it with them, especially Ezekiel 23:20.

      1. chiefhall says:

        Tooth Fairy and Gerbil – you both are hilarious! Thank you for a much-needed smile!

      2. power to the people says:

        haha! A person’s interpretation says much about them, especially when they accept another interpretation for their own. 😉

      3. Minister Anthony says:

        Great post.

    2. gerbil says:

      It’s as real as Donald and Melania’s love for one another!

      1. Lionheart says:

        Yep, it’s as real as Obama’s US Birth Certificate

        1. power to the people says:

          Crazy political talk here. No one knows about the trumps “love” for each other, but the Obama thing is waaaay past old news….the only people who hang onto the whole “Obama has a fake birth certificate” are lost in the past. Probably still whining about Ms. Clinton as well. Guess it’s easy to forget what a piece of womanizing crap trump was/is, or the fact that he constantly lies.

          Let it go, go got your “president”, now live with it, haha.

          And before you go off on me and generalize, I have no interest or connection to EITHER of the two parties that are destroying our country.

  6. Some one who knows says:

    I know Sasquatch. He’s a lock smith with A 1 lock smith of Fairfield, Connecticut. Hangs out at Dunkin Donuts. Ask any body.
    Every one in Fairfield knows him.

    1. chiefhall says:

      yes, but has anyone ever gotten a non-blurry picture of him?

      1. I saw the dude says:

        No you will need a wide lens for that. He’s a big guy.
        And he’s over 6 foot tall.

        1. Lori says:

          I saw him awhile back. He was making a trek through Southington!

  7. Christian Science says:

    All physical meterial is just Energy in ‘solid form’, and ALL of it combines only accounts for 5% of the contents of the visible Universe, or our multiverse instence, as it is…

    So, if you have a Higgs Field nullifier, and can negate the mass-effect of your energy, you can easily build a ship to travel faster than light.

    If we ‘physical’ creatures can invent Star-Drives powered by Dark Energy Reactors, this Universe is all ours for the taking.

    If we creatures can Live in just 5% of our Universe, certainly some other creatures may be living in the 95% of Dark Matter and Dark Energy we can only detect by reference.

  8. Lea says:

    I love all the Holidays..I don’t follow the hate of religion in demonizing others.
    For Halloween to me its great fun for everyone to pick a fun costume. I look at it as just away to remember our past ancestors..
    Also I like to follow the pagan ways at seasons change..Forget the dogma.

  9. Rev paul says:

    Haha christianity is so full of church crap. First of all, this devil is fiction all made up. Demons are a different thing and do not look like pumpkins… fools. Legend of … right.

    1. Lionheart says:

      It sounds as though you believe, and know, what demons look like. Please educate us with all the supporting data you might have, this could be very interesting.

      1. Rev Paul says:

        Ha… found a few and have you ever turned one into powder? So easy to do. But I do not recommend anyone to try this. It requires Power and Authority besides the right tools. If you know how, then you can do it and are allowed to. Otherwise it is useless to explain. I can tell you that prayer is ineffective and these guys move faster than sage smoke can affect them. I’ll give you a clue, shaped energy.

        1. Lori says:

          Wow. Really? You’re pretty funny. You are joking, right.

    2. Sammy says:

      Rev Paul really and you are rev talking yea wright I want to go to your church you must not read the bible or you just leave the truth out

      1. Lori says:

        ULC is not just for Christians and the bible thumpers. It’s for everyone. UN-I-VER-SAL.

        1. power to the people says:

          From most of the comments on this “blog” (all of the ULC blogs) I am guessing there are more atheists and new age folks here than Christians.

          1. Lionheart says:

            Actually, I think you’ll find they are realists, and secular humanists, that listen, research, and understand reason.

          2. power to the people says:

            I know a few Christians that humanists, that listen, research, and understand reason.
            Admittedly, not alot.

            There is one “Christian” I have to deal with that tells me things like “My pastor told me that God told him that your daughter practices witchcraft”.
            Then again, I know atheists who are so closed minded, it’s a waste of time to have a conversation with them. They know it all, are never wrong, and get mad at anyone who dares challenge them.

            Takes every kind of people I guess.

      2. Rev paul says:

        Wow, are you just dense? Not all people are christians as defined by some religions. My church is where ever I AM. I have read that bible and its not the only or definitive book on the subject. BTW, if you ever meet the real Jesus, you just might be surprised. But that is my truth Sammy, may you find yours.

        1. McGann mean anything to you says:

          If Sammy is who I think he is then you will have to
          forgive him cause he’s just plain stupid. Comes from a long line of stupid people. Had a brother Teddy worse than him.

  10. oldbill says:

    It is naïve to entertain ideas that might cause disruption in one’s spiritual existence.

  11. oldbill says:

    The news was just warning us not to take our little ones to homes with sexual predators. They were showing police/deputies making their annual trips to the sexual predators houses in the neighborhood, to make sure they know not to participate in the annual festivities.

  12. John Owens says:

    Cute fable.

  13. Chris says:

    Thank you John, cute fable. C’mon guys. We don’t have to believe in something to enjoy a good story. God gave us the imagination – imagine and have fun.

  14. Could a fooled me says:

    you mean holloween isn’t a holiday made up by candy makers?

  15. Sad says:

    went to wal mart for candy. They got Christmas trees up already.
    skip right over Thanksgiving why don’t ya. No money in Thanksgiving so they go right to the BIG MONEY holiday. How sad. Forgot what Christmas is all about .

  16. Mark says:

    The fact that anyone denies the existence of Christ, proves they are compelled to seek Christ out , the belief in GOD, the light is in us all. You can not touch Joy or a lot of other emotions, yet they exsist? Denial is the path straight to Christ!

  17. Kenneth Higham says:

    I see nothing religious to hallowe’en. This evening is the eve of All Saints’. The evening is listed as a fast. That doesn’t leave much time for parties. Let people have their fun, especially children but for the rest of us the focus is not in candy or beer it is on all the saints, known and unknown who collectively have their birthday on 1 November. Happy All Saints’ Day!

  18. The druid shrum says:

    Happy Samhain everyone.

  19. Terrance Barratta says:

    Rev T.J.
    Sorry to horn in on the conversation, but i had to put in my 2 cents worth. I believe its not the religion that will ultimately save you. Its what you do while your alive and here that will dictate what happens next. Wheather you believe in 1 God or 2 or 3 or not at all. I believe that no 1 religion is completely 100 percent right. Therefore keeping in that line of thinking. Have a happy and safe Halloween,Christmass,Easter, etc. etc.

  20. Just want to know says:

    why do we even get into these topics? does it matter one way or the other if the devil is real or demons haunt houses? Long as it’s not Your house you have nothing to worry about. There are ULC ministers who will do a house blessing if you think you need one. And the Catholics do that thing to rid you of evil spirits.
    HOLY WATER? I DON’T THINK SO. It’s tap water

    So how is it Holy?

  21. I.S. Johnson says:

    That’s Bunk to its core. The Gaelic tradition of Sohwain (that is not the correct spelling) was Christianized into an existing day, All Saints Day’s Eve, when the ghosts of those not passed over walked the earth. People wore costumes to not be recognized by said ghosts and have them attach themselves to them. They carved turnips to ward off the same spirits. In the colonies the turnips became pumpkins and Sohwain was bastardized to Sam Hain. Halloween comes from the bastardization of All Hollows Eve. The holiday was nearly unobserved in most of the country until the late 1890’s.

    THE DEVIL HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH IT.

    For heaven’s sake can’t we just have a few traditions left alone. What the heck is everyone so bloody whiney about. If you don’t like it do not participate and leave those that enjoy it alone. Our nation is becoming a bunch of dime store Napoleons.

    I like a scary Pumpkin and I will not be cowed by haters.

    Good Day to all

  22. power to the people says:

    I am a “Christian” and I find nothing wrong with Halloween, where ever it came from.

  23. Pastor Dave says:

    Ok, Let’s talk THANKSGIVING now. When you were a child what was the one thing you looked forward to eatting. I mean besides the turkey. Was it the hot rolls dripping with butter? The cranberry sauce? Or the pumkin pie? Did you get up early and watch the Macy’s parade on t.v. or maybe even go to New York to see it? Me, I always wanted to go but never got there.
    Here in my home town of Bridgeport,CT we have the Central Harding football game. That always started a fight in my house because I went to Central but my sister went to Harding. Long Story. Anyway I always looked forward to this special Italian salad my father would make only on holidays. Had everything but the kitchen sink in it. And he made it with pepers that made it HOT. That’s what I will miss this Thankshiving. For me it just woun’t be the same without it. But as long as I get my cherry pie I’ll be happy.
    Hope you all have a great Thanksgiving.

  24. Minister R Sepeda says:

    For strange reasons some people want demons, devils & ghosts to exist, Though, they appear to be real to those who believe they are. I have no reason to reject Halloween. I was raise back then, we would bring about 4 grocery bags full of candies no need to worry if it was poison.

  25. Secretary3rd says:

    Moral to this story is what?

    1. power to the people says:

      People carve pumpkins…

  26. minister Hall Burns says:

    I personally have been threw way to much in my life to not believe if you don’t that’s fine but you have no right to take that from me some of the comments on here are sickening but hey that’s the power of freedom of speech instead of slamming god and Jesus go do something with your time don’t judge what other people choose to have faith in cause I have true faith and my faith has gotten me threw things I wouldn’t have been able to get threw alone. Just understand we don’t all think alike we weren’t meant to but before you judge remember not everyone is you so you may not believe in god but I promise you hurting others with words that offend Karma is quiet real and doesn’t come to only certain people be mindful of things uncalled for

    1. Christopher j welsh says:

      Spelling is a bit dodgy but I agree with you mate!
      Bless you!

  27. Brent E Thomas Pastor says:

    I’ve always said that that the one who stops casting a rock or pebbles in the river or body of water stop the ripple effect. All blaming thats going on in this world. I’ve heard said that the goverment just keep on doing things that .always conflicting to everyone an even have ones believe everything they haer

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