It happens every year, on the last night of the October month. From the darkness of the streets all around the world, strange ghoulish creatures emerge and walk amongst us, gathering with the evil spirits, demons, and……….. fairy princesses? That's right. We all know Halloween. A fun filled, exciting, energetic, and sometimes frightful night when people of all ages stroll down the lane, adorned with all manners of costume and fancy dress. Young children go from door to door, saying the magic words and receiving scrumptious candy in return.
Wild parties are in full swing all the way till the next morning, while others prefer to celebrate Halloween in a more traditional manner.
But, what is the “traditional” manner?
How did the generations before packaged candy and store bought costumes celebrate it? What exactly is the meaning and purpose behind the well known symbols such as the Jack-o-lantern?
We all know that Halloween did not originate in the US, but what was it like before?
Halloween has a rich and complex history, compiled from several different cultural traditions and celebrations. Several historians agree that researching into the origins of Halloween, can be a rather difficult task.
It is a well known fact, that most modern celebrations and holidays, have usually not just originated from one single ancient custom or tradition alone. It takes a large compilation that has been growing and developing throughout history, incorporating many different cultures and beliefs, into one.
The origins of Halloween are difficult to trace, and even today many countries celebrate it differently from the more popular way, and even have different titles for basically the same holiday.
On this note, let me make you aware, that it is probably impossible to track and list every single tradition that was incorporated into Halloween.
From what historians can gather from research, one of the earliest contributors to our modern day Halloween, is the ancient Celtic pagan festival, Samhain. Samhain (pronounced “sow-en”) was an agricultural celebration that marked the end of summer, also marking the harvest of the summer crops. Around this time, wheats, corn, barley, and livestock were brought in to be stored for the bitter winter months to come. It also was considered, a night of supernatural mayhem, when the dead would revisit the earth, and dark spirits would emerge from the shadows and run amuck.1 2
It at first, was considered to be the “Celtic New Year”, but recent debates have put that theory to question.
Several cultures from several time periods most likely celebrated this festival, due to speculation that the Celtic druids were among the first to practice it. And of course, the Celts later spread out to become many other nations. With time, different traditions were most likely added into the intricate weave work of the festival.
Because of this, many historians have found it rather difficult to pinpoint the exact practices at certain periods. It has always been a very frustrating search. We can only guess how far certain aspects go back.
The custom of ritualistic bonfires is one which has seemed to go on for quite a few centuries, and still lives even today in some countries and in different holidays. Bonfires were used by the Celts as protection against the evil spirits that roamed, while also serving as a guide home to the recently departed. Two bonfires could also be built close to the other, and the members of the community would walk themselves as well as livestock in between them as a symbol of purification.3 We have accounts from many ancient Roman sources, such as Julius Caesar, Diodorus, Strabo, and Pliny the Elder, who mention several rituals that involve such practices, but mainly concerning human sacrifice weaved within.4
Now, the concept of human sacrifice around Samhain is not completely factual, since none of the old Irish folklore speak of such deeds, nor the writings of St. Patrick, who had succeeded in introducing Christianity to nearly all of pagan Ireland.5
But the idea is certainly not entirely ruled out. It is quite possible that the druids did engage in human sacrifice, but if they did, it seems that it was not a common practice.
Because of the firm belief that the barrier between worlds was thin around Samhain, many who celebrated it prepared their homes to ward off unfriendly demons and imps, and to receive the friendly spirits of the departed. Food was set out for them, the house kept warm with fires (which usually were lighted after the local bonfires), poetry and stories were performed to entertain them, and the doors were not locked.6
Similar customs were observed in England, on All Souls Day.7
Divination is a common folklore custom which has lasted throughout much of history, and still survives in more rural places in the world which still keep such practices alive. Usually, several methods were used to determine rather important or critical things such as the success of the next crop, the identity of a future spouse, or perhaps how much riches one could expect in their life.8 Today, these customs in mainstream culture are no longer seen as vital, but are used as trivial party games for entertainment.
On that subject, it is interesting to note how much more “trivial” the old customs and traditions have become to modern man. With such advancement in technology and with so many considering the belief in “spirits” to be nothing more than fairy tale, our society today no longer truly realizes the importance of such old practices that they take for granted.
Most of us no longer grow our own food and raise our own livestock, having the convenience of the grocery market. The people of old did not have these things, and used such celebrations as Samhain to mark these events that were vital for survival.
All Saint's/Souls Day
All Saint's Day, sometimes known as All Hallows or Hallowmas is basically what it sounds like. It is a day to commemorate all saints, known and unknown to the world. Halloween falls the day before, hence why it is sometimes referred to as “All Hallows Eve”.9
All Souls Day, which falls the day afterwards, on November 2, is surprisingly similar in customs to All Saint's Day, however placing more emphasis on all departed souls.
We mention these particular holidays due to the fact that they are closely tied to Halloween, and have in a small way contributed to it.
Now then, it has always been highly debated on whether or not Halloween is actually a pagan, or Christian holiday. The fact of the matter is, it is highly likely that the pagan festival of Samhain, was established long before the Christian tradition of All Hallows Eve, and Hallowmas, a.k.a, Halloween and All Saint's Day.
However, the name, “Halloween”, was of Christian origin. It literally means, the evening before All Hallows Day. Therefore, if you wanted to get really technical…… oh never mind.
The traditions and customs of All Saint's Day are generally very basic, though the way they are preformed usually differ from country to country. This also applies to its sister feast day, All Souls Day. As a matter of fact, they both are nearly identical in their customs and themes. The term “Hallowtide” is used to connect all three of the celebrations, Halloween, All Saint's Day, and All Souls Day.
I am going to directly quote two articles concerning the subject, since I feel this woman put the bare facts quite nicely. From there, I will present other theories and little tidbits.
“This feast that we know as All Saint's Day originated as a feast of All Martyrs, sometime in the 4th century. At first it was celebrated on the first Sunday after Pentecost. It came to be observed on May 13 when Pope St. Boniface IV (608-615) restored and rebuilt for use as a Christian church an ancient Roman temple which pagan Rome had dedicated to "all gods", the Pantheon. The pope re-buried the bones of many martyrs there, and dedicated this Church to the Mother of God and all the Holy Martyrs on May 13, 610.
About a hundred years later, Pope Gregory III (731-741) consecrated a new chapel in the basilica of St. Peter to all saints (not just to the martyrs) on November 1, and he fixed the anniversary of this dedication as the date of the feast.
A century after that, Pope Gregory IV (827-844) extended the celebration of All Saints to November 1 for the entire Church.
The vigil of this important feast, All Saint's Eve, Hallowe'en, was apparently observed as early as the feast itself.
Ever since then — for more than a millennium — the entire Church has celebrated the feast of All Saints on November 1st, and, of course, Hallowe'en on October 31.
It is a principal feast of the Catholic Church. It is a holy day of obligation, which means that all Catholics are to attend Mass on that day.”10
“The tradition in the Church of having Masses said for the dead began in the earliest times. The pre-Christian Roman religion, which held that some form of life continued after death, gave votive offerings to the gods for the dead at three specified times: the third, seventh and thirtieth day after death. This practice of praying for the departed on these same days was adopted ("inculturated") by the early Christians — and continued in the Church for nearly 2000 years: the Church offered Masses for the deceased person on the third, seventh and thirtieth day after death.
Beginning in the year 998, All souls — the "faithful departed" — were officially remembered in the Church's prayers on the evening of November 1, and with Requiem Masses, Masses for the dead, on November 2. All Souls Day is now a feast of the universal Church. (The word "requiem" is Latin for "rest".) Following the Second Vatican Council, all Masses celebrated on All Saints day observe that feast, not "All souls". Three Masses may still be said on All Souls Day. The first two are Masses for Burial, and the third is a Mass for the Dead. Black vestments may be worn on this day.”11
When we look back on all three of the celebrations of Hallowtide, we realize that all three share very similar characteristics, mainly that they all are based around honoring the dead. The ancient Celts would remember their dead through the customs I have mentioned in Samhain. All Saint's Day was created to honor all saints and martyrs. And All Souls Day is in remembrance of all faithful departed. Another well known holiday that comes to mind in this context, is “Dia De Los Muertos”, or more popularly known as “Day of the Dead”.
I mentioned earlier that the customs are fairly basic. In my search I have found it difficult to find a wide variety of practices for the feast days. All Souls Day, however, seems to have a few more than its sister holiday. Church attendance is an important part of Hallowtide, as well as visiting the graves of loved ones and taking time to remember them. The basic plan right there. But, in Spain, another tradition is the performance of the play Don Juan Tenorio on All Saint's Day. In the Philippines, communities will visit the graves of relatives and spend the day there, bringing food and…. well, basically have a picnic of sorts.12
All Souls Day, on the other hand, not only has most of these elements, but also has been closely connected with many pagan practices that are extremely similar, such as the ones I have mentioned in Samhain. In most of Europe, such customs as leaving out food for the dead, lighting candles and leaving them on the windowsills, and making special “soul cakes” were practiced, particularly in England before the Protestant Reformation.13 We can also find some fragments of the famous “Trick or Treat” ritual beginning here, with the practice of Soul Caking, which involved beggars and children going from door to door, asking for alms or specially prepared “soul cakes”, which involved reciting a rhyme asking for “mercy on all Christian souls for a soul cake”. It was believed that with each cake consumed, a soul would be released from purgatory.14
In England, the rituals of Hallowtide came under attack during the sixteenth century, from Protestants who were disturbed by the notion that the living could influence the fate of the dead, or vice versa. Archbishop Thomas Cranmer attempted to abolish the ringing of the bells for the dead in 1546. But Henry the 8'th refused to sign the edit, believing it might jeopardize a potential rapprochement with France and the Holy Roman Empire. His more Protestant son, Edward the 6'th, had fewer reservations. His royal commissions successfully enforced a ban in 1548, with only a few parishes defying the injunction. The rituals of Hallow mass were revived briefly under his Catholic successor, Mary, but they were services commemorating the dead were dropped from the litany of 1559.15
In what you could call a small retaliation of the Catholics, the holiday known as “Bonfire Night” of “Guy Fawkes Day” was established, which is the next avenue we shall explore.
Guy Fawkes Day
November 5'th….1605… a group of Catholic conspirators attempt to wreck havoc upon the Protestant English State by blowing up the Palace of Westminster, also known as the Houses of Parliament. Months of preparation have gone into this, the Gunpowder Plot. However, a letter has been sent to Lord Baron Monteagle, a Catholic supporter who was to attend the opening ceremony for the building, in hopes that he would take heed and not attend. This letter was shown to authorities, and in the early morning of this fateful day, the conspirators were apprehended.16
This day, was made a day of celebration, in honor of the English “freedom” from the Catholic Church. It is still celebrated today, though with a few changes for more politically correct reasons.
We make mention of this holiday, to note some of the similarities to our modern Halloween, as well as its connection to Halloween when it skipped over to America with the Irish immigrants. The traditions have generally remained unchanged. English citizens would build bonfires, dress rag dolls and even themselves as tatterdemalion “Guys” and would beg for money to purchase fireworks.17 The tradition of burning effigies of “Guy” and Pope Paul V fell out of the holiday, except it is still a common practice in the city of Lewes, where the it seems to have a little more meaning. The rowdy, devilish, prank-like atmosphere of Halloween was slightly influenced by this celebration in my opinion, and many historians seem to agree. Guy Fawkes Day was already well established in America, and especially Canada when the Irish migrated during the Potato Famine of the 1840's.
Legends and Symbols
We shall now take a closer look into some of the symbols associated with Halloween, and the myths that began them. Today we see so many various figures that have been tied with the holiday, in a whole manner of interpretations. They are everywhere, in stories, movies, party decor and even are brought back to life through costumes. The undisputed king of them all, would have to be the Jack-o-Lantern.
This legendary symbol of Halloween, has been present for centuries, though started out simply as hallowing out a vegetable (turnips mainly), so that they may be used as lanterns. I am not entirely certain of the exact meaning behind the early tradition. However, it did not take on the name of the Jack-o-Lantern until quite later. 18 The name itself is related to several meanings, one of which is the name of a man in an old Irish legend, who's tale is now the most popular description for the custom of carving pumpkins. Jack was a greedy, lazy, yet clever Irishman, who tricked the devil into keeping him out of hell. But because of his rather mean nature, he was not permitted into heaven, and the devil kept his promise of not permitting him entrance into hell. There are several different versions of this story. In one, Jack is thrown a coal from the bitter and angry devil, and he then put it into a hallowed turnip, doomed to wander the underworld as a ghost with that one coal to light his way. In another, Jack ingested the coal, lighting his entire head into flames. This version would (in a weird way) explain the appearance of most characters who seem to share characteristics of the legend. Another legend of similar characteristics, is that of the blacksmith Will. He too leads a wicked life, and is not permitted into neither heaven nor hell, and is given a coal to light his way, which he uses to guide foolish travelers into bogs to drown. This legend was sprouted from the Will o' the wisp phenomena, in which strange ghostly lights can be seen flickering over bogs and lakes.19
The Jack-o-Lantern, also seems to be seen as the “Spirit of Halloween”, as seen through it's popularity, and through characters given that title usually having a carved pumpkin for a head.
Another quite well known figure we see, is the typical vampire, or to be more specific, the infamous Count Dracula. We all know him. He began as a character from the novel written by Bram Stoker in 1897, and was then swept up into the world of Hollywood to become a world famous icon, in a version of the story that was a tad different in a few ways, but none the less, left quite an impression on American culture. The vampire itself, has gone through many changes throughout history. Tales of blood drinking beings are found in nearly every culture around the world, each different in some way or another, and have been in folklore for centuries past. The Babylonian Lilu, a nocturnal demonic spirit, would hunt for babies and/or pregnant women. In India, the vetalas, a ghoulish-like creature, was known for it's trait of hanging upside down in trees in cemeteries. The hopping corpse of China, was also similar, though would feed on life essence as opposed to blood. 20 Well. Call them what you want, but ask a random person on the street what they think a vampire is, and you will most definitely get the romanticized, stereo-typical version, now the dominate definition thanks to Bram Stoker, Bela Lugosi, and Anne Rice. Dracula has been credited as one of the most played roles in movie history, with an estimated 160 films as of 2004 with that character as the main.
Two other phenomenally popular Halloween characters that stand alongside the Count in the world of monster horror, are Frankenstein's Monster, and The Wolf Man. Frankenstein's Monster, was sprouted from another famous horror novel, written by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelly in 1818, entitled, Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus. Mary was a young, intelligent writer, and her and her husband were challenged by George Gordon Byron while on vacation at his estate, to a horror story writing contest. Mary complied, writing her story based upon a dream she had had, which she described in these words:
“My imagination, unbidden, possessed and guided me, gifting the successive images that arose in my mind with a vividness far beyond the usual bounds of reverie…I saw the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together—I saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life, and stir with an uneasy, half-vital motion…What terrified me will terrify others; and I need only describe the specter which had haunted my midnight pillow.”21
This tale of the terrors of playing god, was later adapted into one of the classic monster motion pictures of Universal Studios, though hardly resembled the original idea in any way. Shelly's monster, was much more intelligent and thoughtful in her novel, unlike that in the movie, and the storyline had several drastic changes.
The Wolf Man, was another character made popular by the movies, but the legend itself is quite ancient. Werewolves (or shape shifters if you will), like vampires, have been seen all throughout history, and have different appearances and habits depending on the cultures. But usually, shape shifters are seen as merciless and thoughtless, prone to devouring any living thing in its way without hesitation. The victim seems to completely take on every animalistic trait, including a supernatural surge in strength and agility. Transformation has always been portrayed as a painful process, in movies and stories.
Though it is perhaps not among the most well known of Halloween legends, The Headless Horseman is yet another eerie figure I would like to mention. His story was simple. A Hessian mercenary, hired by the British during the American Revolutionary War, who lost his head during battle. In the short story itself, written by Washington Irving, a pompous school master, Ichabod Crane, is transferred to the little Dutch settlement of Tarry Town, New York, in a secluded glen named Sleepy Hallow, where he falls for the wealthy Katrina Van Tassel, but finds competition with the town bully, Brom Bones. At a Halloween party, Brom scares Ichabod with a local ghost story about the Headless Horseman, saying that he roams the forest which Ichabod must cross through that night to get home. Needless to say, he runs across the “ghost”, and is never seen again. It is not ever made clear what happened to him, or if it actually was the ghost. The legend of The Headless Horseman later was adapted into a Disney Cartoon, and a horror/comedy by Tim Burton.
Other symbols connected to Halloween, have deep roots in death, magic, mystery, horror and legend. From out study of the old pagan Samhain, it is quite obvious that it contributed to these aspects, though in a way has been tainted into a more horrific light, as opposed to the honoring and respect of the dead. Ghosts and ghouls, skeletons and mummies, demons and witches. They all hold these attributes.
But in this sea of terrifying visions of the creatures of night, is the commercial aspect of our Halloween, which gives the whole thing a sense of fun and excitement, as well as thrills and even comedy on occasion. It is my opinion, that now one can really not live without the other. The ancient, bone chilling tales of old combined with the modern, truly create an enjoyable holiday.
From Age Old Customs to
Commercialized Fright Night.
We have now come to much more recognizable areas. The fogs of uncertainty in our search are slowly clearing, and we now will be mostly addressing Halloween's evolution in America, where all of these different celebrations are thrown into one giant cauldron, and blended with other new ingredients to create what we know today.
“Halloween did not become a holiday in America until the 19th century, where lingering Puritan tradition meant even Christmas was scarcely observed before the 1800s. North American almanacs of the late 18th and early 19th centuries make no mention of Halloween in their lists of holidays. The transatlantic migration of nearly two million Irish following the Irish Potato Famine (1845–1849) brought the holiday and its customs to America.”22
Because of the deep rooted Protestant and Puritan religion of early America, Halloween was widely rejected and many Irish/Scottish immigrants were persecuted for its celebration. Private indoor parties with family and friends continued however, and eventually, the upper class societies made efforts to cast it as an honoring of their heritage, rather than a night of “supernatural customs”. This, is where the more party-like atmosphere of modern day Halloween came into play. It was made more “respectable” through masquerade balls, dances and poetry.23
So, Halloween was now celebrated in three different ways. First class politicians and the wealthy would have grand parties, almost completely throwing the old traditions out the window. Middle class citizens continued to have nice, quiet gatherings in the home, keeping many of the traditions alive, such as bobbing for apples and several of the divination games. And last but not least, the third class working families, who brought out the more rough side of the holiday with pranks that ranged in mischief and brutality.
Now, put all of those three ways of celebrating it together, and we get the basic blueprints of our beloved Halloween.
The Problem with Pranks
As we have noted, pranks seemed to become a part of Halloween at an early age in America, and it is highly likely that it might have been a part of the more ancient celebrations. I'm quite sure there was an occasional group of young boys throughout history that would delight in causing trouble on this night. The great thing about creating mischief on Halloween, (especially back in the days when superstitions where much more serious and taken quite literally) was that you wouldn't get into too much trouble. Many stories about fiendish fairies and devils running about the place and causing havoc, where a great cover up for much more “mortal” mischief makers.
Hardcore Halloween revelry was never really a problem until the late nineteenth century. Before then, it was mostly tolerated, yet monitored by police officials none the less. Eventually, things just got out of hand. Things such as throwing bags of flour at passing citizens, or tearing down a fence or two where usually passed over, maybe with a stern warning, but “tricks” such as oiling railroad tracks, lighting up huge bonfires, or throwing stones at people could land you in serious trouble.24
There are many grisly stories concerning the action taken against more serious pranksters. By the twentieth century, the police were much more strict on how “merry” you could get, and several respectable communities and societies fought for a more safe Halloween. This is what led America, into making such traditions as Trick-or-Treating, Halloween parades and parties, and harvest festivals, into the main events for the holiday.
These activities were designed so that everyone could participate and have fun, and it worked for the most part, to make Halloween much more “family” oriented.
Did this remove the more “spooky” atmosphere out of Halloween?
Many seem to think so.
But all in all, it is my opinion, that Halloween improved with rules.
Costumes, Candy, Commercialization
Although wearing costumes and the famous Trick-or-Treat tradition did not really take firm root into Halloween until the twentieth century, many aspects of it have been seen all throughout history and culture, from the gruliks and skeklers of the Shetland Isles, who would dress themselves in animal skins and entertain those they begged from25, to the “souling” traditions of Medevil Brittan. Even the begging of money for fireworks on Guy Fawkes Night holds similar characteristics. But ultimately, it had never been done exactly like it's done today.
The “treats” also have obviously changed over the centuries, though in some more rural parts of the world, more wholesome, natural food is still handed out. Before the convenience of packaged candies and chocolate bars, things such as seasonal fruit, nuts and even money where given.
But with every nationwide holiday, comes those who only can see dollar signs.
By the twentieth century, Halloween was well ingrained into American culture, and commercialization began, quite possibly with Halloween postcards, which were most popular between 1905 and 1915, and sported hundreds of designs. “Dennison Manufacturing Company, which published its first Hallowe'en catalog in 1909, and the Beistle Company were pioneers in commercially made Halloween decorations, particularly die-cut paper items. German manufacturers specialized in Halloween figurines that were exported to America in the period between the two world wars.”26
Mass production of Halloween costumes and candy did not really happen until the 1930's, and the famous “Trick-or-Treat” tradition did not become a permanent and central part until the 1950's, when it was created to try and draw children's attention away from causing pranks as we noted earlier.
I now make mention of the “Poisoned Candy Scare” of the 1970's and 80's, an event which frankly was blown way out of proportion. Why do I mention it then? Because I found this description to be very profound concerning the psychology of the matter, despite it being minor.
“The original festival of Samhain, as Santino notes, was fundamentally a pagan holiday, focusing on the passage of the recent dead from this world to the next. As Christianity replaced older religions, these spirits were transmuted from neutral or good beings to evil ones, and the season became a rich one for the telling of supernatural legends. To some extent, as Degh has found, this storytelling tradition remains very strong in rural America, though it now incorporates non supernatural horror stories and anti-legends in which frightening events are exposed as hoaxes or misperceptions of mundane objects. The season's marginality has recently brought forth two complexes of legends and beliefs in which deranged or sadistic adults of this world, not supernatural spirits, endanger children. These complexes include real-life “ostensive” actions, in which people act out (or seem to act out) such narrative scenarios. The earlier of these is “The Razor Blade in the Apple,” involving children who receive poisonous or booby-trapped trick-or-treat goodies from strangers; it appeared during the mid-1960's. The later complex, “The Satanic Child Sacrifice,” described cults who planned to abduct and murder a young child on Halloween as part of a ritual ceremony; this showed up sporadically in the mid-1970's before becoming a nationwide panic in 1987-88. The precise origin of the razor blades legend is unclear, though it was given impetus by three nationally publicized cases in which poisoned treats were actually found.”27
Interesting to note, however, that most of the real cases never seemed to involve any sort of “Satanic activity”.
By the 1990's, Halloween was well on it's way to becoming one of the biggest money making holidays for the commercial industry. A whole manner of various items were being created, ranging from simple window stickers to elaborate fog machines. Many ancient legends were incorporated and used as symbols, as we have seen, which have now become Halloween mascots so to speak.
With such an intriguing, mysterious, dark and thrilling holiday such as Halloween growing more and more popular in the American culture, it was no surprise that the entertainment industry decided to jump into the fun. Bone chilling novels and comics have been an important part of the modern Halloween for decades now, receiving immense popularity and adding more to the visions of the public. But nothing every added permanent visions like the mother of entertainment, Hollywood. Horror movies have gained quite a vast amount of fame, and the genre itself is viewed as a must see around this time of year. This being said, it is a little difficult to give a detailed definition of a “Halloween movie”, since there are so many horror films out there today. Well, because of this factor, I am only going to make mention of the most popular, most Halloween related films.
And I believe it is fitting, to begin with the cult classic of 1978, Halloween.
This independent horror movie, captured millions, and did surprisingly well, becoming a model for future slasher film makers. Even more surprising, was the fact that Halloween really did not have an excessive amount of visual gore, yet managed to be terrifying none the less. The directing style of John Carpenter resembled that of the thriller master Hitchcock, making the mood much more intense. Originally, the movie was going to be titled, The Babysitter Murders, but was soon changed, due to the notion that this would take place on Halloween. The plot goes as follows.
On October 31, 1963, six-year-old Michael Myers stabs his sister Judith with a kitchen knife at their home in Haddonfield, Illinois. He is sent to Smith's Grove-Warren County Sanitarium and placed under the care of psychiatrist Dr. Sam Loomis. Loomis suspects that there is more to Myers than meets the eye and plans to have him committed indefinitely. At the age of 21, Myers escapes from Smith's Grove while being transferred, and returns to Haddonfield with Loomis in pursuit.
In Haddonfield, on Halloween Day, Myers stalks seventeen-year-old Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), and she catches several glimpses of him watching her. That night, Myers kills three of Laurie's friends who are in the house across the street from where Laurie is babysitting two children. She soon discovers what has happened and escapes with her life from Myers, but is attacked nearly three more times, throughout which she has stabbed him with a knitting needle, a clothes hanger, and a knife. Loomis eventually shows up and shoots Myers six times, causing him to fall over the second story balcony, but his body is gone, leaving wonder and suspense at the very end.
The idea of a never dieing Myers, was used to symbolize the eternity of evil. In the movie, Dr. Loomis makes several comments on how he found the boy to be “simply pure evil”. Rather unrealistic if you believe in causality, but hey…. who ever said movies had to be realistic? Many have psychoanalyzed the meaning behind the film, with such theories as it being prejudice against women, or notes on how Laurie's murdered friends are more “sexually active”, however she (obviously a chaste and modest girl) manages to survive. Whatever happened to people just “watching” the movies?
Anyway, this film sprouted seven sequels, all of which featured more gore, were on bigger budgets, and generally were not as popular and respected as their predecessor. They delved deeper into Myer's history, and deeper into Halloween, with mention of Samhain on numerous occasions. But none could replace the first
The next is a group of films that I vaguely mentioned before, which is appropriately titled as the “Universal Monster Classics”. This would include such movies as The Phantom of the Opera, Dracula, Frankenstein, The Invisible Man, The Bride of Frankenstein, The Wolf Man, and The Creature from the Black Lagoon. It is interesting to note that nearly all of them are based upon well known novels, though usually were adapted so much that they barely resembled them anymore. But these films, are now seen as the defining versions of these legends.
Though it is seen as more of a Christmas film by fans, Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas holds deep overtones of Halloween. The main character is the king of Halloween town after all. The film was sort of a tribute to Burton's love for both holidays, which is obvious from the whole concept itself. Jack Skellington, a.k.a Jack the Pumpkin King, is depressed with his role, and accidentally stumbles across Christmas, and falls in love with it. He then attempts to take control of the holiday, but ends up wrecking it, since he will still always have a lingerin love for Halloween deep within his heart….or… bones…
With such immense growth in a rather short period, it poses rather wondrous questions to me. How much bigger will it get? What more can be added to Halloween? What new traditions shall be weaved into the already immense fabric of this ancient celebration, and how will old ones be kept? What light shall our descendants see it in? I suppose we shall never know. Or…. shall we? If you believe in the afterlife, and if you are one to believe that the spirits really did roam the night to visit those upon earth, then perhaps we shall all catch a glimpse of how it shall evolve after all….
And now, comes the end of our journey. I hope to have provided some interesting information on the truly fascinating, mysterious, and widely celebrated world of Halloween.
1 Nicolas Rogers, Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night (Oxford University Press, 2002) 11, 12
2 Philip Robinson, Halloween, and Other Festivals of Life and Death (The University of Tennessee Press/Knoxville, 1994) 10
3 Wikipedia article, Samhain
4 Nicolas Rogers, Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night (Oxford University Press, 2002) 14, 15
5 Nicolas Rogers, Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night (Oxford University Press, 2002) 17
6 Tad Tuleja, Halloween, and Other Festivals of Life and Death (The University of Tennessee Press/Knoxville, 1994) 82
7 Wikipedia article, Halloween
8 Wikipedia article, Samhain
9 Wikipedia article, All Saints Day
10 Helen Hull Hitchcock, Women for Faith & Family Website, All Saint's Day (Copyright 2000)
11 Helen Hull Hitchcock, Women for Faith & Family Website, All Souls Day (Copyright 2000)
12 Wikipedia article, All Saints Day
13 Wikipedia article, All Souls Day
14 Tad Tuleja, Halloween, and Other Festivals of Life and Death (The University of Tennessee Press/Knoxville, 1994) 82
15 Nicolas Rogers, Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night (Oxford University Press, 2002) 27
16 Wikipedia article, Guy Fawkes
17 Tad Tuleja, Halloween, and Other Festivals of Life and Death (The University of Tennessee Press/Knoxville, 1994) 84
18 Wikipedia article, Jack-o-Lantern
19 Wikipedia article, Will o' the wisp
20Wikipedia article, Vampire
21Wikipedia article, Mary Shelly
22 Wikipedia article, Halloween
23 Nicolas Rogers, Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night (Oxford University Press, 2002) 51
24 Nicolas Rogers, Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night (Oxford University Press, 2002) 58
25 Nicolas Rogers, Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night (Oxford University Press, 2002) 41
26 Wikipedia article, Halloween
27 Bill Ellis, Halloween, and Other Festivals of Life and Death (The University of Tennessee Press/Knoxville, 1994) 24, 25
Title derived directly from Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night by Nicolas Rogers.