Stingy Jack, The legend of Jack O’Lantern

Stingy Jack, also known as Jack the Smith, Drunk Jack, and Jack of the Lantern are mythical characters associated with All Hallows Eve. It’s common lore that the “jack-o’-lantern” came from the character.

Pumpkins with ghoulish faces and illuminated by candles are a sure sign of the Halloween season. But before Americans carved scary faces into pumpkins, the Irish carved creepy faces onto turnips.

Stingy Jack, The legend of Jack O'Lantern
Stingy Jack, The legend of Jack O’Lantern

Scotland began to make their own versions of Jack’s lanterns by carving scary faces into turnips or potatoes. The English used large beets.

Irish immigrants brought the tradition to America, home of the pumpkin, and it became an integral part of Halloween festivities.

Jack of the Lantern

Stingy Jack invited the Devil to have a drink with him. True to his name, Stingy Jack didn’t want to pay for his drink, so he convinced the Devil to turn himself into a coin that Jack could use to buy their drinks. Once the Devil did so, Jack decided to keep the money and put it into his pocket next to a silver cross, which prevented the Devil from changing back into his original form.

Jack eventually freed the Devil, under the condition that he would not bother Jack for one year and that, should Jack die, he would not claim his soul. The next year, Jack again tricked the Devil into climbing into a tree to pick a piece of fruit. While he was up in the tree, Jack carved a sign of the cross into the tree’s bark so that the Devil could not come down until the Devil promised Jack not to bother him for ten more years.

Soon after, Jack died. As the legend goes, God would not allow such an unsavory figure into heaven. The Devil, upset by the trick Jack had played on him and keeping his word not to claim his soul, would not allow Jack into hell. He sent Jack off into the dark night with only a burning coal to light his way. Jack put the coal into a carved-out turnip and has been roaming the Earth with ever since.

The Dread Pirate Dave

David is the Editor in Chief of Postcards From the Edge. I was born on a cold November morning on the showy plains of Colorado. Like my father, before me, I am an American Nomad.

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