The Legend Of Stingy Jack
Let me tell you the story of a guy named Stingy Jack. The first version of Stingy Jack's story is the classic version. These stories were told a long time ago prior to the year 800. This is during the time that stories of spirits and witchcraft and supernatural things were at an all time high. As a result fantastical explainations were thought up to explain natural but incredible phenomena. Enter the story of Stingy Jack, he was a liar, a manipulator, a drunk and his soul was so black that Satan himself was jealous. He had no morals and had zero empathy for anyone. When Satan hears of Jacks malicious ways and silver tongue he wants to meet him. So one night Jack is drunkenly staggering his way back home from the bar when up ahead in the middle of the path he sees a weird shape on the ground. Its dark so he gets a little closer to investigate as the mysterious silhouette comes into focus he realizes it's a mutilated corpse with an unsettling look on its face. Jack is looking down at the corpse for a few moments when suddenly its eyes move and lock directly onto his, then its mouth begins to open and a voice comes out claiming to be Satan himself. Just then Jack realizes hes about to be taken to hell so he asks Satan to go back to the bar so he can he can have one last drink and Satan figures whats the worst that could happen so together they go back to the bar and order enough drinks to kill a man. When the devil says its time to go, Jack says the least he can do is pay for his drinks since he is taking him to hell afterall. The requests took Satan off guard but he saw Jacks point, the only problem was he didmt have any money with him so jack says dont worry about it just turn yourself into a silver coin, I'll pay with you and when the bartender's not looking you can just transform back. So Satan agreed and turned himself into a coin only instead of paying Jack put the coin into his pocket next to his silver cross, which meant that the devil was stuck in his coin form. It wasnt until Satan agreed to give stingy Jack another 10 years before collecting his soul that he was released. After 10 more years of hard partying Satan returned and went to Jacks house directly to collect what he was owed.
There is another story of Stingy Jack but its a little more dark and violent, and the tricks he pulls are a little more elaborate. Before we get to far let me tell you about a phenomena called Ignus Fatuus or more commonly known as Ghost Lights. They are atmospheric floating orbs of light that are often seen at night by travelers and people who live out in the country. They are especially common in wooded and swampy areas. The scientific explaination for these lights are that gases being emmited by the marshes are igniting in the air and creating a floating flame effect, but back in the 8th century and earlier people didn't know that so other causes were thought up. One such cause was jack of the lantern. If you looked outside your cottage and saw glowing lights off in the distance that meant Stingy Jack and other spirits like him were out there searching for helpless souls, and believe it or not some people actually fell victim to these lights. Weary travelers would often mistake them for torches from a town up ahead and they were so desperate for shelter that they would end up walking straight into a bog and drowning.
The Celtic festival of Samhain took place on November 1st, it was believed that on Samhain Eve October 31st the spirits of the dead would return and walk amoung the living hence the need for protection. In addition to the face carvings people would also put on masks and scary costumes when going outside so that they could blend in with the evil spirits. Samhain and what we know of as Halloween today have a lot in common, from jack-o-lanterns, masks and dressing up or the association with death and magic all beginning on October 31st. This is all due in part to a certain amount of Christian influence on Ireland, and Samhain would eventually become known as Halloween. Whenever Christians moved into predominantly Pagan countries they wouldnt try rid their beliefs and practices completely, rather they would aabsorb elements from them and make them their own. This made it a lot easier to get the people native to these Pagan lands easier to convert to Christianity.
Jack O' the Lantern
This version of Stingy Jack was published in a penny dreadful called the Dublin Penny Journal on January 16th 1936. Penny Dreadfuls were magazines about a dozen pages long that told stories of criminals, detectives and supernatural entities. Topics that are still very popular even today, especially in podcast and documentary formats. The reason for their name was because they only cost a penny, but the cheap entertainment did not mean it was low quality. Legendary characters like Sweeney Todd and Sexton Blake were were both born from penny dreadfuls.