Saturday, October 01, 2011

GUTEN TAG AND WELCOME TO THE START OF THE COUNTDOWN TO HALLOWEEN! Every day (hopefully) I will post a lil Halloweenie somthin' somthin' here and on our TWO sister blogs. Go to our Audio blog BATHED IN THE LIGHT FROM ANDROMEDA every day in October to hear a Halloween selection of music and/or scary tales. And on our newest blog THE DARK FOREST each day will hopefully be devoted to a post on a particularly Halloweenie-type album. The links for both blogs are over there on the right hand column. Oh yeah, and don't forget that right here every day the "Comic Book Cover of the Day" on the right hand column will feature a spooky comic book cover so peruse over there each day too. Don't ferget, now! But today here in the ole main blog I thought I'd provide a little background on that most Halloweenie of items: the jack o'lantern!
Of course, the name "Jack O'Lantern" comes from the British Isles and basically means a "night watchman" (a man with a lantern). It apparently was also used as a name to describe that strange phenomenon variously described as "St. Elmo's Fire" or a "Will O' the Wisp": a fiery light which sometimes appears floating slightly above ground over graves or wetlands. We all remember the scene in Bram Stoker's novel "DRACULA" when Jonathan Harker's carriage driver (secretly Drac) stops at each appearance of this "St. Elmo's Fire" to mark the place because it was thought the light marks a buried treasure. But back to our gourdy friend -- the European practice of carving such gourds as turnips into scary faces with a candle inside brought to spooky life the first jack o'lanterns. In England, according to Thomas Darlington's 1887 "The Folk-Speech of South Cheshire": "It is a common device of mischievous lads for frightening belated wayfarers on the road". In the American colonies, pumpkins were much more plentiful so the big orange fella was promptly co-oped as our own colonial Jack. There is also word of a custom of children carrying jack o'lanterns on All-Saints Eve and All Souls Day as a depiction of those souls which are trapped in purgatory. Or worse! There is also the legend of Stingy Jack which is associated with the jack o'lantern and probably originated the name. A roguish Irishman named Stingy Jack somehow tricked the Devil into promised he would not go to Hell when he died. Unfortunately for Jack, at his death Heaven wouldn't let him in either! The Devil kept his promise to Jack by condemning him to wander the earth forever with only a hellish ember to light his way. Irish immigrants brought this legend to America and the carved pumpkin Jack O'Lantern was a Halloween fixture by the late 19th century. Heh heh heh. . . .spoooooooky!
And today's comic book cover is HOUSE OF MYSTERY #318 from 1981 featuring the fun-loving vampy dude Andrew Bennett!

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