Halloween is a holiday celebrated each year on October 31st. It is a day of activities that involve decorating, trick-or-treating, carving jack-o-lanterns, festive gatherings, wearing costumes, and eating lots of candy. Halloween’s origins can be traced back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain. The Celts celebrated their new year on November 1st, which marked the end of summer and the end of the harvest season, and the beginning of the dark, cold winter. They believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred, and the dead returned to earth to cause trouble and mischief. Pope Gregory III designated November 1st as All Saints Day as as time to honor all saints, and the day before became known as All Hallow's Eve, known today as Halloween.
In ghostlore, a haunted house or ghost house is a house or other building often perceived as being inhabited by disembodied spirits of the deceased who may have been former residents or were otherwise connected with the property. Parapsychologists often attribute haunting to the spirits of the dead who have suffered from violent or tragic events in the building's past such as murder, accidental death, or suicide. Halloween themed haunted houses began appearing around the same time as "trick or treat", during the Great Depression, as a way to distract young people whose Halloween pranks had escalated to vandalism and harassment of passersby.
Ghosts and ghost stories (tales of spirits that return from the dead to haunt the places they left behind) have figured prominently in the folklore of many cultures around the world since ancient times. Many of these tales involve historical figures ranging from queens and politicians, to writers and gangsters - some who have died violent and mysterious deaths.
Witches were perceived as evil beings by early Christians in Europe, inspiring the iconic Halloween figure. Images of witches have appeared in various forms throughout history—from evil, wart-nosed women huddling over a cauldron of boiling liquid to hag-faced, cackling beings riding through the sky on brooms wearing pointy hats. Throughout history there has not been a consistent definition of the term "witch". The Latin term maleficus, penned by 15th century writers, is used to mean witch―a person who performed maleficium, harmful acts of sorcery, against others. A warlock is a male witch.
Broomsticks are cleaning tools commonly used in conjunction with a dustpan, but in witchcraft, they take on a different meaning. The first known reference of a witch to have flown on a broomstick was Guillaume Edelin in 1493, and the use of a "flying ointment" dates back around the same time within a few years. A witch is said to have also used the broomstick as a means of help while jumping a brook, insinuating the act of "flying".
A cauldron is a large cast iron pot with a arc-shaped hanger used for cooking or boiling over an open fire. While still used for this purpose, they are more commonly associated with witchcraft where a witch brews and steeps her magical potions, or for-sees the future on the surface of water.
A jack-o'-lantern is a carved pumpkin, turnip, or other root vegetable lantern associated with Halloween, that originated in Ireland. Its name comes from the phenomenon of a strange light flickering over peat bogs, called will-o'-the-wisp or jack-o'-lantern. The name is also tied to the Irish legend of Stingy Jack, a drunkard who bargains with Satan and is doomed to roam the Earth with only a hollowed turnip to light his way.
The superstitions surrounding black cats have always varied from culture to culture. Black cats were considered good luck in some parts of England. In most Western cultures, black cats have typically been looked upon as a symbol of evil omens, specifically being suspected of being the familiars of witches, or actually shape-shifting witches themselves.
It's Halloween! It's Halloween!
The moon is full and bright
And we shall see what can't be seen
On any other night.
Skeletons and ghosts and ghouls,
Grinning goblins fighting duels,
Werewolves rising from their tombs,
Witches on their magic brooms.
In masks and gowns
we haunt the street
And knock on doors
for trick or treat.
Tonight we are the king and queen,
For oh tonight it's Halloween!
© Jack Prelutsky
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