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Michael Myers appears in all of the Halloween films except Halloween III: Season of the Witch, which did not feature any elements from the preceding two films. Myers has also appeared in expanded universe novels and comic books.

Films Edit

Michael Myers made his first appearance in the film, Halloween (1978). In the beginning of Halloween, a six-year-old Michael (Will Sandin) murders his teenage sister Judith (Sandy Johnson) on Halloween, 1963. Fifteen years later, Michael (Nick Castle) escapes Smith's Grove Sanitarium and returns to his hometown of Haddonfield, Illinois. He stalks teenage babysitter Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) on Halloween, while his psychiatrist Dr. Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasence) attempts to track him down. After murdering several of Laurie's friends, Michael finally attacks Laurie herself, but she manages to fend him off long enough for Loomis to save her. Loomis shoots Michael six times, knocking him off the balcony when Loomis goes to check Michael's body, he finds that he has disappeared. [5] Halloween II (1981) picks up directly where the original ends, with Dr. Loomis still looking for Michael. Michael (Dick Warlock) follows Laurie to the local hospital and kills the staff one by one throughout the night. Loomis learns that Laurie is Michael's younger sister and rushes to the hospital to find them. Laurie shoots Michael in the eyes, blinding him, and Loomis causes an explosion in the operating theater, allowing Laurie to escape. Michael, engulfed in flames, stumbles out of the room before finally collapsing. [6]

Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982) has no continuity relation to the other films, although Michael briefly appears in a television advertisement for the first film. [7] Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988) picks the story up ten years after the events of Halloween II. Michael (George P. Wilbur) is revealed to have been in a comatose state since the explosion. Michael wakes from his coma when he learns Laurie Strode has died in a car accident but has a seven-year-old niece, Jamie Lloyd (Danielle Harris). Returning to Haddonfield, he causes a citywide blackout and massacres the town's police force, before being shot by the state police and falling down a mine shaft. [8] Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989) begins immediately after the fourth film ends, with Michael Myers (Donald L. Shanks) escaping the mine shaft and being nursed back to health by a local hermit. The next year, Michael kills the hermit and returns to Haddonfield to find Jamie (Harris) again, chasing her through his childhood home in a trap set up by Loomis (Pleasence). Michael is eventually subdued by Loomis and taken to the local police station, but a mysterious "Man in Black" attacks the police station, kills the officers, and frees him. [9] Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995) takes place six years after the events of The Revenge of Michael Myers both Jamie (J. C. Brandy) and Michael (Wilbur) have disappeared from Haddonfield. Jamie has been kidnapped and impregnated by the Cult of Thorn, led by Dr. Terence Wynn (Mitchell Ryan), Loomis' friend and colleague from Smith's Grove. Wynn is revealed to have been manipulating Michael all along and was his mysterious savior in Halloween 5. Michael attacks Jamie, but not before she hides her infant, who is discovered and taken in by Tommy Doyle (Paul Rudd). While trying to protect the baby from Michael and Wynn, Tommy learns that the cult may be the cause of Michael's obsession with killing his entire family, in addition to his seemingly supernatural abilities. Michael ultimately turns against the cult and is finally subdued by Tommy, who injects him with large quantities of tranquilizers inside the Smith's Grove Sanitarium. The film ends with Michael's mask lying on the floor of the lab room and Loomis screaming in the background, leaving the fate of both men unknown. [10]

Ignoring the events of the previous three films, Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998) establishes that Michael Myers (Chris Durand) has been missing for twenty years since the explosion in 1978. Laurie Strode (Curtis) has faked her death to escape her brother and is now living in California under an assumed name with her teenage son John (Josh Hartnett). Michael tracks Laurie and her son to the private boarding school where she is headmistress and murders John's friends. Getting her son to safety, Laurie willingly goes back to face Michael, and decapitates him, finally killing him. [11] Halloween: Resurrection (2002), which picks up three years after H20, retcons Michael's death, establishing that the man Laurie decapitated was a paramedic whom Michael had attacked and swapped clothes with. Michael (Brad Loree) tracks down an institutionalized Laurie and kills her. He returns to Haddonfield, where one year later, he finds and kills a group of college students filming an internet reality show inside his childhood home. Contestant Sara Moyer (Bianca Kajlich) and show producer Freddie Harris (Busta Rhymes) escape by electrocuting Michael. Michael's body and the bodies of his victims are then taken to the morgue. As the medical examiner begins to inspect Michael's body, he awakens. [12]

A new version of Michael Myers appears in Rob Zombie's Halloween (2007), a reboot of the franchise. [13] The film follows the basic premise of the original film, with an increased focus on Michael's childhood: a ten-year-old Michael (Daeg Faerch) is shown killing animals and suffering emotional abuse from Judith (Hanna R. Hall) and his mother's boyfriend Ronnie (William Forsythe), both of whom he later murders, along with a boy who was bullying him. After being committed to Smith's Grove, Michael takes up the hobby of creating papier-mâché masks and receives unsuccessful therapy from Dr. Sam Loomis (Malcolm McDowell). Michael's mother Deborah (Sheri Moon Zombie) commits suicide after witnessing him killing a nurse. As an adult, Michael (Tyler Mane) returns to Haddonfield to reunite with his younger sister Laurie (Scout Taylor-Compton), the only person he has ever loved. However, Laurie has no memory of Michael and is terrified of him, ultimately shooting him in the head in self-defense after he kills her friends and adoptive parents. [14] Zombie's story is continued in the sequel, Halloween II (2009), which picks up right where the remake leaves off and then jumps ahead one year. Here, Michael (Mane) is presumed dead but resurfaces after a vision of Deborah informs him that he must track Laurie down so that they can "come home." In the film, Michael and Laurie have a mental link, with the two sharing visions of their mother. During the film's climax, Laurie kills Michael by stabbing him repeatedly in the chest and face with his own knife, with the final scene suggesting that she has taken on her brother's psychosis as she dons his mask. [15]

Halloween (2018) is a direct sequel to the original film, thus retconning Michael and Laurie's sibling relationship. It is established that Michael (James Jude Courtney) was arrested following his killing spree in 1978, spending 40 years in Smith's Grove Sanitarium before escaping again and returning to Haddonfield for another killing spree. Here he comes face-to-face again with Laurie Strode (once again played by Curtis), who has been living in fear of his return. Michael is taken to Laurie's home by his deranged psychologist, where he engages in a showdown with Laurie, who severely injures him and severs two of his fingers. Michael is ultimately trapped in Laurie's burning house by Laurie, her daughter Karen (Judy Greer), and her granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak). Michael is heard breathing in a post-credits scene, suggesting that he survived. [16] [17] [18]

Literature Edit

Michael Myers made his literary debut in October 1979 when Curtis Richards released a novelization of the film. The book follows the events of the film but includes references to the festival of Samhain. A prologue provides a possible explanation for Michael's murderous impulses, telling the story of Enda, a disfigured Celtic teenager who butchers the Druid princess Deirdre and her lover as revenge for rejecting him the king subsequently has his shaman curse Enda's soul to walk the earth reliving his crime for eternity. It is later revealed that Michael Myers suffers nightmares about Enda and Deirdre, as did Michael's great-grandfather before shooting two people to death at a Halloween harvest dance in the 1890s. The novel shows Michael's childhood in more detail his mother voices concern over her son's anti-social behavior shortly before he murders Judith. Dr. Loomis notices the boy's effortless control and manipulation of the staff and patients at Smith's Grove during his incarceration. Later in the story, Michael's stalking of Laurie and her friends is depicted as more explicitly sexual than was apparent in the film, with several references to him having an erection. [19] Michael returned to the world of literature with the 1981 adaptation of Halloween II written by Jack Martin it was published alongside the first film sequel, with the novel following the film events, with an additional victim, a reporter, added to the novel. [20] The final novelization to feature Michael was Halloween IV, released October 1988. The novel was written by Nicholas Grabowsky, and like the previous adaptations, follows the events of Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers. [21]

Over a four-month period, Berkley Books published three young adult novels written by Kelly O'Rourke the novels are original stories created by O'Rourke, with no direct continuity with the films. [22] The first, released on October 1, 1997, titled The Scream Factory, follows a group of friends who set up a haunted house attraction in the basement of Haddonfield City Hall, only to be stalked and killed by Michael Myers while they are there. [23] The Old Myers Place is the second novel, released 1 December 1997, and focuses on Mary White, who moves into the Myers house with her family and takes up residence in Judith Myers' former bedroom. Michael returns home and begins stalking and attacking Mary and her friends. [24] O'Rourke's final novel, The Mad House, was released on 1 February 1998. The Mad House features a young girl, Christine Ray, who joins a documentary film crew that travels to haunted locations they are currently headed to Smith Grove Mental Hospital. The crew is quickly confronted by Michael Myers. [25]

The character's first break into comics came with a series of comics published by Brian Pulido's Chaos! Comics. The first, simply titled Halloween, was intended to be a one-issue special, but eventually two sequels spawned: Halloween II: The Blackest Eyes and Halloween III: The Devil's Eyes. All of the stories were written by Phil Nutman, with Daniel Farrands—writer for Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers—assisting on the first issue David Brewer and Justiniano worked on the illustrations. Tommy Doyle is the main protagonist in each of the issues, focusing on his attempts to kill Michael Myers. The first issue includes backstory on Michael's childhood, while the third picks up after the events of the film Halloween H20. [26]

In 2003, Michael appeared in the self-published comic One Good Scare, written by Stefan Hutchinson and illustrated by Peter Fielding. The main character in the comic is Lindsey Wallace, the young girl who first saw Michael Myers alongside Tommy Doyle in the original 1978 film. Hutchinson wanted to bring the character back to his roots, and away from the "lumbering Jason-clone" the film sequels had made him. [27] On 25 July 2006, as an insert inside the DVD release of Halloween: 25 Years of Terror, the comic book Halloween: Autopsis was released. Written by Stefan Hutchinson and artwork by Marcus Smith and Nick Dismas, the story is about a photographer assigned to take pictures of Michael Myers. As the photographer, Carter, follows Dr. Loomis he begins to take on Loomis's obsession himself, until finally meeting Michael Myers in person, which results in his death. [28]

In 2008, Devil's Due Publishing began releasing more Halloween comic books, starting with a four issue mini series, titled Halloween: Nightdance. Written by Stefan Hutchinson, Nightdance takes place in Russellville, and follows Michael's obsession with Lisa Thomas, a girl who reminds him of his sister Judith. Lisa is afraid of the dark after Michael trapped her in a basement for days, and years later, he starts sending her disturbing, childlike drawings and murdering those around her on Halloween. Meanwhile, Ryan Nichols is hunting Michael down after seeing him attack and kidnap his wife. In the end, Michael frames Ryan for the murders and buries Lisa alive. [29] Hutchinson explains that Nightdance was an attempt to escape the dense continuity of the film series and recreate the tone of the 1978 film Michael becomes inexplicably fixated on Lisa, just as he did with Laurie in the original Halloween, before the sequels established that a sibling bond was actually his motivation for stalking her. [30] Included in the Nightdance trade paperback is the short prose story Charlie, which features Charlie Bowles, a Russellville serial killer who taps into the same evil force which motivates Michael Myers. [29] To celebrate the anniversary of the Halloween series, Devil's Due released a one-shot comic entitled Halloween: 30 Years of Terror in August 2008, written by Hutchinson. An anthology collection inspired by John Carpenter's original film, Michael appears in various stories, tampering with Halloween candy, decapitating a beauty queen, tormenting Laurie Strode, and killing a school teacher. [31] [32]

— Loomis' description of a young Michael was inspired by John Carpenter's experience with a real-life mental patient. [33]

'Michael Myers' was the real-life name of the head of the now dissolved British company Miracle Films. Myers, after meeting producer Irwin Yablans, distributed John Carpenter's previous film Assault on Precinct 13 in England in 1977. His name was chosen as a tribute to this success. [34] [35] A common characterization of Michael Myers is that he is pure evil. John Carpenter has described the character as "almost a supernatural force—a force of nature. An evil force that's loose," a force that is "unkillable". [2] Nicholas Rogers elaborates, "Myers is depicted as a mythic, elusive bogeyman, one of superhuman strength who cannot be killed by bullets, stab wounds, or fire." [36] Carpenter's inspiration for the "evil" that Michael would embody came when he was in college. While on a class trip at a mental institution in Kentucky, Carpenter visited "the most serious, mentally ill patients". Among those patients was a young boy around 12 to 13 years old. The boy gave this "schizophrenic stare", "a real evil stare", which Carpenter found "unsettling", "creepy", and "completely insane". Carpenter's experience would inspire the characterization that Loomis would give of Michael to Sheriff Brackett in the original film. Debra Hill has stated the scene where Michael kills a German Shepherd was done to illustrate how he is "really evil and deadly". [33]

The ending scene of Michael being shot six times, and then disappearing after falling off the balcony, was meant to make the audience's imaginations run wild. Carpenter tried to keep the audience guessing as to who Michael Myers really is—he is gone, and everywhere at the same time he is more than human he may be supernatural, and no one knows how he got that way. To Carpenter, keeping the audience guessing was better than explaining away the character with "he's cursed by some. " [33] For Josh Hartnett, who portrayed John Tate in Halloween H20, "it's that abstract, it's easier for me to be afraid of it. You know, someone who just kind of appears and, you know [mimics stabbing noise from Psycho] instead of an actual human who you think you can talk to. And no remorse, it's got no feelings, that's the most frightening, definitely." Richard Schickel, film critic for TIME, felt Michael was "irrational" and "really angry about something", having what Schickel referred to as "a kind of primitive, obsessed intelligence". Schickel considered this the "definition of a good monster", by making the character appear "less than human", but having enough intelligence "to be dangerous". [2]

Dominique Othenin-Girard attempted to have audiences "relate to 'Evil', to Michael Myers' 'ill' side". Girard wanted Michael to appear "more human [. ] even vulnerable, with contradicting feelings inside of him". He illustrated these feelings with a scene where Michael removes his mask and sheds a tear. Girard explains, "Again, to humanize him, to give him a tear. If Evil or in this case our boogeyman knows pain, or love or demonstrate a feeling of regrets he becomes even more scary to me if he pursues his malefic action. He shows an evil determination beyond his feelings. Dr. Loomis tries to reach his emotional side several times in [Halloween 5]. He thinks he could cure Michael through his feelings." [37]

Daniel Farrands, writer of The Curse of Michael Myers, describes the character as a "sexual deviant". According to him, the way Michael follows girls around and watches them contains a subtext of repressed sexuality. Farrands theorizes that, as a child, Michael became fixated on the murder of his sister Judith, and for his own twisted reasons felt the need to repeat that action over and over again, finding a sister-like figure in Laurie who excited him sexually. He also believes that by making Laurie Michael's literal sister, the sequels took away from the simplicity and relatability of the original Halloween. Nevertheless, when writing Curse, Farrands was tasked with creating a mythology for Michael which defined his motives and why he could not be killed. He says, "He can't just be a man anymore, he's gone beyond that. He's mythical. He's supernatural. So, I took it from that standpoint that there's something else driving him. A force that goes beyond that five senses that has infected this boy's soul and now is driving him." As the script developed and more people became involved, Farrands admits that the film went too far in explaining Michael Myers and that he himself was not completely satisfied with the finished product. [38]

Michael does not speak in the films the first time audiences ever hear his voice is in the 2007 Rob Zombie reboot. Michael speaks as a child during the beginning of the film, but while in Smith's Grove he stops talking completely. Rob Zombie originally planned to have the adult Michael speak to Laurie in the film's finale, simply saying his childhood nickname for her, "Boo". Zombie explained that this version was not used because he was afraid having the character talk at that point would demystify him too much, and because the act of Michael handing Laurie the photograph of them together was enough. [39]

Describing aspects of Michael Myers which he wanted to explore in the comic book Halloween: Nightdance, writer Stefan Hutchinson mentions the character's "bizarre and dark sense of humor", as seen when he wore a sheet over his head to trick a girl into thinking he was her boyfriend, and the satisfaction he gets from scaring the characters before he murders them, such as letting Laurie know he is stalking her. Hutchinson feels there is a perverse nature to Michael's actions: "see the difference between how he watches and pursues women to men". [30] He also suggests that Michael Myers' hometown of Haddonfield is the cause of his behavior, likening his situation to that of Jack the Ripper, citing Myers as a "product of normal surburbia - all the repressed emotion of fake Norman Rockwell smiles". Hutchinson describes Michael as a "monster of abjection". When asked his opinion of Rob Zombie's expansion on Michael's family life, Hutchinson says that explaining why Michael does what he does "[reduces] the character". That being said, Hutchinson explores the nature of evil in the short story Charlie—included in the Halloween Nightdance trade paperback—and says that Michael Myers spent 15 years "attuning himself to this force to the point where he is, as Loomis says, 'pure evil'". [40] Nightdance artist Tim Seeley describes the character's personality in John Carpenter's 1978 film as "a void", which allows the character to be more open to interpretation than the later sequels allowed him. He surmises that Michael embodies a part of everyone a part people are afraid will one day "snap and knife someone", which lends to the fear that Michael creates onscreen. [30] He was further characterised in the video game Dead by Daylight as "infused with a distilled and pure form of evil. For Michael, he had to kill to find some inner peace. As he took his sister's life, the police found a silent boy dressed as a clown at the scene. Sending Michael to a mental institution was a feeble attempt to save the child. Unsuccessful therapy and nightly screams just made him even more introvert [sic] and deranged." [41]

In 2005, a study was conducted by the Media Psychology Lab of California State University, Los Angeles on the psychological appeal of movie monsters—vampires, Freddy Krueger, Frankenstein's monster, Jason Voorhees, Godzilla, Chucky, Hannibal Lecter, King Kong, the Alien, and the shark from Jaws—which surveyed 1,166 people nationwide (United States), with ages ranging from 16 to 91. It was published in the Journal of Media Psychology. In the survey, Michael was considered to be the "embodiment of pure evil" when compared to the other characters, Michael Myers was rated the highest. Michael was characterized lending to the understanding of insanity, being ranked second to Hannibal Lecter in this category he also placed first as the character who shows audiences the "dark side of human nature". He was rated second in the category "monster enjoys killing" by the participants, and believed to have "superhuman strength". Michael was rated highest among the characters in the "monster is an outcast" category. [1]

John Carpenter, serving as an executive producer and creative consultant for the 2018 sequel to Halloween (1978), expressed his disagreement with Rob Zombie's portrayal of the character: "I thought that he took away the mystique of the story by explaining too much about [Michael Myers]. I don't care about that. He's supposed to be a force of nature. He's supposed to be almost supernatural." [42] Co-writer Danny McBride felt that previous sequels had made Michael less scary by giving him an inhuman level of invulnerability, preferring to humanize the character: "I think we're just trying to strip it down and just take it back to what was so good about the original. I want to be scared by something that I really think could happen. I think it's much more horrifying to be scared by someone standing in the shadows while you're taking the trash out as opposed to someone who can't be killed pursuing you." [43]

In Robot Chicken's nineteenth episode, "That Hurts Me", Michael Myers (voiced by Seth Green) appears as a housemate of "Horror Movie Big Brother", alongside fellow horror movie killers Jason Voorhees, Ghostface, Freddy Krueger, Pinhead, and Leatherface. Myers is evicted from the house, and takes off his mask to reveal himself to be the comedian Mike Myers, and utters his Austin Powers catchphrase, "I feel randy, baby, yeah!" He then proceeds to kill the host. [44] Michael appeared on 25 April 2008 episode of Ghost Whisperer, starring Jennifer Love Hewitt, titled "Horror Show". Here, a spirit communicates with Hewitt's character by placing her in scenes from the deceased's favorite horror movies, and one of the scenes involved Michael Myers. [45] The Cold Case episode "Bad Night" has the main characters reopening a 1978 murder case after new evidence indicates the victim was not killed by a mentally disturbed man who, after seeing Halloween in theatres, went on a killing spree dressed as Michael. [46] Michael Myers makes a cameo appearance in Rob Zombie's The Haunted World of El Superbeasto, released on 22 September 2009. [47] Michael Myers appears in the DLC pack for the video game Call of Duty: Ghosts, Onslaught, as a playable character. [48] Myers also makes a playable appearance in the Halloween chapter of the video game Dead by Daylight, alongside Laurie Strode. [49]

In one of the various merchandises to feature the character, Michael Myers made his video game debut with the 1983 Atari video game Halloween. The game is rare to find, often being played on emulators. No characters from the films are specifically named, with the goal of the game focusing on the player, who is a babysitter, protecting children from a "homicidal maniac [who] has escaped from a mental institution". [50] Michael was one of several horror icons to be included in the 2009 version of Universal Studios Hollywood's Halloween Horror Nights event, as a part of a maze entitled Halloween: The Life and Crimes of Michael Myers [51] Pop artist Eric Millikin created a large mosaic portrait of Michael Myers out of Halloween candy and spiders as part of his "Totally Sweet" series in 2013. [52] [53] In 2018, Spirit Halloween released a lifesize animated Michael Myers prop to coincide with the 2018 film. [54]

Menu Halloween, Samhain, All Saints' Day. Facts, misinformation, & web site links.

All Souls' Day (a.k.a. the Day of the Dead) which is normally celebrated on NOV-2. When NOV-2 is a Sunday, as it was for the year 2004 and for about one in every seven years, the celebration is held on the following Monday. This is a day for prayer and almsgiving in memory of ancestors who have died. Roman Catholic believers pray for the souls of the dead, in an effort to hasten their transition from Purgatory to Heaven. According to Isaac Bonewits, writing for Neopagan Net the day is believed to have been selected by:

". St. Odilo, [962 - 1049 CE] the fifth abbot of Cluny [in France] because he wanted to follow the example of Cluny in offering special prayers and singing the Office of the Dead on the day following the feast of All Saints." 1

There is probably more misinformation circulated about these festivals than about any other annual celebration.

Halloween topics covered:

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Interesting websites related to Halloween:

Halloween Costumes is "one of the largest retailers of Halloween costumes on the web" Along with accessories, they supply a total of more than 4,000 products. See http://www.halloweencostumes.com

Kids Costumes When it comes to kids and costumes, don't just discard them just because Halloween is over. Kids costumes can become a valued part of play time all year round – kids love to dress as their favorite animal or character at school theme parties and other occasions.

Star Costumes sells costumes for kids and adults, including Renaissance and theatrical costumes. See: http://www.starcostumes.com/

Wholesale Halloween Costumes sell many varieties of costumes as well as Halloween decorations. See: http://www.wholesalehalloweencostumes.com

References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

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A Brief History of Halloween in America

Of all the holidays, Halloween stands out as the best example of the quintessential American "melting pot," that is, a melange of beliefs, rituals, or traditions, both religious or pagan, that stem from all cultures living in America.

Of all the holidays, Halloween stands out as the best example of the quintessential American “melting pot,” that is, a melange of beliefs, rituals, or traditions, both religious or pagan, that stem from all cultures living in America.

October 31 marks the observation of Halloween or Hallowe’en, a short variation of All-hallow-even, the evening before All Hallows Day or All Saints Day, on November 1. After the Romans conquered the Celts in 43AD, they adopted many of their festivals and incorporated them into their own religious celebrations. All Hallows Day was one such example. Originally the day that celebrated numerous pagan festivals, but Pope Gregory III would eventually designate November 1 to mark the Christian feast of All Saints Day, which had moved from May 13. According to the Church, a day started at sunset, which is why celebrations typically started on October 31, the eve of the holiday, All Hallows Day.

Halloween’s Celtic Origins

One of most poignant pagan celebrations was Samhain (pronounced “Sow-en,”) a Celtic holiday, which marked the end of the harvest and the end of summer. Samhain is sometimes also regarded as the “Celtic New Year.” Celts believed this was a very important day to celebrate, as this was the day when two worlds, the living and the dead, came together. Spirits were believed to be mischievous and caused trouble, sometimes damaging crops. So the Celts would leave food, gather together and set huge bonfires of burning crops, believing the light would drive away evil spirits away. Sometimes they lit candles or carved lanterns out of vegetables such as squash to light the way for good spirits. In the Americas, those lanterns would be carved out of pumpkins, also known as Jack O’Lanterns. There are also some accounts of people making animal sacrifices to Celtic deities and even dressing in costumes made of animal hides to fool evil spirits. These days, Samhain is celebrated more has a harvest festival but still uses many of the same rituals.

Halloween Traditions in the 1800s

European immigrants brought their rituals and customs with them to America. There are actually few accounts of Halloween in colonial American history due in part to the large Protestant presences in the Northern colonies and their strict religious beliefs. However, down in the Southern colonies where larger, more mixed European communities had settled, there are some accounts of Halloween celebrations mixing with Native American harvest celebrations.

In the mid 1800s, nearly two million Irish immigrants fleeing potato famine helped shape Halloween into an even more widely celebrated event. Scottish immigrants celebrated with fireworks, telling ghost stories, playing games and making mischief. There were games such as bobbing for apples, dooking, the dropping of forks on apples without using hands, and Puicini, an Irish fortune-telling game using saucers. Young women were frequently told if they sat in dark rooms and gazed into a mirror, the face of their future husbands would appear, however, if a skull appeared, the poor girl would be destined to die before marriage. The English observation of Guy Fawkes Day on November 5 had also become intertwined with Halloween. Most pranks and mischief were the work of naughty children rather than spirits as once believed.

Halloween As A Communal Celebration

By the 1900s, the focus had shifted from a religious holiday to a more communal celebration. “Guising” was actually a practice dating back to the middle ages, when the poor would go around asking for food or money. Borrowing from the English and Irish traditions, children adopted the practice of guising and would dress up in costumes, but there are only isolated references to children actually going door to door asking for food or money during Halloween. Instead parties were held and had a more festive atmosphere with colorful costumes. The frightening and superstitious aspects of Halloween had diminished somewhat, and Halloween in America was slowly shedding some of the old European traditions favoring more light-hearted celebrations.

Trick or Treat

Despite the good natures of some people, Halloween pranks and mischief had become a huge problem in the 1920s and 1930s, mostly because the pranks often turned into vandalism, property damage and even physical assaults. Bad kids and even organizations such as the KKK, used the Halloween as an excuse to engage in criminal activity. Schools and communities did the best they could to curb vandalism by encouraging the “trick or treat” concept. The Boy Scouts got into the act by organizing safe events like school carnivals and local neighborhood trick or treat outings for children, hoping this would stir troublemakers away. But the Trick or Treat idea did face some controversy, as some parents and community leaders would take a stance that Trick or Treat was along the same lines as extortion, either the homes gave children “treats” or the families would be maliciously targeted with “tricks” for not complying. Regardless, by the late 30s, vandalism was decreasing as more and more children opted to partake in Trick or Treat.

The earliest known print of the words “Trick or Treat” did not occur until 1934, when a Portland, Oregon newspaper ran an article about how Halloween pranks kept local police officers on their toes. There would be sporadic instances of the phrase “Trick or Treat” used in the media during the 1930s, eventually making its way onto Halloween cards. But the practice we see today, children dressed in costume, going house to house saying “Trick or Treat” did not really come about until the mid 1940s. Today, those original vintage Halloween cards depicting the “Trick or Treat” words are collector’s items.

The First Halloween Celebrations

Anoka, Minnesota, a.k.a the “Halloween Capital of the World,” was the first city in America to officially hold a Halloween celebration, in an effort to divert kids from pulling pranks like tipping outhouses and letting cows loose to run around on Main Street. The town organized a parade and spent the weeks prior planning and making costumes. Treats of popcorn, peanuts and candy to any children who participated in the parade, followed by a huge bonfire in the town square. The event grew over time and has been held every year since 1920 except 1942 and 1943 when festivities were cancelled due to World War II. These days Anoka, holds elaborate Halloween festivals with a parade, carnivals, costume contests, house decorating, and other community celebrations, living up to its self-proclaimed title of “Halloween Capital of the World.” Salem, Massachusetts, associated mostly with witches due in part to its long and sometimes torrid history, also lays claim to the title. Many historians quietly back away from that debate leaving the two cities to duke it out for themselves.

Halloween in Modern America

The popularity of Halloween has increased year after year. Television, movies, and other media outlets have helped Halloween grow into America’s second largest commercial holiday, which brings in an estimated $6.9 billion dollars annually. Watching horror movies and visiting haunted attractions, real haunts or haunted theme parks is a popular modern way to celebrate the evening. Just as it was in the colonial times, Halloween in America is a melting pot of everything that is Halloween. There is no correct way to celebrate the holiday. Overzealous religious and social organizations have unsuccessfully tried to squash the holiday by spreading lies or rumors hoping to tarnish the image of Halloween by associating it with evil. The truth is there are many unsubstantiated reports and rare attacks on ordinary citizens in the way of razorblades in apples or kidnappings and killings for Satanic rituals. Most myths are created to simply prey on human fears, sometimes for fun and sometimes to railroad thoughts and beliefs to serve the purpose of a select few.

The biggest challenge facing today’s 38 million trick or treaters is staying safe in a world where the criminal types use Halloween as an excuse to act on deviant behavior. Many school and local communities will organize trick or treating in shopping malls, especially in neighborhoods where gang activity is prevalent. Parent worries in even the safe neighborhoods have adopted this practice as well. It saves money in the long run and is safe for all those involved and is slowly becoming the preferred way to celebrate in these volatile times.

Some have argued that Halloween has lost its spiritual meaning due to all the corporate and media influences. In this technology driven world, it’s important to remember that along with society, even holidays are subject to evolution. No matter what people choose to do, no matter what cultural, spiritual or material way, as long as people celebrate in a safe and happy way, the spirit of Halloween in America will endure for ages. But it’s always nice to take a look back at history and learn how it all began.


Halloween Horror Nights began at Universal Studios Florida in 1991 under the title Fright Nights. It began as a three-night event on October 25, 26, and 31, 1991, with one haunted house, The Dungeon of Terror. The first year, the admission price was $12.95. [1] From 1991 to 2001, the event was held at Universal Studios Florida.

The event was renamed "Universal Studios Florida Halloween Horror Nights" in 1992 and advertised as the second annual Halloween Horror Nights. There were two haunted houses, with The Dungeon of Terror returning to the Jaws queue building, and The People Under The Stairs making its debut in Soundstage 23. The event ran five nights, October 23, 24, 29, 30, and 31. [2]

The Third Annual Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Florida saw the event increase to seven nights. Due to the re-opening of the Jaws attraction, the in-park haunted house moved from the Jaws queue in Amity to the Nazarman's facade in the New York area. [3] The number of haunted houses increased to three, with the third at the Bates Motel set at Universal Studios Florida. [4]

Halloween Horror Nights 4 expanded to an eight-night run in 1994. [5] This year marked the return of a newly designed Dungeon of Terror, along with three more haunted houses. In addition to Nazarman's and the Bates Motel, the new locations were in the Earthquake overflow queue and the Boneyard. This year also marked the first use of the term "Scaracters", as well as the first official "Ghoul School" for actors participating in the event. [6] Ticket prices increased to $36 this year. [7]

Halloween Horror Nights V featured a 12-night run and three haunted houses, one of which was a dual-path house. It was also the first time Universal themed the event around a character, in this case Tales from the Crypt ' s Crypt Keeper. The event was subtitled "The Curse of the Crypt Keeper". [8]

Universal Studios Hollywood had featured Halloween attractions in 1986 and 1992. Bearing little resemblance to the modern event, the 1986 effort was actually a tram tour, and was marred by the accidental death of a retail employee who, like many employees at the time, had volunteered to perform in the event. [9] The 1992 event was a direct result of the success of Fright Nights at Universal Florida the year before, but was not successful. [10] [11] Halloween Horror Nights officially launched at Universal Studios Hollywood October 9, 1997, running through the 2000 season. [12] From 2001 to 2005, Halloween Horror Nights went on hiatus at Universal Studios Hollywood, then returned in 2006. [13] [14] It has continued yearly since. [15] Between 2007 and 2014, Universal Studios Hollywood made use of Universal's House of Horrors, its permanent haunted attraction, as a part of Halloween Horror Nights, by re-theming it for the event.

Back in Florida, Halloween Horror Nights VI through X followed the formula developed for Halloween Horror Nights V in 1995, growing from 15 nights in 1996 to 19 in 2000. There were three haunted houses each year, although from 1998 on, two each year were dual-path houses, for a total of five experiences. One notable change was the first 3-D haunted house, in 1999, in the Nazarman's facade. By 1999, ticket prices were $44. [16] In 2000, Universal launched its first in-house created Icon, Jack the Clown. [17]

Because the September 11 attacks occurred so close to Halloween Horror Nights XI, Universal made many changes to tone down the event. Much gore was scrapped from the event, and blood was replaced with green "goop". The names of several houses, scare zones, and shows were changed. The original icon character "Eddie" was scrapped. Edgar Sawyer was conceived as a demented, chainsaw-wielding horror movie buff that had been disfigured by a fire. He was supposed to be a threat to previous icon Jack and the tagline "No more clowning around" was used, and seen on early advertisements and merchandise. Eddie was ultimately removed from the event before it began, although he was still appearing on that year's logo and merchandise with the official "I.C.U." tagline. As a hurried replacement, Jack would return along with a line of merchandise bearing the tagline "Jack's Back." Eddie's back-story was changed, and his name was changed to Eddie Schmidt, Jack's younger brother. [18] The event again ran for 19 days, admission was $48, with five haunted houses. The dual house was in Soundstage 22. [19] [20]

Halloween Horror Nights moved to Universal's Islands of Adventure in 2002. [21] The Caretaker was not the original icon for Halloween Horror Nights 12 in 2002. Cindy (sometimes spelled "Sindy"), the daughter of mortuary owner Paul Bearer, was originally the icon of the event. In the event's premise, every land would be ruled over by her "playthings". After several child abductions in the area, the Cindy concept was abandoned and her father Paul Bearer changed into Dr. Albert Caine, also known as The Caretaker. Cindy would eventually appear in 2006's "Scream House Resurrection", 2009's "Shadows of the Past" and 2010's "The Orfanage: Ashes to Ashes". Halloween Horror Nights 12, the first to be held at Universal's Islands of Adventure park, featured five haunted houses, with admission set at $49.95. [22] [23] [24]

Halloween Horror Nights 13 again took place at Islands of Adventure. It featured six haunted houses. The Icon was The Director. [25]

For Halloween Horror Nights 14 in 2004 the resort experimented with a dual-park format, which connected and utilized parts of both parks. [26] The fourteenth edition featured a mental patient. It ran 18 nights and featured seven haunted houses. [27]

Halloween Horror Nights 15 in 2005 ran 19 nights, had seven haunted houses, and an admission of $59.75. This year was the first time an entire alternate reality (Terra Cruentus) was the basis for the entire event. Universal offered backstage tours of the Halloween Horror Nights sets. [28] [29]

In 2006, "Horror Comes Home" to the Universal Studios Florida park for its sweet 16 celebration with the four previous icons. Admission was $59.95. [30] [31] It ran 19 nights, featuring seven haunted houses. [32] [33]

For Halloween Horror Nights 17 in 2007, Universal Studios acquired the rights to use New Line Cinema's characters Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees, and Leatherface for Halloween Horror Nights. There were eight haunted houses. [34] The event ran 23 days, with a ticket price of $64.95. [35]

2008's Reflections of Fear featured a new icon in the form of Dr. Mary Agana, an original take on the Bloody Mary legend. The event revolved around the realm of reflections where Mary dwelled.

A musical tribute to The Rocky Horror Picture Show was added for the 18th and 19th installments. [36] [37] [38] [39]

2010 marked the 20th installment of the event at the Orlando park. It was titled "Twenty Years of Fear", and it featured Fear as the event's icon. [40] There were eight haunted houses. The event ran 23 nights and admission was $74.99. [41] [42]

2011 (Halloween Horror Nights 21) and 2012 (Halloween Horror Nights 22): eight and seven haunted houses, respectively 25 nights and 22 nights, respectively $81.99 and $88.99. "Roaming hordes" replace scare zones and The Walking Dead arrive as the event icon in 2012. [43] [44] [45] [46] [47] [48]

In 2011, Universal Studios Singapore began their Halloween Horror Nights event. There was one haunted house, the event ran seven nights, and admission was S$60.00. [49] [50] Universal Studios Singapore Halloween Horror Nights 2 in 2012, ran seven nights, had three haunted houses, with admission at S68.00. [51] [52] By 2015, Singapore's Halloween Horror Nights 5 had grown to four haunted houses, three of which were designed using local Singaporean horror legends and myths. [53] Singapore's Halloween Horror Nights 6, in 2016, featured five haunted houses, ran 16 nights, with admission at S$69.00. [54]

In 2012, Universal Studios Japan joined the Halloween Horror Nights franchise with an event themed to the Biohazard video games (known as Resident Evil in other countries). It ran 36 nights, from September 14 through November 11. Tickets were ¥8,400. [55] [56] [57] [58] By 2015, Universal Studios Japan had increased its "Universal Surprise Halloween at Universal Studios Japan" (which includes Halloween Horror Nights) to 59 days, featuring both daytime and nighttime activities. [59]

2013 Florida's Halloween Horror Nights 23 featured a haunted house based on An American Werewolf in London, another based on The Cabin in the Woods, and a third based on Resident Evil, plus five more, for a total of eight. The Walking Dead continued as the event icon and The Rocky Horror Picture Show Tribute returned. [60] It ran 27 nights. [61] Admission was $91.99. [62]

Florida's Halloween Horror Nights 24 in 2014 featured eight haunted houses and a return to the use of scare zones, absent since 2012. Universal again made use of licensed properties from others, including The Walking Dead, Alien vs. Predator, From Dusk till Dawn, Halloween, and The Purge. There were two shows, Bill and Ted and the Rocky Horror Tribute. [63] [64]

Halloween Horror Nights 25, in 2015 at Universal Studios Florida, brought back Jack the Clown as the icon along with his icon friends. HHN 25 ran a record 30 nights. [65] [66] HHN 25 featured nine haunted houses, with admission reaching $101.99 during the prime days. [67] [68] [69]

Halloween Horror Nights 27 was the final year Bill & Ted's Excellent Halloween Adventure was performed at Universal Studios Florida. The show had been running at HHN since 1992. [70]

Universal Studios Florida debuted a brand new lagoon show entitled "Halloween Marathon of Mayhem" during HHN 29 that features "iconic scenes from top horror films, cult classics and TV shows. [71]

Universal Studios Hollywood included Throwback Thursdays as part of Halloween Horror Nights 2019. With a special welcome from Chucky and had Beetlejuice and a live DJ playing 1980s hits. Along with local Los Angeles 80s cover band, Fast Times, performing on select nights for the event. [72]

Halloween Horror Nights 30 was initially planned for 2020, but it was cancelled and delayed to 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic's impact on theme parks. [73] They later decided to feature two of the planned haunted houses as attractions for guests for the initially planned 2020 season. [74] For the Halloween weekend of 2020, the originally planned Beetlejuice house was featured for a limited engagement.

25 Fun and Scary Halloween Facts to Trick (or Treat) Your Friends

Everyone will be spooked by how much Halloween trivia you know.

Trivia champs are in a league of their own, and if you count yourself among them, maybe you've already begun brushing up. Even if you already have your costume picked out, treats and Halloween candy chosen and your scary movie lineup all ready to roll &mdash how much do you really know about Halloween?

Over the centuries, the spooky holiday has evolved from a day with religious origins, to a day for mischief and mayhem, to one of the most commercialized celebrations of the year. If you've got a trivia night to attend this year, consider this your study guide for all of the Halloween fun facts and history you need.

1. The holiday dates back more than 2,000 years.

Halloween is even older than Christianity itself. It all started as a pre-Christian Celtic festival called Samhain, which means "summer's end." Held around the first of November, the feast recognized the final day of the fall harvest and spirits crossing over, since they believed the veil between the living and spirit world were thinnest at that time. People in Ireland, the United Kingdom and Northern France used to ward off ghosts by lighting sacrificial bonfires, and &ndash you guessed it &ndash wearing costumes, according to History.com.

2. Trick-or-treating has existed since medieval times.

Back then, it was known as "guising" in Scotland and Ireland. Young people dressed up in costumes and went door-to-door looking for food or money in exchange for songs, poems or other "tricks" they performed. Today, the tradition has morphed into children to getting dressed up and asking for candy. Hardly anyone performs for their candy these days &mdash a simple "thank you" will do.

3. Some Halloween rituals used to involve finding a husband.

During the 18th century, single ladies devised Halloween traditions that were supposed to help them find a romantic match. According to History.com, women would throw apple peels over their shoulder, hoping to see their future husband&rsquos initials in the pattern when they landed. When they bobbed for apples at parties, it was said the winner would marry first. Most spookily, they even used to stand in a dark room, holding a candle in front of a mirror to look for their future husband&rsquos face to appear in the glass.

4. Immigrants helped popularize the holiday in the U.S.

When the Irish fled the potato famine in their country in the 1840s, they brought their Halloween traditions with them. The tradition spread, until the mischievous Halloween pranksters reached an all-time high in the 1920s. Some believe community-based trick-or-treating became popular in the 1930s as a way to control the excessive pranksters.

5. Sugar rationing during World War II halted trick-or-treating.

Because of the shortage of sweet stuff, trick-or-treating wasn't as big of a deal during WWII. After the rationing ended, it was all systems go on the candy-collecting front. Candy companies began launching advertising campaigns to cash in on the ritual and make sure kids were clamoring for their products to show up in their candy buckets and spare pillowcases.

6. Now Halloween is the second largest commercial holiday in the country.

It ranks second after only Christmas. Consumers spent approximately $9 billion on Halloween in 2019, according to the National Retail Federation. Spending was down a bit in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but Americans still forked over $8 billion overall, or an average of $92 per person.

7. Most Americans spend on candy, decorations and costumes.

Many of us put our money where our mouth is when it comes to loving Halloween. The largest share goes toward candy, with 95 percent putting it in their carts, 75 percent planning on buying decorations and 65 percent shopping for costumes. Overall, Americans spent an average of $1,048 on winter holidays in 2019, if you're wondering why we all tighten our belts in January.

8. The Irish also brought us jack-o'-lanterns.

As the story goes, an Irish man named Stingy Jack tricked the devil and therefore was not allowed into heaven or hell &mdash so he spent his days roaming the Earth, carrying a lantern, and went by "Jack of the Lantern." Try not to get goosebumps when you carve up your own pumpkins this year.

9. They used to be carved out of turnips, potatoes and beets.

Jack-'o-lanterns did originate in Ireland, after all. Once Halloween became popular in America, people used pumpkins instead. This year, you might consider adding some creative produce to your Halloween tableau for a more natural look that also has historical origins.

10. There's also traditional Halloween bread in Ireland.

It's called barmbrack or just "brack." The sweet loaf typically contains dark and golden raisins, as well as a small hidden toy or ring. Similar to the classic king cake at Mardi Gras, tradition dictates that the person who finds the item will come into good fortune in the coming year.

11. Disney almost made Hocus Pocus a completely different movie.

Everyone's Halloween fav nearly didn't become the icon it is today. The original title, Disney's Halloween House, also went along with a much darker and scarier script, according to IMDB. Not only that, but Leonardo DiCaprio was courted to play teenage heartthrob Max Dennison, but he turned it down to appear in What's Eating Gilbert Grape instead.

12. Illinois produces up to five times more pumpkins than any other state.

If you're in the market for a truly destination-worthy pumpkin patch, look to the heartland. The Land of Lincoln has more than 15,000 acres devoted to gourd growing, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. Those Illinois farms typically grow more than 500 million pounds of pumpkins annually.

13. Candy corn was originally called "chicken feed."

The Goelitz Confectionery Company originally sold the polarizing treat in boxes with a rooster on the front in order to appeal to America's agricultural roots, according to National Geographic. The sugary recipe has gone largely unchanged since the 1880s. Love 'em or hate 'em, you can't argue with candy corn's consistency.

14. "Monster Mash" once reigned supreme on the Billboard charts.

Bobby "Boris" Pickett reached #1 on the Hot 100 in 1962 just before Halloween and later recharted in 1973 &mdash but this time in August. You might even say it was "a graveyard smash!"

15. You can even visit a pumpkin patch in Hawaii.

Head to Waimanalo Country Farms in Oahu to pick pumpkins while you're on the islands, whether you live there or need a taste of home on vacation. Looking for squash in Florida? Try the Pickin&rsquo Patch in Dunnellon. It's a watermelon farm the rest of the year, but pivots to pumpkins for seasonal appeal.

16. The Michael Myers mask in Halloween has a fascinating backstory.

The famous horror movie villain comes from surprisingly innocent roots. When shooting the original 1978 film, production designer Tommy Lee Wallace picked up two masks from a Hollywood Boulevard magic shop: a clown mask and William Shatner as Captain Kirk in Star Trek.

"Tommy came in with the clown mask on, and we went, 'Ooh, that&rsquos kind of scary.' Then he put on the Shatner mask, and we stopped dead and said, 'It&rsquos perfect,'" actor Nick Castle told the New York Times. They spray painted it white, cut the eye holes bigger, and the rest is spine-tingling history.

17. The fastest pumpkin carving only took 16.47 seconds.

Stephen Clarke of New York holds the Guinness Book of World Records distinction, having carved his speedy lantern in October 2013. In order to nab the title, the jack-o'-lantern had to contain a complete face, including eyes, nose, mouth, and ears. No word on what the face's expression had to be.

18. New York City throws the biggest Halloween parade in the U.S.

On an average year, the event draws more than 2 million spectators and includes thousands of participants joining in the route along the way. It all began as the brainchild of Greenwich Village resident and puppeteer! Ralph Lee, who just wanted to throw a whimsical walk from house to house for his kids and their pals. When a local theatre got wind of it, they joined in and grew the event. It's gotten bigger, more creative and more theatrical ever since.

19. Princesses and superheroes rank as the most popular kids' costumes.

Adults dress as witches most frequently, according to the National Retail Federation. In 2019, the most popular costume for dogs was a pumpkin. The most popular costume for cats is hiding under the couch, hissing at the very idea.

20. Skittles are the top Halloween candy.

No chocolate? No problem! The bite-sized fruit candies outranked M&M's, Snickers and Reese's Cups, according to 11 years of sales data from CandyStore.com. And even though candy corn made the top 10, the tricolored treats also ranked among the worst Halloween candies, according to a CandyStore.com survey. No wonder post-trick or treating candy trades can get so heated.

21. A city in Canada banned teens over 16 from trick-or-treating.

According to CBC, anyone over the age of 16 caught trick-or-treating in Bathurst, Canada, faces up to a $200 fine. The city also has a curfew for everyone, so even those under 16 aren't allowed out after 8 p.m. on Halloween. The rules were instituted to curtail after-dark mischief, after a rash of pranks.

22. Harry Houdini died on Halloween in 1926.

The famous magician, illusionist and entertainer died from peritonitis caused by a ruptured appendix, according to Biography.com. However, as befits a man of mystery, multiple contradicting reports did surface at the time. Some say a band of angry Spiritualists poisoned him, others that it was a student punching him in the stomach (with his permission) that caused his appendix to burst.

23. Some shelters used to suspend black cat adoptions for Halloween.

They feared that the animals were in danger from satanic cults that wanted them for nefarious purposes in the days leading up to Halloween. Now though, shelters have gone in the opposite direction. Many even promote black cat adoptions in October, using the pre-adoption screening and interview process to weed out anyone with the wrong intentions.

24. Keene, New Hampshire, holds the record for the most jack-o&rsquo-lanterns on display.

In October 2013, the city broke the record with 30,581 lit pumpkins displayed around town. Talk about lighting up the night.

25. The night before Halloween is called Mischief Night or Goosey Night in some places.

For those who've lived on the East Coast and the Midwest, it's probably not news to you that lots of teens and tweens pull pranks on October 30. But from toilet papering the trees outside someone's house, to egging cars and more dangerous capers, the tradition never really made its way to the West Coast.

How Halloween Has Taken Over England

In England, Halloween is so hot right now.

And what's making it more unbearable for some is the fact that the Americanized celebration of Halloween that is becoming more and more popular on October 31 may be coming at the expense of the most staunchly English (although equally insubordinate) of holidays: Guy Fawkes Day on November 5.

That holiday, also known as Bonfire Night, is a commemoration of the foiled Gunpowder Plot by disgruntled Catholics to blow up Parliament, with the Protestant King James I inside. Celebrated like the the Fourth of July, fireworks, parades, blazing bonfires, and effigies of Fawkes (and the Pope), were all typical trademarks of the holiday.

But increasingly, revelers in the United Kingdom are combining the holidays and what has long been a distinctly British event has taken on more and more of an American flavor.

"I have a distinct sense that Halloween is overtaking or has overtaken Guy Fawkes Night," says James Sharpe of the University of York in England, who has studied the history of these holidays.

Some data and much anecdotal evidence back this up: In an article last year on Halloween in the U.K., the New York Times reported that sales of Halloween-related products were expected to grow 12 percent in 2013 from the previous year. Halloween dress-up balls and parties are becoming popular with young Brits, just as they have been with their American counterparts. Trick or treat candies are collected along with pennies for the Guy. Houses and shops are decorated with images of witches, pumpkins and Michael Myers—even pets are dressed in silly Halloween costumes.

"It's certainly true that Halloween is now a 'thing' in the U.K., in a way that wasn't true when I was a child," says Dr. Susan Greenberg, senior lecturer in creative writing at London's University of Roehampton, and a dual national who has lived in the U.K. since childhood.

Some Brits are not happy to see Guy Fawkes Day being eclipsed by Halloween. Sharpe, for one, proudly considers himself a "Halloween Scrooge," and says that, in his opinion, the Americanized way the holiday is being marked in England is "rather brainless."

Who’s to blame? "I hate to say this, but what's happening is a result of U.S. cultural imperialism," Sharpe says, citing a national poll in the U.K., conducted by the market research firm YouGov, in which forty five percent of those surveyed  thought Halloween "an unwelcome American cultural import." (Presumably the other fifty-five were busy celebrating it).

Some might consider the idea of dismissing Halloween as an American intrusion into British culture ironic considering that its roots are found in Scotland and Ireland. Then again, nobody was walking around dressed up as a banana in 12th-century Scotland.  

Nicholas Rogers, author of the book Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night sees the Halloween-Guy Fawkes competition differently. "I know some in England want to paint it as cultural imperialism," says Rogers, a native of Bristol, who teaches history at York University in Toronto. But, he points out, it is the British who have changed as changed as much as the holidays they celebrate. "In a more multicultural Britain, Guy Fawkes is a bit of an embarrassment," Rogers says. "What you’re doing is burning a Catholic on a bonfire, and that doesn't go down very well today."

The actual history of the Gunpowder Plot (or the Powder Treason as it was also known) has also undergone some re-evaluation. "The courage of the Powder Plotters is undeniable and even those hottest in condemning their enterprise have paid tribute to it," wrote historian Antonia Fraser in her acclaimed 1996 book on the Plot, Faith and Treason. Guy Fawkes and his co-conspirators may have very well been what we would today call terrorists, but given the oppression of Catholics in England at the time, Fraser argues, they were "perhaps brave, misguided men. whose motives if not their actions, were noble and idealistic."

While the holiday in his name may be declining in popularity, Fawkes himself has enjoyed a career comeback as a symbol for protest in the 21st century:  the 2006 movie "V for Vendetta," in which the eponymous hero, the anarchist V, wears a Guy Fawkes mask in his efforts to overthrow a fascist British government in a dystopian future, Fawkes's visage has become the unofficial face of the Occupy movement and the hacker group Anonymous.

Halloween labors under no such political baggage. While the celebrations in Britain do owe a good deal to the American version of the holiday, Rogers notes that Halloween here in the U.S. continues to evolve, too, reflecting our own changing society accommodating the rites and traditions of other seasonal festivals, including the Day of the Dead, a Mexican holiday celebrated from October 31-November 2.

"In cities like San Antonio and Los Angeles," Rogers says, "You've now got a fused holiday. You've got sugar skulls, a traditional Day of the Dead Mexican treat, co-existing with people dressed up as witches."

Similarly, he suspects Halloween and Guy Fawkes Day may find a way to coexist in Britain. In some parts of Northern Ireland and Canada, they've already managed to dampen the anti-Catholic undertones while keeping the fires burning on November 5. Celebrants there have simply taken Guy Fawkes, in name and effigy, out of the holiday.  

"They have a Guy-less bonfire," Rogers says dryly.

It's doubtful that in a country with a large Catholic population, Americans would appropriate Guy Fawkes Day as a holiday of their own, even though in pre-Revolutionary War Boston, it was actually celebrated as "Pope's Day" with effigies of the Pope joining Fawkes as objects of desecration. That's just as well. Besides being offensive, one thing colonial Pope's Day shared with American Halloween and the British Guy Fawkes Day is that all are marked by a degree of bad behavior on the part of some.  In her book, Fraser quotes what she calls the "sensible" words of an American almanac on the subject in 1746:

Powder Plot will not be forgot.

Twill be observed by many a sot.

About John Hanc

John Hanc is a writer for Smithsonian, The New York Times, Newsday and Runner's World. He teaches journalism at the New York Institute of Technology in Old Westbury. Hanc’s 15th book—the memoir of Dr. Arun Singh, a cardiac surgeon who has performed more open heart surgeries than almost anyone in history—will be published in 2018 by Center Street, an imprint of Hachette.


The word Halloween or Hallowe'en dates to about 1745 [32] and is of Christian origin. [33] The word "Hallowe'en" means "Saints' evening". [34] It comes from a Scottish term for All Hallows' Eve (the evening before All Hallows' Day). [35] In Scots, the word "eve" is even, and this is contracted to e'en or een. [36] Over time, (All) Hallow(s) E(v)en evolved into Hallowe'en. Although the phrase "All Hallows'" is found in Old English, "All Hallows' Eve" is itself not seen until 1556. [35] [37]

Gaelic influence

Today's Halloween customs are thought to have been influenced by folk customs and beliefs from the Celtic-speaking countries, some of which are believed to have pagan roots. [38] Jack Santino, a folklorist, writes that "there was throughout Ireland an uneasy truce existing between customs and beliefs associated with Christianity and those associated with religions that were Irish before Christianity arrived". [39] Historian Nicholas Rogers, exploring the origins of Halloween, notes that while "some folklorists have detected its origins in the Roman feast of Pomona, the goddess of fruits and seeds, or in the festival of the dead called Parentalia, it is more typically linked to the Celtic festival of Samhain, which comes from the Old Irish for 'summer's end'." [40]

Samhain was the first and most important of the four quarter days in the medieval Gaelic calendar and was celebrated on 31 October – 1 November [41] in Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man. [42] [43] A kindred festival was held at the same time of year by the Brittonic Celts, called Calan Gaeaf in Wales, Kalan Gwav in Cornwall and Kalan Goañv in Brittany a name meaning "first day of winter". For the Celts, the day ended and began at sunset thus the festival began on the evening before 7 November by modern reckoning (the half point between equinox and solstice). [44] Samhain is mentioned in some of the earliest Irish literature. The names have been used by historians to refer to Celtic Halloween customs up until the 19th century, [45] and are still the Gaelic and Welsh names for Halloween.

Samhain marked the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter or the 'darker half' of the year. [46] [47] Like Beltane/Calan Mai, it was seen as a liminal time, when the boundary between this world and the Otherworld thinned. This meant the Aos Sí, the 'spirits' or 'fairies', could more easily come into this world and were particularly active. [48] [49] Most scholars see the Aos Sí as "degraded versions of ancient gods [. ] whose power remained active in the people's minds even after they had been officially replaced by later religious beliefs". [50] The Aos Sí were both respected and feared, with individuals often invoking the protection of God when approaching their dwellings. [51] [52] At Samhain, it was believed that the Aos Sí needed to be propitiated to ensure that the people and their livestock survived the winter. Offerings of food and drink, or portions of the crops, were left outside for the Aos Sí. [53] [54] [55] The souls of the dead were also said to revisit their homes seeking hospitality. [56] Places were set at the dinner table and by the fire to welcome them. [57] The belief that the souls of the dead return home on one night of the year and must be appeased seems to have ancient origins and is found in many cultures throughout the world. [58] In 19th century Ireland, "candles would be lit and prayers formally offered for the souls of the dead. After this the eating, drinking, and games would begin". [59]

Throughout Ireland and Britain, the household festivities included rituals and games intended to foretell one's future, especially regarding death and marriage. [60] Apples and nuts were often used in these divination rituals. They included apple bobbing, nut roasting, scrying or mirror-gazing, pouring molten lead or egg whites into water, dream interpretation, and others. [61] Special bonfires were lit and there were rituals involving them. Their flames, smoke and ashes were deemed to have protective and cleansing powers, and were also used for divination. [46] In some places, torches lit from the bonfire were carried sunwise around homes and fields to protect them. [45] It is suggested that the fires were a kind of imitative or sympathetic magic – they mimicked the Sun, helping the "powers of growth" and holding back the decay and darkness of winter. [57] [62] [63] In Scotland, these bonfires and divination games were banned by the church elders in some parishes. [64] In Wales, bonfires were lit to "prevent the souls of the dead from falling to earth". [65] Later, these bonfires served to keep "away the devil". [66]

From at least the 16th century, [68] the festival included mumming and guising in Ireland, Scotland, the Isle of Man and Wales. [69] This involved people going house-to-house in costume (or in disguise), usually reciting verses or songs in exchange for food. It may have originally been a tradition whereby people impersonated the Aos Sí, or the souls of the dead, and received offerings on their behalf, similar to the custom of souling (see below). Impersonating these beings, or wearing a disguise, was also believed to protect oneself from them. [70] It is suggested that the mummers and guisers "personify the old spirits of the winter, who demanded reward in exchange for good fortune". [71] In parts of southern Ireland, the guisers included a hobby horse. A man dressed as a Láir Bhán (white mare) led youths house-to-house reciting verses – some of which had pagan overtones – in exchange for food. If the household donated food it could expect good fortune from the 'Muck Olla' not doing so would bring misfortune. [72] In Scotland, youths went house-to-house with masked, painted or blackened faces, often threatening to do mischief if they were not welcomed. [69] F. Marian McNeill suggests the ancient festival included people in costume representing the spirits, and that faces were marked (or blackened) with ashes taken from the sacred bonfire. [68] In parts of Wales, men went about dressed as fearsome beings called gwrachod. [69] In the late 19th and early 20th century, young people in Glamorgan and Orkney cross-dressed. [69]

Elsewhere in Europe, mumming and hobby horses were part of other yearly festivals. However, in the Celtic-speaking regions, they were "particularly appropriate to a night upon which supernatural beings were said to be abroad and could be imitated or warded off by human wanderers". [69] From at least the 18th century, "imitating malignant spirits" led to playing pranks in Ireland and the Scottish Highlands. Wearing costumes and playing pranks at Halloween spread to England in the 20th century. [69] Traditionally, pranksters used hollowed out turnips or mangel wurzels often carved with grotesque faces as lanterns. [69] By those who made them, the lanterns were variously said to represent the spirits, [69] or were used to ward off evil spirits. [73] [74] They were common in parts of Ireland and the Scottish Highlands in the 19th century, [69] as well as in Somerset (see Punkie Night). In the 20th century they spread to other parts of England and became generally known as jack-o'-lanterns. [69]

Christian influence

Today's Halloween customs are thought to have been influenced by Christian dogma and practices derived from it. [75] Halloween is the evening before the Christian holy days of All Hallows' Day (also known as All Saints' or Hallowmas) on 1 November and All Souls' Day on 2 November, thus giving the holiday on 31 October the full name of All Hallows' Eve (meaning the evening before All Hallows' Day). [76] Since the time of the early Church, [77] major feasts in Christianity (such as Christmas, Easter and Pentecost) had vigils that began the night before, as did the feast of All Hallows'. [78] These three days are collectively called Allhallowtide and are a time for honoring the saints and praying for the recently departed souls who have yet to reach Heaven. Commemorations of all saints and martyrs were held by several churches on various dates, mostly in springtime. [79] In 609, Pope Boniface IV re-dedicated the Pantheon in Rome to "St Mary and all martyrs" on 13 May. This was the same date as Lemuria, an ancient Roman festival of the dead, and the same date as the commemoration of all saints in Edessa in the time of Ephrem the Syrian. [80]

The feast of All Hallows', on its current date in the Western Church, may be traced to Pope Gregory III's (731–741) founding of an oratory in St Peter's for the relics "of the holy apostles and of all saints, martyrs and confessors". [81] [82] In 835, All Hallows' Day was officially switched to 1 November, the same date as Samhain, at the behest of Pope Gregory IV. [83] Some suggest this was due to Celtic influence, while others suggest it was a Germanic idea, [83] although it is claimed that both Germanic and Celtic-speaking peoples commemorated the dead at the beginning of winter. [84] They may have seen it as the most fitting time to do so, as it is a time of 'dying' in nature. [83] [84] It is also suggested that the change was made on the "practical grounds that Rome in summer could not accommodate the great number of pilgrims who flocked to it", and perhaps because of public health considerations regarding Roman Fever – a disease that claimed a number of lives during the sultry summers of the region. [85]

By the end of the 12th century they had become holy days of obligation across Europe and involved such traditions as ringing church bells for the souls in purgatory. In addition, "it was customary for criers dressed in black to parade the streets, ringing a bell of mournful sound and calling on all good Christians to remember the poor souls." [87] "Souling", the custom of baking and sharing soul cakes for all christened souls, [88] has been suggested as the origin of trick-or-treating. [89] The custom dates back at least as far as the 15th century [90] and was found in parts of England, Flanders, Germany and Austria. [58] Groups of poor people, often children, would go door-to-door during Allhallowtide, collecting soul cakes, in exchange for praying for the dead, especially the souls of the givers' friends and relatives. [90] [91] [92] Soul cakes would also be offered for the souls themselves to eat, [58] or the 'soulers' would act as their representatives. [93] As with the Lenten tradition of hot cross buns, Allhallowtide soul cakes were often marked with a cross, indicating that they were baked as alms. [94] Shakespeare mentions souling in his comedy The Two Gentlemen of Verona (1593). [95] On the custom of wearing costumes, Christian minister Prince Sorie Conteh wrote: "It was traditionally believed that the souls of the departed wandered the earth until All Saints' Day, and All Hallows' Eve provided one last chance for the dead to gain vengeance on their enemies before moving to the next world. In order to avoid being recognized by any soul that might be seeking such vengeance, people would don masks or costumes to disguise their identities". [96]

It is claimed that in the Middle Ages, churches that were too poor to display the relics of martyred saints at Allhallowtide let parishioners dress up as saints instead. [97] [98] Some Christians continue to observe this custom at Halloween today. [99] Lesley Bannatyne believes this could have been a Christianization of an earlier pagan custom. [100] While souling, Christians would carry with them "lanterns made of hollowed-out turnips". [101] It has been suggested that the carved jack-o'-lantern, a popular symbol of Halloween, originally represented the souls of the dead. [102] On Halloween, in medieval Europe, fires served a dual purpose, being lit to guide returning souls to the homes of their families, as well as to deflect demons from haunting sincere Christian folk. [103] [104] Households in Austria, England and Ireland often had "candles burning in every room to guide the souls back to visit their earthly homes". These were known as "soul lights". [105] [106] [107] Many Christians in mainland Europe, especially in France, believed "that once a year, on Hallowe'en, the dead of the churchyards rose for one wild, hideous carnival" known as the danse macabre, which has often been depicted in church decoration. [108] Christopher Allmand and Rosamond McKitterick write in The New Cambridge Medieval History that "Christians were moved by the sight of the Infant Jesus playing on his mother's knee their hearts were touched by the Pietà and patron saints reassured them by their presence. But, all the while, the danse macabre urged them not to forget the end of all earthly things." [109] This danse macabre was enacted at village pageants and at court masques, with people "dressing up as corpses from various strata of society", and may have been the origin of modern-day Halloween costume parties. [101] [110] [111]

In parts of Britain, these customs came under attack during the Reformation as some Protestants berated purgatory as a "popish" doctrine incompatible with their notion of predestination. Thus, for some Nonconformist Protestants, the theology of All Hallows' Eve was redefined without the doctrine of purgatory, "the returning souls cannot be journeying from Purgatory on their way to Heaven, as Catholics frequently believe and assert. Instead, the so-called ghosts are thought to be in actuality evil spirits. As such they are threatening." [106] Other Protestants maintained belief in an intermediate state, known as Hades (Bosom of Abraham), [112] and continued to observe the original customs, especially souling, candlelit processions and the ringing of church bells in memory of the dead. [76] [113] Mark Donnelly, a professor of medieval archaeology, and historian Daniel Diehl, with regard to the evil spirits, on Halloween, write that "barns and homes were blessed to protect people and livestock from the effect of witches, who were believed to accompany the malignant spirits as they traveled the earth." [114] In the 19th century, in some rural parts of England, families gathered on hills on the night of All Hallows' Eve. One held a bunch of burning straw on a pitchfork while the rest knelt around him in a circle, praying for the souls of relatives and friends until the flames went out. This was known as teen'lay. [115] Other customs included the tindle fires in Derbyshire and all-night vigil bonfires in Hertfordshire which were lit to pray for the departed. [116] The rising popularity of Guy Fawkes Night (5 November) from 1605 onward, saw many Halloween traditions appropriated by that holiday instead, and Halloween's popularity waned in Britain, with the noteworthy exception of Scotland. [117] There and in Ireland, they had been celebrating Samhain and Halloween since at least the early Middle Ages, and the Scottish kirk took a more pragmatic approach to Halloween, seeing it as important to the life cycle and rites of passage of communities and thus ensuring its survival in the country. [117]

In France, some Christian families, on the night of All Hallows' Eve, prayed beside the graves of their loved ones, setting down dishes full of milk for them. [105] On Halloween, in Italy, some families left a large meal out for ghosts of their passed relatives, before they departed for church services. [118] In Spain, on this night, special pastries are baked, known as "bones of the holy" (Spanish: Huesos de Santo) and put them on the graves of the churchyard, a practice that continues to this day. [119]

Spread to North America

Lesley Bannatyne and Cindy Ott write that Anglican colonists in the southern United States and Catholic colonists in Maryland "recognized All Hallow's Eve in their church calendars", [120] [121] although the Puritans of New England maintained strong opposition to the holiday, along with other traditional celebrations of the established Church, including Christmas. [122] Almanacs of the late 18th and early 19th century give no indication that Halloween was widely celebrated in North America. [123] It was not until mass Irish and Scottish immigration in the 19th century that Halloween became a major holiday in America, [123] confined to the immigrant communities during the mid-19th century. It was gradually assimilated into mainstream society and was celebrated coast to coast by people of all social, racial, and religious backgrounds by the first decade of the 20th century. [124] "In Cajun areas, a nocturnal Mass was said in cemeteries on Halloween night. Candles that had been blessed were placed on graves, and families sometimes spent the entire night at the graveside". [125] The yearly Greenwich Village Halloween Parade was begun in 1974 by puppeteer and mask maker Ralph Lee of Greenwich Village it is the world's largest Halloween parade and America's only major nighttime parade, attracting more than 60,000 costumed participants, two million spectators, and a worldwide television audience. [126]

Development of artifacts and symbols associated with Halloween formed over time. Jack-o'-lanterns are traditionally carried by guisers on All Hallows' Eve in order to frighten evil spirits. [102] [127] There is a popular Irish Christian folktale associated with the jack-o'-lantern, [128] which in folklore is said to represent a "soul who has been denied entry into both heaven and hell": [129]

On route home after a night's drinking, Jack encounters the Devil and tricks him into climbing a tree. A quick-thinking Jack etches the sign of the cross into the bark, thus trapping the Devil. Jack strikes a bargain that Satan can never claim his soul. After a life of sin, drink, and mendacity, Jack is refused entry to heaven when he dies. Keeping his promise, the Devil refuses to let Jack into hell and throws a live coal straight from the fires of hell at him. It was a cold night, so Jack places the coal in a hollowed out turnip to stop it from going out, since which time Jack and his lantern have been roaming looking for a place to rest. [130]

In Ireland and Scotland, the turnip has traditionally been carved during Halloween, [131] [132] but immigrants to North America used the native pumpkin, which is both much softer and much larger – making it easier to carve than a turnip. [131] The American tradition of carving pumpkins is recorded in 1837 [133] and was originally associated with harvest time in general, not becoming specifically associated with Halloween until the mid-to-late 19th century. [134]

The modern imagery of Halloween comes from many sources, including Christian eschatology, national customs, works of Gothic and horror literature (such as the novels Frankenstein and Dracula) and classic horror films (such as Frankenstein and The Mummy). [135] [136] Imagery of the skull, a reference to Golgotha in the Christian tradition, serves as "a reminder of death and the transitory quality of human life" and is consequently found in memento mori and vanitas compositions [137] skulls have therefore been commonplace in Halloween, which touches on this theme. [138] Traditionally, the back walls of churches are "decorated with a depiction of the Last Judgment, complete with graves opening and the dead rising, with a heaven filled with angels and a hell filled with devils", a motif that has permeated the observance of this triduum. [139] One of the earliest works on the subject of Halloween is from Scottish poet John Mayne, who, in 1780, made note of pranks at Halloween "What fearfu' pranks ensue!", as well as the supernatural associated with the night, "Bogies" (ghosts), influencing Robert Burns' "Halloween" (1785). [140] Elements of the autumn season, such as pumpkins, corn husks, and scarecrows, are also prevalent. Homes are often decorated with these types of symbols around Halloween. Halloween imagery includes themes of death, evil, and mythical monsters. [141] Black cats, which have been long associated with witches, are also a common symbol of Halloween. Black, orange, and sometimes purple are Halloween's traditional colors. [142]

Trick-or-treating is a customary celebration for children on Halloween. Children go in costume from house to house, asking for treats such as candy or sometimes money, with the question, "Trick or treat?" The word "trick" implies a "threat" to perform mischief on the homeowners or their property if no treat is given. [89] The practice is said to have roots in the medieval practice of mumming, which is closely related to souling. [143] John Pymm wrote that "many of the feast days associated with the presentation of mumming plays were celebrated by the Christian Church." [144] These feast days included All Hallows' Eve, Christmas, Twelfth Night and Shrove Tuesday. [145] [146] Mumming practiced in Germany, Scandinavia and other parts of Europe, [147] involved masked persons in fancy dress who "paraded the streets and entered houses to dance or play dice in silence". [148]

In England, from the medieval period, [149] up until the 1930s, [150] people practiced the Christian custom of souling on Halloween, which involved groups of soulers, both Protestant and Catholic, [113] going from parish to parish, begging the rich for soul cakes, in exchange for praying for the souls of the givers and their friends. [91] In the Philippines, the practice of souling is called Pangangaluwa and is practiced on All Hallow's Eve among children in rural areas. [21] People drape themselves in white cloths to represent souls and then visit houses, where they sing in return for prayers and sweets. [21]

In Scotland and Ireland, guising – children disguised in costume going from door to door for food or coins – is a traditional Halloween custom. [151] It is recorded in Scotland at Halloween in 1895 where masqueraders in disguise carrying lanterns made out of scooped out turnips, visit homes to be rewarded with cakes, fruit, and money. [132] [152] In Ireland, the most popular phrase for kids to shout (until the 2000s) was "Help the Halloween Party". [151] The practice of guising at Halloween in North America is first recorded in 1911, where a newspaper in Kingston, Ontario, Canada reported children going "guising" around the neighborhood. [153]

American historian and author Ruth Edna Kelley of Massachusetts wrote the first book-length history of Halloween in the US The Book of Hallowe'en (1919), and references souling in the chapter "Hallowe'en in America". [154] In her book, Kelley touches on customs that arrived from across the Atlantic "Americans have fostered them, and are making this an occasion something like what it must have been in its best days overseas. All Halloween customs in the United States are borrowed directly or adapted from those of other countries". [155]

While the first reference to "guising" in North America occurs in 1911, another reference to ritual begging on Halloween appears, place unknown, in 1915, with a third reference in Chicago in 1920. [156] The earliest known use in print of the term "trick or treat" appears in 1927, in the Blackie Herald, of Alberta, Canada. [157]

The thousands of Halloween postcards produced between the turn of the 20th century and the 1920s commonly show children but not trick-or-treating. [158] Trick-or-treating does not seem to have become a widespread practice in North America until the 1930s, with the first US appearances of the term in 1934, [159] and the first use in a national publication occurring in 1939. [160]

A popular variant of trick-or-treating, known as trunk-or-treating (or Halloween tailgating), occurs when "children are offered treats from the trunks of cars parked in a church parking lot", or sometimes, a school parking lot. [119] [161] In a trunk-or-treat event, the trunk (boot) of each automobile is decorated with a certain theme, [162] such as those of children's literature, movies, scripture, and job roles. [163] Trunk-or-treating has grown in popularity due to its perception as being more safe than going door to door, a point that resonates well with parents, as well as the fact that it "solves the rural conundrum in which homes [are] built a half-mile apart". [164] [165]

Halloween costumes are traditionally modeled after supernatural figures such as vampires, monsters, ghosts, skeletons, witches, and devils. [89] Over time, the costume selection extended to include popular characters from fiction, celebrities, and generic archetypes such as ninjas and princesses.

Dressing up in costumes and going "guising" was prevalent in Scotland and Ireland at Halloween by the late 19th century. [132] A Scottish term, the tradition is called "guising" because of the disguises or costumes worn by the children. [152] In Ireland the masks are known as 'false faces'. [166] Costuming became popular for Halloween parties in the US in the early 20th century, as often for adults as for children, and when trick-or-treating was becoming popular in Canada and the US in the 1920s and 1930s. [157] [167]

Eddie J. Smith, in his book Halloween, Hallowed is Thy Name, offers a religious perspective to the wearing of costumes on All Hallows' Eve, suggesting that by dressing up as creatures "who at one time caused us to fear and tremble", people are able to poke fun at Satan "whose kingdom has been plundered by our Saviour". Images of skeletons and the dead are traditional decorations used as memento mori. [168] [169]

"Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF" is a fundraising program to support UNICEF, [89] a United Nations Programme that provides humanitarian aid to children in developing countries. Started as a local event in a Northeast Philadelphia neighborhood in 1950 and expanded nationally in 1952, the program involves the distribution of small boxes by schools (or in modern times, corporate sponsors like Hallmark, at their licensed stores) to trick-or-treaters, in which they can solicit small-change donations from the houses they visit. It is estimated that children have collected more than $118 million for UNICEF since its inception. In Canada, in 2006, UNICEF decided to discontinue their Halloween collection boxes, citing safety and administrative concerns after consultation with schools, they instead redesigned the program. [170] [171]

Since the late 2010s, ethnic stereotypes as costumes have increasingly come under scrutiny in the United States. [172] Such and other potentially offensive costumes have been met with increasing public disapproval. [173] [174]

Pet costumes

According to a 2018 report from the National Retail Federation, 30 million Americans will spend an estimated $480 million on Halloween costumes for their pets in 2018. This is up from an estimated $200 million in 2010. The most popular costumes for pets are the pumpkin, followed by the hot dog, and the bumble bee in third place. [175]

There are several games traditionally associated with Halloween. Some of these games originated as divination rituals or ways of foretelling one's future, especially regarding death, marriage and children. During the Middle Ages, these rituals were done by a "rare few" in rural communities as they were considered to be "deadly serious" practices. [176] In recent centuries, these divination games have been "a common feature of the household festivities" in Ireland and Britain. [60] They often involve apples and hazelnuts. In Celtic mythology, apples were strongly associated with the Otherworld and immortality, while hazelnuts were associated with divine wisdom. [177] Some also suggest that they derive from Roman practices in celebration of Pomona. [89]

The following activities were a common feature of Halloween in Ireland and Britain during the 17th–20th centuries. Some have become more widespread and continue to be popular today. One common game is apple bobbing or dunking (which may be called "dooking" in Scotland) [178] in which apples float in a tub or a large basin of water and the participants must use only their teeth to remove an apple from the basin. A variant of dunking involves kneeling on a chair, holding a fork between the teeth and trying to drive the fork into an apple. Another common game involves hanging up treacle or syrup-coated scones by strings these must be eaten without using hands while they remain attached to the string, an activity that inevitably leads to a sticky face. Another once-popular game involves hanging a small wooden rod from the ceiling at head height, with a lit candle on one end and an apple hanging from the other. The rod is spun round and everyone takes turns to try to catch the apple with their teeth. [179]

Several of the traditional activities from Ireland and Britain involve foretelling one's future partner or spouse. An apple would be peeled in one long strip, then the peel tossed over the shoulder. The peel is believed to land in the shape of the first letter of the future spouse's name. [180] [181] Two hazelnuts would be roasted near a fire one named for the person roasting them and the other for the person they desire. If the nuts jump away from the heat, it is a bad sign, but if the nuts roast quietly it foretells a good match. [182] [183] A salty oatmeal bannock would be baked the person would eat it in three bites and then go to bed in silence without anything to drink. This is said to result in a dream in which their future spouse offers them a drink to quench their thirst. [184] Unmarried women were told that if they sat in a darkened room and gazed into a mirror on Halloween night, the face of their future husband would appear in the mirror. [185] However, if they were destined to die before marriage, a skull would appear. The custom was widespread enough to be commemorated on greeting cards [186] from the late 19th century and early 20th century.

Another popular Irish game was known as púicíní ("blindfolds") a person would be blindfolded and then would choose between several saucers. The item in the saucer would provide a hint as to their future: a ring would mean that they would marry soon clay, that they would die soon, perhaps within the year water, that they would emigrate rosary beads, that they would take Holy Orders (become a nun, priest, monk, etc.) a coin, that they would become rich a bean, that they would be poor. [187] [188] [189] [190] [191] The game features prominently in the James Joyce short story "Clay" (1914). [192] [193] [194]

In Ireland and Scotland, items would be hidden in food – usually a cake, barmbrack, cranachan, champ or colcannon – and portions of it served out at random. A person's future would be foretold by the item they happened to find for example, a ring meant marriage and a coin meant wealth. [195]

Up until the 19th century, the Halloween bonfires were also used for divination in parts of Scotland, Wales and Brittany. When the fire died down, a ring of stones would be laid in the ashes, one for each person. In the morning, if any stone was mislaid it was said that the person it represented would not live out the year. [45]

Telling ghost stories, listening to Halloween-themed songs and watching horror films are common fixtures of Halloween parties. Episodes of television series and Halloween-themed specials (with the specials usually aimed at children) are commonly aired on or before Halloween, while new horror films are often released before Halloween to take advantage of the holiday.

Haunted attractions are entertainment venues designed to thrill and scare patrons. Most attractions are seasonal Halloween businesses that may include haunted houses, corn mazes, and hayrides, [196] and the level of sophistication of the effects has risen as the industry has grown.

The first recorded purpose-built haunted attraction was the Orton and Spooner Ghost House, which opened in 1915 in Liphook, England. This attraction actually most closely resembles a carnival fun house, powered by steam. [197] [198] The House still exists, in the Hollycombe Steam Collection.

It was during the 1930s, about the same time as trick-or-treating, that Halloween-themed haunted houses first began to appear in America. It was in the late 1950s that haunted houses as a major attraction began to appear, focusing first on California. Sponsored by the Children's Health Home Junior Auxiliary, the San Mateo Haunted House opened in 1957. The San Bernardino Assistance League Haunted House opened in 1958. Home haunts began appearing across the country during 1962 and 1963. In 1964, the San Manteo Haunted House opened, as well as the Children's Museum Haunted House in Indianapolis. [199]

The haunted house as an American cultural icon can be attributed to the opening of the Haunted Mansion in Disneyland on 12 August 1969. [200] Knott's Berry Farm began hosting its own Halloween night attraction, Knott's Scary Farm, which opened in 1973. [201] Evangelical Christians adopted a form of these attractions by opening one of the first "hell houses" in 1972. [202]

The first Halloween haunted house run by a nonprofit organization was produced in 1970 by the Sycamore-Deer Park Jaycees in Clifton, Ohio. It was cosponsored by WSAI, an AM radio station broadcasting out of Cincinnati, Ohio. It was last produced in 1982. [203] Other Jaycees followed suit with their own versions after the success of the Ohio house. The March of Dimes copyrighted a "Mini haunted house for the March of Dimes" in 1976 and began fundraising through their local chapters by conducting haunted houses soon after. Although they apparently quit supporting this type of event nationally sometime in the 1980s, some March of Dimes haunted houses have persisted until today. [204]

On the evening of 11 May 1984, in Jackson Township, New Jersey, the Haunted Castle (Six Flags Great Adventure) caught fire. As a result of the fire, eight teenagers perished. [205] The backlash to the tragedy was a tightening of regulations relating to safety, building codes and the frequency of inspections of attractions nationwide. The smaller venues, especially the nonprofit attractions, were unable to compete financially, and the better funded commercial enterprises filled the vacuum. [206] [207] Facilities that were once able to avoid regulation because they were considered to be temporary installations now had to adhere to the stricter codes required of permanent attractions. [208] [209] [210]

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, theme parks entered the business seriously. Six Flags Fright Fest began in 1986 and Universal Studios Florida began Halloween Horror Nights in 1991. Knott's Scary Farm experienced a surge in attendance in the 1990s as a result of America's obsession with Halloween as a cultural event. Theme parks have played a major role in globalizing the holiday. Universal Studios Singapore and Universal Studios Japan both participate, while Disney now mounts Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party events at its parks in Paris, Hong Kong and Tokyo, as well as in the United States. [211] The theme park haunts are by far the largest, both in scale and attendance. [212]

On All Hallows' Eve, many Western Christian denominations encourage abstinence from meat, giving rise to a variety of vegetarian foods associated with this day. [213]

Because in the Northern Hemisphere Halloween comes in the wake of the yearly apple harvest, candy apples (known as toffee apples outside North America), caramel apples or taffy apples are common Halloween treats made by rolling whole apples in a sticky sugar syrup, sometimes followed by rolling them in nuts.

At one time, candy apples were commonly given to trick-or-treating children, but the practice rapidly waned in the wake of widespread rumors that some individuals were embedding items like pins and razor blades in the apples in the United States. [214] While there is evidence of such incidents, [215] relative to the degree of reporting of such cases, actual cases involving malicious acts are extremely rare and have never resulted in serious injury. Nonetheless, many parents assumed that such heinous practices were rampant because of the mass media. At the peak of the hysteria, some hospitals offered free X-rays of children's Halloween hauls in order to find evidence of tampering. Virtually all of the few known candy poisoning incidents involved parents who poisoned their own children's candy. [216]

One custom that persists in modern-day Ireland is the baking (or more often nowadays, the purchase) of a barmbrack (Irish: báirín breac), which is a light fruitcake, into which a plain ring, a coin, and other charms are placed before baking. [217] It is considered fortunate to be the lucky one who finds it. [217] It has also been said that those who get a ring will find their true love in the ensuing year. This is similar to the tradition of king cake at the festival of Epiphany.

List of foods associated with Halloween:

    (Ireland) (Great Britain) /toffee apples (Great Britain and Ireland) , candy corn, candy pumpkins (North America)
  • Monkey nuts (peanuts in their shells) (Ireland and Scotland) (Ireland see below) /candy
  • Novelty candy shaped like skulls, pumpkins, bats, worms, etc.
  • Roasted pumpkin seeds
  • Roasted sweet corn

On Hallowe'en (All Hallows' Eve), in Poland, believers were once taught to pray out loud as they walk through the forests in order that the souls of the dead might find comfort in Spain, Christian priests in tiny villages toll their church bells in order to remind their congregants to remember the dead on All Hallows' Eve. [218] In Ireland, and among immigrants in Canada, a custom includes the Christian practice of abstinence, keeping All Hallows' Eve as a meat-free day, and serving pancakes or colcannon instead. [219] In Mexico children make an altar to invite the return of the spirits of dead children (angelitos). [220]

The Christian Church traditionally observed Hallowe'en through a vigil. Worshippers prepared themselves for feasting on the following All Saints' Day with prayers and fasting. [221] This church service is known as the Vigil of All Hallows or the Vigil of All Saints [222] [223] an initiative known as Night of Light seeks to further spread the Vigil of All Hallows throughout Christendom. [224] [225] After the service, "suitable festivities and entertainments" often follow, as well as a visit to the graveyard or cemetery, where flowers and candles are often placed in preparation for All Hallows' Day. [226] [227] In Finland, because so many people visit the cemeteries on All Hallows' Eve to light votive candles there, they "are known as valomeri, or seas of light". [228]

Today, Christian attitudes towards Halloween are diverse. In the Anglican Church, some dioceses have chosen to emphasize the Christian traditions associated with All Hallow's Eve. [229] [230] Some of these practices include praying, fasting and attending worship services. [1] [2] [3]

O LORD our God, increase, we pray thee, and multiply upon us the gifts of thy grace: that we, who do prevent the glorious festival of all thy Saints, may of thee be enabled joyfully to follow them in all virtuous and godly living. Through Jesus Christ, Our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. —Collect of the Vigil of All Saints, The Anglican Breviary [231]

Other Protestant Christians also celebrate All Hallows' Eve as Reformation Day, a day to remember the Protestant Reformation, alongside All Hallow's Eve or independently from it. [232] This is because Martin Luther is said to have nailed his Ninety-five Theses to All Saints' Church in Wittenberg on All Hallows' Eve. [233] Often, "Harvest Festivals" or "Reformation Festivals" are held on All Hallows' Eve, in which children dress up as Bible characters or Reformers. [234] In addition to distributing candy to children who are trick-or-treating on Hallowe'en, many Christians also provide gospel tracts to them. One organization, the American Tract Society, stated that around 3 million gospel tracts are ordered from them alone for Hallowe'en celebrations. [235] Others order Halloween-themed Scripture Candy to pass out to children on this day. [236] [237]

Some Christians feel concerned about the modern celebration of Halloween because they feel it trivializes – or celebrates – paganism, the occult, or other practices and cultural phenomena deemed incompatible with their beliefs. [238] Father Gabriele Amorth, an exorcist in Rome, has said, "if English and American children like to dress up as witches and devils on one night of the year that is not a problem. If it is just a game, there is no harm in that." [239] In more recent years, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston has organized a "Saint Fest" on Halloween. [240] Similarly, many contemporary Protestant churches view Halloween as a fun event for children, holding events in their churches where children and their parents can dress up, play games, and get candy for free. To these Christians, Halloween holds no threat to the spiritual lives of children: being taught about death and mortality, and the ways of the Celtic ancestors actually being a valuable life lesson and a part of many of their parishioners' heritage. [241] Christian minister Sam Portaro wrote that Halloween is about using "humor and ridicule to confront the power of death". [242]

In the Roman Catholic Church, Halloween's Christian connection is acknowledged, and Halloween celebrations are common in many Catholic parochial schools in the United States. [243] [244] Many fundamentalist and evangelical churches use "Hell houses" and comic-style tracts in order to make use of Halloween's popularity as an opportunity for evangelism. [245] Others consider Halloween to be completely incompatible with the Christian faith due to its putative origins in the Festival of the Dead celebration. [246] Indeed, even though Eastern Orthodox Christians observe All Hallows' Day on the First Sunday after Pentecost, The Eastern Orthodox Church recommends the observance of Vespers or a Paraklesis on the Western observance of All Hallows' Eve, out of the pastoral need to provide an alternative to popular celebrations. [247]


According to Alfred J. Kolatch in the Second Jewish Book of Why, in Judaism, Halloween is not permitted by Jewish Halakha because it violates Leviticus 18:3, which forbids Jews from partaking in gentile customs. Many Jews observe Yizkor communally four times a year, which is vaguely similar to the observance of Allhallowtide in Christianity, in the sense that prayers are said for both "martyrs and for one's own family". [248] Nevertheless, many American Jews celebrate Halloween, disconnected from its Christian origins. [249] Reform Rabbi Jeffrey Goldwasser has said that "There is no religious reason why contemporary Jews should not celebrate Halloween" while Orthodox Rabbi Michael Broyde has argued against Jews' observing the holiday. [250]


Sheikh Idris Palmer, author of A Brief Illustrated Guide to Understanding Islam, has ruled that Muslims should not participate in Halloween, stating that "participation in Halloween is worse than participation in Christmas, Easter, . it is more sinful than congratulating the Christians for their prostration to the crucifix". [251] It has also been ruled to be haram by the National Fatwa Council of Malaysia because of its alleged pagan roots stating "Halloween is celebrated using a humorous theme mixed with horror to entertain and resist the spirit of death that influence humans". [252] [253] Dar Al-Ifta Al-Missriyyah disagrees provided the celebration is not referred to as an 'eid' and that behaviour remains in line with Islamic principles. [254]


Hindus remember the dead during the festival of Pitru Paksha, during which Hindus pay homage to and perform a ceremony "to keep the souls of their ancestors at rest". It is celebrated in the Hindu month of Bhadrapada, usually in mid-September. [255] The celebration of the Hindu festival Diwali sometimes conflicts with the date of Halloween but some Hindus choose to participate in the popular customs of Halloween. [256] Other Hindus, such as Soumya Dasgupta, have opposed the celebration on the grounds that Western holidays like Halloween have "begun to adversely affect our indigenous festivals". [257]


There is no consistent rule or view on Halloween amongst those who describe themselves as Neopagans or Wiccans. Some Neopagans do not observe Halloween, but instead observe Samhain on 1 November, [258] some neopagans do enjoy Halloween festivities, stating that one can observe both "the solemnity of Samhain in addition to the fun of Halloween". Some neopagans are opposed to the celebration of Hallowe'en, stating that it "trivializes Samhain", [259] and "avoid Halloween, because of the interruptions from trick or treaters". [260] The Manitoban writes that "Wiccans don't officially celebrate Halloween, despite the fact that 31 Oct. will still have a star beside it in any good Wiccan's day planner. Starting at sundown, Wiccans celebrate a holiday known as Samhain. Samhain actually comes from old Celtic traditions and is not exclusive to Neopagan religions like Wicca. While the traditions of this holiday originate in Celtic countries, modern day Wiccans don't try to historically replicate Samhain celebrations. Some traditional Samhain rituals are still practised, but at its core, the period is treated as a time to celebrate darkness and the dead – a possible reason why Samhain can be confused with Halloween celebrations." [258]

The traditions and importance of Halloween vary greatly among countries that observe it. In Scotland and Ireland, traditional Halloween customs include children dressing up in costume going "guising", holding parties, while other practices in Ireland include lighting bonfires, and having firework displays. [151] [261] [262] In Brittany children would play practical jokes by setting candles inside skulls in graveyards to frighten visitors. [263] Mass transatlantic immigration in the 19th century popularized Halloween in North America, and celebration in the United States and Canada has had a significant impact on how the event is observed in other nations. [151] This larger North American influence, particularly in iconic and commercial elements, has extended to places such as Ecuador, Chile, [264] Australia, [265] New Zealand, [266] (most) continental Europe, Finland, [267] Japan, and other parts of East Asia. [268] In the Philippines, during Halloween, Filipinos return to their hometowns and purchase candles and flowers, [269] in preparation for the following All Saints Day (Araw ng mga Patay) on 1 November and All Souls Day – though it falls on 2 November, most Filipinos observe it on the day before. [270]

How You Trick-or-Treat in Germany

Trick-or-treating is the aspect of Halloween that is the least observed in Germany and Austria. Only in large, metropolitan cities of Germany will you see groups of children actually go door-to-door. They say, either "Süßes oder Saures" or "Süßes, sonst gibt's Saure" as they collect treats from their neighbors.

This is partly because just eleven days later, children traditionally to go door-to-door on St. Martinstag with their lanterns. They sing a song and then they are rewarded with baked goods and sweets.

Watch the video: A Collection of Retro Halloween Commercials: From the 70s-90s


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