Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Halloween Bash...Pamela K. Kinney and the Jack O Lantern

The Odor of Burnt Pumpkin Makes Me Scream Halloween!

Halloween wraps fear in innocence,
As though it were a slightly sour sweet.
Let terror, then, be turned into a treat...
~Nicholas Gordon, poemsforfree.com

There has been a chill in the air more often than not this year since autumn came. Perfect Halloween weather. Pumpkins fight for space in jumbled disorder in supermarkets. Haunted house attractions are popping up since October 1st. Ghost tours are busy. People are talking even more about ghosts and ghostly tales, even though TV shows like “Ghost Hunters” and others keep the paranormal on their minds 24/7, 365 days of the year. SyFy has the “31 Days of Halloween,” and AMC has their own version of horror films they been showing in October for years. And as a published author of horror fiction and three nonfiction ghost books, I am kept busy with signings all month long.

There’s something about Halloween that hypes up those that the rest of the year they say, “Oh, horror. Oh yeah, that stuff that Edgar Allan Poe, H. P. Lovecraft, and Stephen King wrote.” But when bags of candy scrambled for space on shelves at the store, Halloween decorations are sold, and people search for costumes suddenly, those same stories are devoured. Not just those written by authors, but myths and legends of Halloween too.

Halloween began its origins in the ancient Celtic festival known as Samhain (pronounced "sah-win"). This was a celebration of the end of the harvest season in Gaelic culture, used by ancient pagans to take stock of supplies and prepare for winter. The ancient Gaels believed the boundaries between the worlds of the living and the dead overlapped on the 31st of October and the deceased could come back, creating havoc of sickness or damaged crops. They did bonfires, because it was believed that the fires attracted insects to the area which attracted bats to the area. Masks and costumes were worn in an attempt to mimic the evil spirits or appease them. The practice of dressing up in costumes and begging door to door for treats on holidays goes back to the Middle Ages, and includes Christmas wassailing. Trick-or-treating resembles the late medieval practice of "souling," when poor folk went door to door on Hallowmas (November 1) to receive food in return for prayers for the dead on All Souls Day (November 2). This practice originated in Ireland and Britain, although similar versions were found as far south as Italy.

The jack-o'-lantern is another symbol of Halloween. In America, it is a pumpkin, with a monstrous face carved on the outside surface and the insides scooped out, a lit candle placed in to illuminate. But the practice of decorating “jack-o’-lanterns” originated in Ireland, where large turnips and potatoes served as an early canvas instead. The Irish even have a folktale concerning this tradition, about a man named Stingy Jack.  Kick back and relax, while I tell you this tale of a trick gone wrong.

According to an old Irish folk tale, Stingy Jack invited the Devil to have a drink with him. True to his name, Stingy Jack didn't want to pay for his drink, so he convinced the Devil to turn himself into a coin that Jack could use to buy their drinks. Once the Devil changed, Jack decided to keep the money and put it into his pocket next to a silver cross, which prevented the Devil from morphing back into his original form. Jack did set the Devil free, but only under the condition that he would not bother Jack for one year and that, should Jack die, he would not claim his soul. The next year, Jack outsmarted the Devil again, by having him climb a tree to pick a piece of fruit. While Lucifer was up in the tree, Jack carved a sign of the cross into the tree's bark so that he could not come down until giving the promise of not bothering Jack for ten more years.

When Jack died, it was told that God would not allow such an unsavory figure into Heaven and of course, the Devil, upset by the tricks Jack had played on him and keeping his word not to claim his soul, wouldn’t allow Jack into Hell. Lucifer sent Jack off into the dark night with only a burning coal to light his way. Jack dropped the coal into a carved-out turnip and wanders the Earth carrying it in his search for a final resting place, something the legend says he will never achieve. The Irish began to refer to this ghostly figure as "Jack of the Lantern," or simply, "Jack O'Lantern."

Despite the colorful legends, the term jack-o'-lantern originally meant a night watchman, or man with a lantern, with the earliest known use in the mid-17th century; and later, meaning an ignis fatuus or will-o'-the-wisp. In Labrador and Newfoundland, both names "Jacky Lantern" and "Jack the Lantern" refer to the will-o'-the-wisp concept rather than the pumpkin carving aspect.

When the 31st is here and you hear the doorbell ring and you grab that bowl of candy, open that door carefully. For instead of the treat of trick-or-treaters, you may be tricked into opening the door to things out of a demented mind.

Pamela K. Kinney is a published author of horror, science fiction, fantasy, poetry, and nonfiction ghost books published by Schiffer Publishing. Two of her nonfiction ghost books, Haunted Richmond, Virginia and Haunted Virginia: Legends, Myths and True Tales, have been nominated in the past for Library of Virginia Literary Awards. The others from Schiffer Publishing are her new 2012 release, Haunted Richmond II, plus from 2011, Virginia's Haunted Historic Triangle: Williamsburg, Yorktown, Jamestown, and Other Haunted Locations. Also just released are two short horror stories, "Donating" in Inhuman Magazine, Issue 5 December 2011 and "Bottled Spirits" in BuzzyMag.com in June 2012, plus “Azathoth is Here" was reprinted in by Innsmouth Press in Innsmouth Magazine: Collected Issues 1-4 in Kindle and ePub formats. And of course, she has her horror and dark fantasy tales collected in one book, Spectre Nightmares and Visitations, published by Under the Moon.
Under the pseudonym, Sapphire Phelan, she has published erotic and sweet paranormal/fantasy/science fiction romance along with a couple of erotic horror stories. Her erotic urban fantasy, Being Familiar With a Witch is a Prism 2010 Awards winner and a Epic Awards 2010 finalist. The sequel to Being Familiar With a Witch, A Familiar Tangle With Hell was released June 2011 from Phaze Books.  Both eBooks were combined into one print book, The Witch and the Familiar, released April 24, 2012.
She also has done acting on stage and in films. And is a Master Costumer, costuming since 1972. She even does paranormal investigating.
She admits she can always be found at her desk and on her computer, writing. And yes, the house, husband, and even the cats sometimes suffer for it!
Find out more about Pamela K. Kinney at http://FantasticDreams.50megs.com and about Sapphire Phelan at http://www.SapphirePhelan.com.

Return once more to haunted Richmond, where no building is safe from supernatural happenings. Visit Stories Comics, which holds more than just comics within its walls. Step back in time at Henricus Historical Park where you'll be welcomed by dead colonists, Civil War soldiers, and other haunts. Discover that not only is the Richmond Vampire out for your blood, but the Werewolf of Henrico waits for you beneath the full moon. It seems that the War Between the States is still being fought between ghostly Confederate and Union soldiers at Cold Harbor, Sailor's Creek, Parker's Battery, and Petersburg Battlefield. All this… plus a sea serpent, a lost city, ghostly cats, Bigfoot, a UFO, and haunted churches, parks, and colleges. So be sure to plan your visit now to a very paranormal Richmond. The dead don't stay dead in this town!

Many things scare us. But the most fearful things are those that infect our nightmares and visitations. Monsters from the closet or from another planet. Ghosts that haunt more than houses. Werewolves are not the only shapeshifters to beware of. Children can be taken from more than the human kind of monsters. Even normal things can be the start of a heart-pounding terror. Prepare to step beyond the pages into Spectre Nightmares and Visitations. Just tell yourself that they're only stories.

Like every state in the Union, Virginia has unique myths, legends, and yes, even true stories that sound much like legends, but aren't. Learn about the urban legend of the Bunnyman and what happens to mortals at his Bunnyman Bridge in Clifton at midnight on Halloween. Prepare to discover the myths surrounding Edgar Allan Poe and other famous Virginians. See why Natural Bridge is actually a haunted tourist attraction. And what makes the Great Dismal Swamp so creepy: Is it the ghosts or Bigfoot? Meet the Witch of Pungo in Virginia Beach and find out that Mothman and the Jersey Devil actually visited Virginia. Read Virginian stories of witches, demons, monsters, ghosts, pirates, strange animals, and soldiers from the Civil War. Come visit a most amazing, frightening, and even intriguing Virginia that you never knew existed.

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