Jack-O-Lanterns and The Legend of Stingy Jack

I remember trying to carve Jack-O-Lanterns as a child. It was fun and messy but as an adult  and lover of culture, I now question almost every tradition’s origin.

Where did Jack-O-Lanterns originate and why were they created? And who the heck is Jack?

Well if you’re asking those same questions or just need a refresher, then read this post!

Stingy Jack

After researching this Irish myth, Jack is not someone you’d want to be friends with. Not because he’s a creepy character, but a definite conartist!

As the legend goes, Jack was an untrustworthy man who loved to play pranks. So much so, that he even tricked the devil.

Jack went drinking with the devil and when it came time to pay the bar tab, he convinced the devil to turn himself into a coin to settle the bill. So the devil did that, however, Jack put the coin in his pocket along with a silver cross to stop the devil from turning back.

Jack agreed to release the devil only if he agreed to not take Jack’s soul when he died. So the devil agreed.

The next year, Jack tricked the devil into climbing a tree to pick a fruit. When he climbed the tree, Jack carved a cross into the tree and the devil was unable to come down. Jack allowed the devil to leave the tree only if he promised not to bother Jack for ten years.

Once again, the devil agreed to Jack’s terms.


When Jack died, he was not allowed into heaven because God did not want anything to do with a character like him. Keeping his promise, the devil did not allow Jack into hell which forced Jack into wandering through dark purgatory for eternity.

The devil did Jack one favor by tossing him a burning coal from hell to light his way. Jack carved a turnip, placed the burning coal inside and used it to roam the earth.

The Jack-O-Lantern tradition was brought to America through Irish immigrants. Turnips, beets and potatoes were originally used to carve Jack-O-Lanterns. Pumpkins were used after the Irish discovered the native fruit was easy to carve.

Jack-O-Lanterns were placed outside their homes to ward off Stingy Jack and other dark spirits who are in purgatory. Children carved grotesque faces and paraded them around as a prank. Eventually, Jack-O-Lanterns became known as they are today for Halloween decorations.


So the next time you see a Jack-O-Lantern, I hope you’ll remember Stingy Jack.

Also, take it as a life lesson: Don’t play tricks, just pay the bill!

What are some other traditions you’ve heard of during Halloween? Comment below and share this post!

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  • Reply
    Lottie Gibbons
    October 18, 2017 at 2:08 pm

    Thanks for the info! I never knew about the background of the Jack-O-Lanterns.

    • Reply
      October 18, 2017 at 2:39 pm

      Hi Lottie! It’s so fascinating to learn how all of these different traditions came about. We sort of blindly go about doing them but never really understand how it started and why. Thank you for reading!! 🙂

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