Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Folk Tale Secret Stash: Jack O'Lantern.

Jack: Hello, hello, one and all!  Jack O’Lantern here!  For now and the foreseeable future I’ve taken over this pathetic blog to give it a dose of ghostly goodness.  Also, you may have noticed that I’ve redecorated a bit.

Adam: I’ve noticed.  Couldn’t you have at least kept my banner so that people know that they’re on the right website?

Jack: Yes, yes, I’ve kept the original author around too.  I can’t seem to get rid of him.

Adam: Kept me around?  You’re the one haunting my condo!  Please, anyone out there, call an exorcist!  Call the Ghostbusters!  Call Danny Phantom!  Heck, I’ll even settle for Scooby-Doo!

Jack: Oh, pipe down.  I saw you had something called “Folk Tale Secret Stash” coming up next, so I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to tell my life story.

Adam: Oh, this should be good.

Jack: This story starts during my days in Ireland where I was a kind, good, upstanding citizen.

Adam: AHEM!

Jack: Okay, so maybe I did drink a little too much.  And gamble a little too much.  And fight too much.  And maybe I sought a little too much pleasurable company with women who were not my wife.  And maybe, on occasion, I did nick a few shillings from the collection plate at church.  But other than that, I was a good soul.  Better?

Adam: Yes.  The story doesn’t really work unless you’re kind of a jerk.

Jack: Anyway, so I’m sitting at the pub one night enjoying a little hair of the dog.  So, a man I don’t know comes up to me.  He tells me that he’s the Devil and that since I’m going to Hell anyway, he’s come to get me himself.

Adam: Well, that’s some service.

Jack: Now, naturally I don’t want to go.  So, I come up with a plan.  I get the Devil to sit down and have a mug of cider with me.  Then, I tell him that I’m short of cash.  So, I convince that old Devil to pull a trick on the bartender.  He turns into a coin, I pay the barkeep with the Devil-turned-coin then when the bartender’s back is turned the Devil turns back into himself and comes to get me.  The Devil agrees and turns into a coin.  That’s when I take the Devil-coin and drop into my pocket next to a silver cross I just happen to have on hand.

Adam: Probably taking it to the pawn shop.

Jack: Anyway, so the Devil is stuck.  So, I strike a bargain with him.  If I let him go, then he can’t come back for me for an entire year.  The deal is made, I pull the Devil from my pocket and we both go on our merry way.  Now, I figure this is enough time to turn my act around so that the Devil doesn’t want to make a return visit.

Adam: It’s never that easy.

Jack: No, guess it’s not.  Anyway, a year later, I’m walking along minding my own business and who should show up?  That old Devil again.  He says my time is up and wants me to come with him.  Now, we’re right near an apple tree so I get an idea.  I ask the Devil to leap up into that tree and snatch me a couple of apples for the long trip to Hell.  He agrees and leaps up into the tree.  That’s when I take out my knife and quickly scratch a cross into the bark of the tree.  The Devil is stuck in that tree and boy does he ever howl and curse once he notices it.  Anyway, I tell him I’ll scratch out that cross if we make another deal.

Adam: And here’s where things really start to blow up in your face.

Jack: I tell him I’ll only let him down if he never comes back for me at all.  The Devil warns me that I should think about what I’m asking, but I tell him that’s the only way I’ll do it.  The Devil agrees a little too happily, I scratch out that cross, and he goes on his way.

Adam: Now maybe you should tell the folks why this was a bad idea.

Jack: [grumble, grumble].  Well, it seems that just because the Devil won’t come for you, it doesn’t mean you can’t die.  One day after a rather monumental night on the town I wake up but my body doesn’t.  I figure this can’t be right, so I walk and walk until I find my way to Heaven.  I try to get in but Saint Peter tells me that there is absolutely, positively no way he can let me in.  That’s gratitude for you.  And after all I did to make life on Earth so much fun.

Adam: Riiiiight.

Jack: So, where can I go now except for Hell.  I get there and the Devil reminds me that we had a deal and that there’s no way he’s going squelch on it.  I beg and plead but for nothing.  Though, the Devil has a little pity for me and sees it’s getting dark and gives me one fiery coal from Hell to light my way.  I have a little trouble carrying it, so here’s what I do.  I find a big old turnip and hollow it out and carve a grinning face like my own on it.  Then I drop the coal inside and I’ve got a homemade lantern.

Adam: A turnip?

Jack: I switched to a pumpkin later.  Easier to hollow out.

Adam: Ah.  Well, after all that fussing about not going with the Devil you end up beating at his door.

Jack: Hey, being a ghost’s no fun!  Can’t eat!  Can’t drink!  Women are no use!  All you can really do is scare people or play tricks on them.  Like leading wanderers astray at night.

Adam: Oh yeah.  That’s what you spend most of your time doing these days, isn’t it?  Though, I heard another story that says it’s the ghost of a blacksmith named Will.

Jack: Oh, that whole Will O The Wisp thing.  Well, my story’s the real deal.  After all, if it wasn’t, why would people light lanterns like mine every All Hallows Eve?

Adam: I have no idea.  But now that you’ve told your story, can you leave me in peace?

Jack: Fat chance!  We’re just getting started!

Adam: Just great!  Well folks, there are other versions of the Jack O’Lantern story out there if you don’t trust this old liar.  Just search “Jack O’Lantern, story” and you should find them.

Next Time: Jack O’Lantern’s Halloween Takeover continues.

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