History and fun facts about Halloween

By Rick Hinton

… and the goblins will get ya if you don’t watch out!” – James Whitcomb Riley

People tend to focus upon the paranormal as Halloween cycles back yearly. While paranormal investigators will happily concede that ghostly shenanigans can happen any time of the year, Halloween is the second largest commercial holiday this side of Christmas; and with history behind this focus upon the supernatural!

Halloween (All Hallows’ Eve) is traced back to the pre-Christian Celtic festival of Samhain when folks would light bonfires and wear costumes to fool ghosts seeking to cross over into the “other” world. By disguising themselves as demons and other ghouls, they hoped to escape the notice of real spirits wandering the street during Samhain. It is said that Halloween provides a safe way to play with the concept of death.

Every year, my wife, Laura transforms the lawn into spook Ville, with festive blow-ups, lights, tombstones and swirling ghosts on our exterior wall. It’s become a tradition. We’ve seen far more elaborate setups, but it makes her happy, the grandkids love it and if the wife is happy, so am I! We also have a bowl of candy by the front door … just in case. We’ve never had any trick-or-treaters (busy Southport Road with no sidewalk might explain that), so we end up eating the bowl of candy ourselves. This has also become a tradition!

Some fun Halloween facts:

The tradition of costuming and trick-or-treating might just extend back to the practice of “mumming” and “guising” when people disguised themselves and went door to door, asking for food. Tricking  is still around (trash cans knocked over, egging of cars, toilet papering trees, etc.), but among the younger set of little ghouls and goblins, it’s rare. Try this. Tell them, with a straight face, you have no treats and would rather have a trick. They will stare at you in silence.

Halloween 2020 at the Hinton Compound. (Photo by Rick Hinton)

The first Jack-o’-lanterns were turnips, not pumpkins. Black and orange are the colors associated with Halloween: orange is a symbol of strength and endurance, black symbolizes death and darkness. Fifty percent of kids prefer to have chocolate dropped into their bags. Twenty-four percent prefer non-chocolate, with others desiring gum. We used to take the kids to the rich neighborhoods where they gave out full-sized candy bars. Word spread. They became suspicious. We haven’t been back since.

Halloween apparently has no age limit. While taking the grandkids through our neighborhood I’ve noticed platoons of oblivious teenagers making the rounds. I’ve also witnessed teenagers wearing no costume and filling a pillowcase with goodies. They seem bored. Really? I guess the kid within us never completely goes away.

One man who has always intrigued me is the magician Harry Houdini. He died on Halloween in 1926. He had made a promise to his wife that he would give her a sign of his presence. Numerous attempts throughout the years – on Halloween – were made. Nothing. She never got that sign. It’s a sad story that stays with you.

This year has changed the landscape of Halloween and trick-or-treating. Thank you, COVID-19! There are suggestions: avoid the haunted attractions … no parties … no mass mobs on doorsteps … build a candy chute. Many houses will simply turn their porch lights off and retreat from the festivities. I will continue, while I can do so, to take my grandchildren through the neighborhood on this one time of year to collect their treats as the boundaries between life and death blur. And maybe … just maybe … one of these years, our doorbell will ring.

Have a happy and safe Halloween!