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The History of Halloween

Halloween is almost here, the feast of Halloween, or ‘All Hallows' Eve, is the day before All Hallows' Day. This is more commonly known as All Saints' Day. All Hallows' Eve dates back to the middle Ages, when Catholics would gather at a vigil to celebrate the eve before All Saints Day. Around the 18th century, people began referring to All Hallows' Eve as "Hallowe'en", and then more simply as Halloween.

The ancient Irish festival of Samhain (pronounced "sow-een") marked the end of the summer and the beginning of winter. This was celebrated with feasts, bonfires, sacrificial offerings and "homages to the dead". The tradition of carving a scary face into a vegetable was originally done with turnips. When Irish immigrants took the idea of the jack o'lantern to America, they started using pumpkins, because they were cheaper than turnips. It is said that the legend of Stingy Jack inspired the carving...

Stingy Jack was a miserable, old drunk who loved playing tricks on anyone and everyone. One dark, Halloween night, Jack ran into the Devil himself in a local public house. Jack tricked the Devil by offering his soul in exchange for one last drink. The Devil quickly turned himself into a sixpence to pay the bartender, but Jack immediately snatched the coin and deposited it into his pocket, next to a silver cross that he was carrying. Thus, the Devil could not change himself back and Jack refused to allow the Devil to go free until the Devil had promised not to claim Jack's soul for ten years.

The Devil agreed, and ten years later Jack again came across the Devil while out walking on a country road. The Devil tried collecting what he was due, but Jack thinking quickly, said, "I'll go, but before I do, will you get me an apple from that tree?"

The Devil, thinking he had nothing to lose, jumped up into the tree to retrieve an apple. As soon as he did, Jack placed crosses all around the trunk of the tree, thus trapping the Devil once again. This time, Jack made the Devil promise that he would not take his soul when he finally died. Seeing no way around his predicament, the Devil grudgingly agreed.

When Stingy Jack eventually passed away several years later, he went to the Gates of Heaven, but was refused entrance because of his life of drinking and because he had been so tight-fisted and deceitful. So, Jack then went down to Hell to see the Devil and find out whether it were possible to gain entrance into the depths of Hell, but the Devil kept the promise that had been made to Jack years earlier, and would not let him enter.

"But where can I go?" asked Jack.

"Back to where you came from!" replied the Devil.

The way back was windy and very dark. Stingy Jack pleaded with the Devil to at least provide him with a light to help find his way. The Devil, as a final gesture, tossed Jack an ember straight from the fires of Hell. Jack placed the ember in a hollowed-out turnip...one of Jack's favourite foods which he always carried around with him whenever he could steal one. From that day forward, Stingy Jack has been doomed to roam the earth without a resting place and with only his lit turnip to light the way in the darkness.

Trick or treating, (traditionally American) is thought to have evolved from traditions during the Medieval period and the act of “souling” the act consisted of going from door to door, offering prayers for the dead in exchange for "soul cakes".

Liverpool has its own haunted places, one at the Liverpool  Ambulance training centre in Quarry Street, Woolton. He is an entity known as 'The Sarge' - a former policeman who was killed when the wheel of his patrol wagon struck a bollard and he was thrown to the ground. Ambulance crews reported phantom footsteps, breaking windows and doors which unlocked and opened themselves.

At Croxteth Hall The Sixth Earl of Sefton is said to have been sighted walking through the tea room and also in his former bedroom. A young boy was once seen standing by the fireplace in the dining room, while other strange shadows have been reported drifting down various corridors. Footage from a CCTV camera in April 2009 reputedly shows a phantom figure moving across the grounds, and two people exploring the basement in 2013 encountered a short hideous figure in a cloak, before spotted the figure a short time later on the staircase where he vanished.

There have also been numerous reports of ‘time slips’ in Bold street where people have found themselves transported back in time.

Add to this many many other supposedly haunted places St. James' Cemetery, Newsham Park Hospital, the Speke Hall Ghosts and the ghost of George who apparently appears to guests at the Britannia Adelphi  and Liverpool seems to be a pretty scary place.

So whether you are trick or treating with the kids or out and about in Liverpool enjoy your Haloween…

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