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Halloween

The modern celebration of Halloween comprises a cross-cultural stew of folk traditions, some less than a century old, others dating back to the Middle Ages, and still others, some say, dating back over 2,000 years. Join us in exploring the folklore and history of this unusual holiday, from the most ancient of beliefs to the most thoroughly modern urban legends.

The Origin and History of Halloween
A concise overview of what we know (and don't really know) about the history of Halloween, its origins, and how modern Halloween traditions and customs came to be.

Why Do We Carve Pumpkins and Make Jack-O'-Lanterns on Halloween?
A brief history of the jack-o'-lantern and how carving faces on pumpkins became a modern Halloween custom.

Why Do We Bob for Apples on Halloween?
The origin and history of the custom of bobbing for apples on Halloween. Did you know it used to be a divination game for identifying one's true love?

Why Do We Wear Costumes and Go Trick-or-Treating on Halloween?
Origin and history of the custom of wearing costumes and trick-or-treating on Halloween. Does it really date back to Medieval times?

Is Halloween Candy Tampering a Myth?
Here's what actual research shows about alleged instances of candy tampering on Halloween. Have children ever been injured or killed as a result of strangers handing out adulterated Halloween treats? The answer may surprise you.

All Saints' Day
From The Catholic Encyclopedia, the Church's perspective on the history and spiritual meaning of the holiday secularly known as Halloween.

All Souls' Day
From The Catholic Encyclopedia, a history of All Souls' Day, the November 2 observance commemorating "all the faithful departed."

Day of the Dead
El día de los muertos, a fiesta observed in Mexico and other Spanish-speaking cultures Nov. 1 which shares some of its history and roots with Halloween.

Death Folklore: 'No One Wants to Die'
A collection of traditional folktales from various cultures about aging, death, dying, and whatever lies beyond.

The Fantasy and Folklore of All Hallows
A concise overview of Halloween history, beliefs and customs from the American Folklife Center, Library of Congress. Written by Jack Santino.

Hallowe'en (Poem by Robert Burns)
Robert Burns' 1785 poem "Hallowe'en" celebrates Celtic beliefs and customs pertaining to All Hallows Eve, with special attention to its supernatural trappings and the popularity of mischief-making.

Halloween Facts from the U.S. Census
Did you know that the first recorded Halloween celebration in the United States took place in 1921? That nearly a billion pumpkins are grown in the U.S. annually, half of them in Illinois alone? About.com's Government Info Guide Robert Longley parces the data.

Halloween History: What's Behind Halloween
Lengthy and very informative Washington Post article on the origin and history of Halloween beliefs and customs.

History Channel: The History of Halloween
"In the late 1800s, there was a move in America to mold Halloween into a holiday more about community and neighborly get-togethers, than about ghosts, pranks, and witchcraft. At the turn of the century, Halloween parties for both children and adults became the most common way to celebrate the day."

National Kill a Pit Bull Day
Viral postings claim October 31 (Halloween) has been declared National Kill a Pit Bull Day.

The Page of the Dead
Tombstones of the rich & famous, plus a few notorious burial legends.

Psychic Predicts Halloween Campus Massacre!
An urban legend: TV psychic predicts mass murders at a major university on Halloween night, causing panic and terror on U.S. college campuses.

Samhain
From the BBC, a brief overview of the ancient Irish festival of Samhain (Celtic New Year), regarded by some as the progenitor of Halloween and some of its customs.

Stingy Jack and the Jack-O'-Lantern - A Folktale
The story of an Irish blacksmith named Stingy Jack, his run-ins with the Devil, and how the jack-o'-lantern came to be.

Vampires in Folklore and Fiction
A healthy dose of garlic from The Skeptical Inquirer.

Vampire and Ghost Stories from Russia
Five chilling folktales from the Old Country selected and retold by D. L. Ashliman.

Werewolf Legends from Germany
From original sources, a fine collection of traditional werewolf lore, including a few rare tales by the Brothers Grimm.

Witch Folklore
More traditional folktales retold by D. L. Ashliman. It's fascinating and instructive to compare these depictions of witches and witchcraft with those in modern popular culture.

Witch Folklore: 'The Malleus Maleficarum'
This is the real deal. The text of the original 1484 witch-hunters' handbook, translated from the Latin. For aficionados of Halloween lore and the history of magic, more than just a historical curiosity.

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