Stingy Jack, perhaps also known as Jack the Smith, Drunk Jack, and, of course, famously known as Jack of the Lantern, is a character associated with All Hallows’ Eve. The “jack-o'-lantern” is derived from the lore of “Stingy Jack.”
Several centuries ago amongst myriad towns and villages in Ireland, there lived a drunkard known as “Stingy Jack.” Jack was known throughout the land as a deceiver, manipulator and otherwise dreg of society. On a fateful night, Satan overheard the tale of Jack's evil deeds and silver tongue. Unconvinced (and envious) of the rumors, the devil went to find out for himself whether Jack lived up to his vile reputation.
Typical of Jack, he was drunk and wandering through the countryside at night when he came upon a body on his cobblestone path. The body with an eerie grimace on its face turned out to be Satan. Jack realized somberly this was his end; Satan had finally come to collect his malevolent soul. Jack made a last request: He asked Satan to let him drink ale before he departed to Hell. Finding no reason not to acquiesce the request, Satan took Jack to the local pub and supplied him with many alcoholic beverages. Upon quenching his thirst, Jack asked Satan to pay the tab on the ale, to Satan's surprise. Jack convinced Satan to metamorphose into a silver coin with which to pay the bartender (impressed upon by Jack's unyielding nefarious tactics) which Satan happily did. Shrewdly, Jack stuck the now transmogrified Satan (coin) into his pocket, which also contained a crucifix. The crucifix's presence kept Satan from escaping into his true form. This coerced Satan to agree to Jack's demand: In exchange for Satan's freedom, he had to spare Jack's soul for 10 years.
Ten years later to the date when Jack originally struck his deal, he found himself once again in Satan's presence. Jack happened upon Satan in the same setting as before and seemingly accepted it was his time to go to Hell for good. As Satan prepared to take him to hell, Jack asked if he could have one apple to feed his starving belly. Foolishly, Satan once again agreed to this request. As Satan climbed up the branches of a nearby apple tree, Jack surrounded its base with crucifixes. Satan, frustrated at the fact that he been entrapped again, demanded his release. As Jack did before, he made a demand: that his soul never be taken by Satan into Hell. Satan agreed and was set free.
Eventually the drinking took its toll on Jack; he died the way he lived. After he died, Jack's soul prepared to enter Heaven through the gates of St. Peter, but he was stopped. And Jack was told by God that because of his sinful lifestyle of deceitfulness and drinking, he was not allowed into Heaven. Jack then went down to the Gates of Hell and begged for permission into underworld. Satan, fulfilling his obligation to Jack, could not take his soul.
To warn others, Satan gave Jack an ember, marking him a resident of the netherworld. From that day on until eternity's end, Jack is doomed to roam the world between the planes of good and evil, with only an ember inside a hollowed turnip (“turnip” actually referring to a large rutabaga) to light his way.
Bill had just kicked off his shoes and sat down to watch television with his wife when his phone went off. He groaned and picked the phone up off the coffee table to see that his friend Sam was requesting Facetime. “This might be a while,” he told his wife, shrugging around her disapproving frown and walking through the house. He hit the button for accept as he stopped to pour a cup of coffee.
“Dude, you have to check this out,” Sam’s excited face and voice filled the screen. “I got this new phone holder to make it easier on my Vlog!”
Bill could see Sam’s face bobbing as he rattled something offscreen. In seconds he could hear the door opening. Sam’s voice droned on non-stop, but it was what the phone camera showed behind him that got Bill’s attention. A small, furtive figure was creeping across the porch toward his friend and lashed out as he descended the steps.
“Dude …” Bill exclaimed in warning
“I know — it’s awesome!” Sam replied, oblivious to his near miss.
Bill fought for words as he wrestled the phone to record the conversation. Sam crossed the deck leading off the porch that was covered with fall leaves, not pausing in his excitement for his newest tech. An amorphous figure rose up from the hollow under the steps and reached for him ...
“There’s something behind you!” Bill blurted out.
Sam’s face split into a wide grin. “Nice try, Dude. You’re just jealous,” he said excitedly as he lifted the hatch of his SUV. “I opened it at the store and filmed on the way home,” he explained, rummaging through the hatch’s clutter. “I was going to show you the box. I knew I threw it back here,” he said around the noise of moving boxes and assorted trash. Behind his friend, Bill could see a large, dog-like figure approaching.
His heart leapt to his throat as Bill tried to get his oblivious friend’s attention. “There really is something behind you, Sam!” he yelled.
“Yeah, right,” his friend said, laugheding and stepping backward and nearly slamming into the beast that stalked him. For its part, the creature snarled silently in surprise, and when Sam made his way around the vehicle it shook its head in a very human way and lifted a clawed paw to its sloping forehead.
“Maybe I threw it in the back seat,” Sam wondered aloud.
“Just go back in the house!” Bill snapped in desperate inspiration. “You can email me a link!” he suggested, trying to get his friend out of harm’s way.
“I could text it …”
“No! I mean, you know I can’t read anything on my phone,” he explained. “Email me the link from your computer.”
Slowly, Sam walked across his driveway, and Bill watched as the beast stalked him. “Hey man, got another call. I’ll shoot you a text later.”
“Don’t hang up!” Bill yelled as the screen went black.
THE WELL-LOVED STRAY
The old stray wandered in one day and just didn’t leave. As an 8-year-old, I thought he was wonderful and he became my dog and my best friend. He wasn’t much to look at, but he was smart. He hadn’t been there long before he started “knocking” at the back door when he was ready for food and he found an old beach towel that had been left outside and made it his. Whether he was sleeping on the porch or out in the grass, he had his “bed” with him. And that’s the way he was when he passed away. I came home from school one sunny early autumn afternoon and he didn’t meet me as usual. I found him under the porch with his towel. My daddy buried him wrapped in the towel and I saw a tear in his eye; I think he liked the old dog more than he let on.
I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t eat, I didn’t want to do homework, I just laid in my bed and cried. Later that evening, I went to get a glass of water and my parents were sitting at the kitchen table talking about me and my dog. Suddenly we heard a familiar knock at the door. I ran to the door, my dog was back! I jerked the door open and peered out over an empty back porch … well not completely empty. The dirty beach towel was under the rocking chair.
Deloris Sue Brown
The old lady that lived next door told me her basement was haunted. I laughed, no rational adult believed in ghosts, but she wasn’t joking. She believed it.
Months later, she fell and broke her arm. I stopped by her house to check on her and drop off a casserole. She was her usual happy self and invited me in for coffee and a piece of the cake another neighbor had dropped off earlier. While we were chatting and having our coffee, I heard a loud thump and then footsteps coming up the basement stairs. They stopped at the top, the door was clearly visible from the kitchen table but remained closed. I asked if she had company and she smiled and said, “I told you the basement was haunted.” We both laughed, but soon the sounds repeated themselves. Footsteps coming up but never going back down the stairs. She said it had been happening since she moved in decades ago. She said once she raced to beat the “unseen walker” to the door and no one was there. She said the footsteps stopped right in front of her, but a cold wind blew past her. I didn’t go look for myself, but I left believing her.
Once I was on vacation in Florida and I decided to go out fishing right before daylight.
I went to the deserted beach and waded out nearly waist deep before casting out my line. I glanced to my left and noticed a light bouncing along the shore. I assumed it was someone walking along with a flashlight. I thought it was a bit overkill, it would be fully daylight soon and with the moon and the lights from the hotels that lined the beach it was never completely dark. The light came closer and closer at a steady, slow pace. About the time I should have been able to see the person carrying the flashlight, the light suddenly turned and went into the ocean. It got about even with me, but 12 feet or so away, and just disappeared. It was then that I realized the sun was up enough for me to see people coming to walk along the beach, but there was no one in the water with me.
THE EXTRA BROTHER
While we were in elementary school, my brother and I had to do our homework each evening at the kitchen table. We weren’t allowed to leave the table until it was finished, and we rarely finished at the same time, so more often than not it left one or the other of us bored with no one to play with.
That was the case one afternoon and apparently my pestering my brother to hurry up wasn’t being all that helpful, my mom told me to go outside and find something to do. I went to the garage to get a basketball and went around to the side of the house to where the basketball hoop was. My brother was sitting on the top of the picnic table waiting for me, he was just sitting looking into the field beside the house. I yelled and said something like it’s about time you got finished, but he didn’t even look in my direction. So, I got closer and asked if he wanted to play basketball, he stared straight ahead looking deep into the field. I walked a few more feet toward him and said something I knew would get his attention “If you don’t look at me, I’m going to hit you in the side of the head with this basketball!” Still not even a look in my direction. But he looked a little odd, the best way I can describe it is he looked a little bit like he was on a shaky television screen.
Being a kid, my obvious next step was to knock him off the table. I got close enough to touch him, but I stopped when I reached towards him. There was a feel like static electricity around him and he was radiating a lot of heat. That was it, I ran to find my mom and tell her my brother needed help. He had to be sick or something.
I abandoned the ball and ran into the house only to find my mom and my brother sitting at the table trying to finish his spelling. It was impossible, I had just seen him outside. Just to be sure I peeked out of the kitchen window that overlooked the picnic table. It, of course, was empty. I didn’t want to scare them, so I never told them what I had seen. Pushing 50 years and this is the first time I’ve ever told anyone.