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Leslie Melville
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With Hallowe'en approaching, here's a traditional tale:

The Jack O'Lantern Story.

Long, long ago, there was an Irishman named Jack. Jack was very mean, so mean that people called him 'Stingy Jack'. One day, Stingy Jack was was down at the lake, stealing bread from the ducks when the Devil came and said he wanted Jack's soul.

Jack said, “Sure but can we have a drink first?” The Devil could see no reason why not and readily agreed. But when they got to the pub Jack said that he had no money (being stingy, he just didn't want to pay for the drinks!).

The Devil didn't have any money either so Jack suggested that the Devil could if he wanted, turn himself into a coin. Jack would use the coin to buy the drinks whereupon the Devil could change himself back again. So that is what the Devil did. But as soon as he became a coin, Jack put the coin into his pocket, next to a silver cross. This prevented the Devil from changing back into his former self. Jack eventually freed the Devil under the condition that he left him alone for a year and should Jack die, the Devil wouldn't claim his soul.

But a year later the Devil returned for Jack's soul. Jack said, “Fair enough, I'm ready to go with you but just before I do, I'd love an apple from that tree over there. I'd climb it myself but I've hurt my foot, would you get one for me?” The Devil didn't think he could come to any harm and he rather fancied an apple himself so he agreed to climb the tree. While he was up the tree however, Jack carved the sign of the cross on the tree's trunk so that the Devil couldn't come down! Jack eventually let him down when the Devil promised not to bother him for ten more years.

But soon after that, Jack died and because he was such a mean and stingy fellow, God wouldn't allow him into Heaven! The Devil, upset by the fact that Jack had tricked him twice, wouldn't allow him into Hell either! He sent Jack off into the dark night with only a burning coal to light his way. Jack put the coal into a carved out turnip and has been roaming the Earth ever since.

The Irish began to refer to this ghostly figure as “Jack of the Lantern” and then simply, “Jack O'Lantern”. In Ireland and Scotland, people began making their own versions of Jack's lantern by carving scary faces into turnips and potatoes and placing them into windows or near doors to frighten away Stingy Jack or any other wandering evil spirit. In England, large beets were used.

Immigrants from these countries took the Jack O'Lantern tradition to the United States. They soon found that pumpkins, a fruit native to North America for over 5000 years make perfect Jack O'Lanterns!

Happy Hallowe'en! :p:
Stories....?....That's telling!
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