Sunday, November 1, 2015

The Pumpkin Apocalypse--A Historical Halloween Tale

Susan--  Sunday 

When I walked out onto the porch this morning, I discovered a scattered pile of pumpkin guts and the following diary, carved into the back of a gourd with a sharpened pumpkin seed. What follows is a tale of history, mystery, and murder most foul...

Apocalypse Diary: Day 1.

We believe the infection started with Jack.

At first, no one noticed, because Jack was always a little bit weird.

Beware of Jack - he's not looking well.

He claimed he was descended from the very first Jack-o-Lantern..the one carried by Stingy Jack himself.

According to an ancient legend, Stingy Jack played a trick on the Devil, and forced Old Nick to promise never to claim Jack's soul. When old Jack died, his dealings with the Devil barred him from heaven, but his deal with the Devil barred him from hell as well, so Jack was cursed to roam the earth forever, lighting his way with a lantern carved from a turnip.

The Irish called him "Jack-o-the-Lantern," and it's from Jack that our modern Jack-o-lanterns take their name.

But Jack was a pumpkin--not a turnip - and Jack was the first to go.

Apocalypse Diary: Day 7.

Jack bit Will, and shortly thereafter, Will wasn't looking so good either.

Don't mess with Will.
Within two days, he thought he was a turnip.

Granted, the original Jack-o-Lanterns were made from turnips, and the humans have been turning us into lanterns for almost a thousand years. The Maori word 'Ue means both "gourd" and "lampshade." Still, things weren't looking good for Will.

Apocalypse Diary, Day 15.

We now have confirmation that it started with the little ones.

Poor Maude. I wish I could say she didn't see it coming.
Jack-o-lantern carving started with the small ones, too. It wasn't originally pumpkins people selected for this purpose. During the 19th century, the people of Ireland and Britain carved their lanterns out of turnips and mangel beets.

Apocalypse Diary, Day 19.

The original Jack-o-Lanterns were used to ward off evil spirits during Samhain--and also to represent the souls of the dead who waited for judgment in purgatory. The confluence of Samhain and All-Hallows' Eve (the night before All-Saints' Day, November 1) created plenty of historical opportunities to think about the dead.

At the moment, I'm too busy worrying about what's happened to Ed. He says he's fine, but something in his eyes says he's no longer to be trusted...

This is Ed. He's not well.

Apocalypse Diary, Day 31.

I am now the sole survivor.

As the sun set, Ed and Malcolm took out Trudy.

Halloween Gone Bad.
As early as 1900, articles in The New York Times recommended carving a Jack-o-Lantern to light the holiday table--but at Thanksgiving, not for Halloween. Pumpkin carving was part of autumn festivities generally long before people started putting us on their porches to welcome trick-or-treaters in fantastic costumes.

Speaking of which...I hear them coming. The children don't suspect the terrible truth about what's happening here. They laugh and point when they come to the door, completely unaware of either the history of our species or the terrible plague that has turned my friends to monsters.

Nerf darts - sadly ineffective against zombie pumpkins.

I've fired off all my ammunition, but the zombies haven't stopped. I can only hope they'll leave when the candles burn out and there's nothing left to eat.

As for me, I'm safe--for the moment. I found the last of the tea lights, and I have enough to last the night at least...unless they find me.

The lone survivor.
The irony of my predicament does not escape me. Jack-o-lanterns originated as a way to protect the humans' homes from the undead. Now, we are the undead.

May the Great Pumpkin protect us all.


  1. And here I thought pumpkins always wrote on Apples

  2. Yes we carved turnips or neeps /tumshies as a kid. And today in the national newspaper there is a petition to sign to stop Halloween and 'galoshans' drifting into Trick or Treating. I wasn't really sure where they thought they were going to send the petition. Donald Trump maybe? Charlie Brown? It's all peanuts to me.

    1. The rise in odd petitions, with no apparent place to go, has befuddled me too. At least we can rest (fairly) easy in the knowledge that it won't go anywhere. I hope.

  3. I'm here to squash all rumors that Jeff and I will both turnip at the same time in the same place tomorrow. If we do, it may be the end of life as we know it, kind of like matter and antimatter meeting in the spaces between our ears and driving us out of our gourds.

    And if you think I'm kidding, you don't know Jack.

    Portland Oregon, 7pm, Annie Blooms Books. Be there or be carved from the herd. Bonus: Tim Hallinan will be judging a Jeff/Everett look-alike contest. It's almost like Halloween...

    1. I seed you're all having fun without me.

      Have a wonderful time!!