The Legend of Jack-o’-Lantern

Pumpkin jack olantern1

Pumpkin jack o'lanternCut off the top of your pumpkin, scoop out the seed, carve a face in the flesh, place a candle inside, and replace the top. That is the story of Jack-o’-Lantern.

Well, not quite.

Actually, Jack—so the legend goes—was a rather lazy though crafty farmer. He made his way through life less by farming than by cheating and stealing from his neighbors. When his neighbors weren’t after him, the Devil was.

One time, Jack tricked the Devil into climbing up a tree. Then Jack cleverly placed crosses around the tree trunk so that the Devil had not way to get down. Jack was amused but the Devil wasn’t.

The Devil bargained with Jack. “If you let me down, I promise I will never take your Soul,” the Devil told Jack. Jack agreed. He knew he had shrewdly found a way to never spend a day in Hell.

After Jack died, he approached the Pearly Gates of Heaven but was turned away because he had spent most of his life cheating and stealing from his neighbors. But Jack was barred from Hell as well. The Devil had promised to never take his Soul. He had no where to go.

“How will I find my way?” Jack asked. “I am in utter darkness.”

The Devil mocked Jack. He threw him an ember from the flames of Hell that would never burn out. “Find your own way,” the Devil said.

Jack carved out a pumpkin—a face with two eyes–and placed the ember inside.

Jack has endlessly wandered the Earth ever since looking without hope for a place to rest.

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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