16 Surprising Facts About Halloween You Never Knew
16 Surprising Facts About Halloween You Never Knew

16 Surprising Facts About Halloween You Never Knew

Trista - October 30, 2018

16 Surprising Facts About Halloween You Never Knew
Herne’s Oak from The Merry Wives of Windsor. Patheos / Google Art Project.

3. Halloween Is More Irish Than St. Patrick’s Day

When one thinks of Irish holidays, St. Patrick’s Day is undoubtedly the first to come to mind. However, St. Patrick’s Day is mostly an Irish-American invention that has inflated what was once a minor religious holiday into a celebration of all things “Irish.” In reality, St. Patrick may well not have been Irish himself, and the color green would have been the blue woad color of the Celts. St. Patrick’s most significant accomplishment was also driving paganism out of Ireland – the very idolatry which gave us all Halloween through the genuinely Irish festival of Samhain.

Samhain was a Celtic festival that marked the end of the harvest season and the beginning of the darker half of the year. It was also believed to be a time in which the veil between the lands of the living and the dead was its thinnest, allowing spirits to walk amongst the living. Bonfires were lit during Samhain to help drive away spirits and other spectral visitors. Masks and costumes were worn to make the wearers unrecognizable to hostile spirits.

As Europe turned to Christianity, the Catholic Church took elements of Samhain to create a festival before the Christian holiday of All Saint’s Day. All Saint’s Day (also known as All Hallows) was moved from May to November 1st to create the hybrid holiday to appeal to pagans. The name Halloween comes from a shortening of All Hallow’s Eve to Hallow’s Eve to Hallowe’en and

16 Surprising Facts About Halloween You Never Knew
A postcard showing spooky stalks of kale. Past and Present.

2. People Used To Exchange Halloween Post Cards Like Christmas Cards

While most Americans are likely familiar with the holiday tradition of exchanging Christmas or holiday cards, there is a widely forgotten similar tradition of exchanging Halloween postcards. In the Victorian era, Halloween became a popular time to exchange greetings with brightly colored, spooky notes.

In the Victorian era, Halloween still retained many folk traditions concerning romance and diving one’s romantic future. Halloween postcards played up these traditions, with countless postcards showing couples surrounded by pumpkins, women conjuring the faces of men from cauldrons, and other festive, romantic imagery. Given that postcards and calling cards were common tools of courtship in the Victorian era, it would appear Halloween got in on the wild fun.

Postcard collectors especially prize Halloween ones due to their colorful and unique imagery, many of which are tied to long-forgotten Halloween customs. One famous example shows stalks of floating kate with a poem about bonny sweethearts. During the era, a favorite game was pulling up a kale stalk blindfolded. The shape of the stem foretold your future lover’s form, while the flavor of the stalk foretold their temperament. The sweeter, the better! Other postcards referenced customs such as eating an apple while looking in a candle-lit mirror to see the face of one’s future spouse.

16 Surprising Facts About Halloween You Never Knew
A mugshot of the “Candy Man” killer Richard O’Bryan. New York Daily News.

1. A Family Committed the Only Halloween Candy Poisonings

Despite the dire headlines warning of poisoned candy every year, the reality is that no accidental poisonings of Halloween candy have ever been recorded. Only two candy poisonings have ever been recorded, and both were committed in the 1970s within families. In both cases, the poisonings were committed by family members to either conceal or commit another crime.

The first recorded Halloween candy poisoning was in 1970. A little boy died of a heroin overdose, and police found traces of the drug in his Halloween candy. However, it later came to light that the boy had found his uncle’s stash of heroin and consumed some, leading to his death. Hoping to pin the crime on someone else instead of revealing the family’s drug secret, the family knowingly sprinkled heroin on the boy’s candy to implicate a stranger.
The second, and final, recorded Halloween candy poisoning occurred in 1974. Timothy O’Bryan, of Pasadena, Texas, died after eating a Pixy Stick that was found to contain potassium cyanide poison. His father attempted to blame one of the houses they’d trick-or-treated at, but he couldn’t remember which one or any details beyond a “hairy arm.” It was later found that Richard, his father, had taken out a significant life insurance policy on the boy just days before Halloween and had asked coworkers where to buy cyanide.

 

Where did we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

“13 Facts You Never Knew About Halloween” Megan Willett, Business Insider. October 2013.

“8 Super Weird Things You Didn’t Know About Halloween” Staff writer, Huffington Post. October 2014.

“The History of Halloween and Its Postcards” S&C ETC., Past & Present. October 2014.

“The most popular Halloween candy in every state” Leanna Garfield, Business Insider. October 2016.

“Americans will spend $350 million on Halloween costumes. For their pets.” Lou Carlozo, Christian Science Monitor. October 2015.

“I’m Wiccan and This is What Halloween Means to Me” Emma Cueto, Bustle. October 2013.

“Rare Halloween Black Moon Explained” Victoria Jaggard, National Geographic. October 2016.

“Ask Tom: How often is there a full moon on Halloween?” Tom Skilling, Chicago Tribune. October 2015.

“If You Want to Adopt a Black Cat, You May Have to Wait Until Halloween Is Over” Danny Lewis, Smithsonian. October 2016.

Advertisement