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The First Jack O’Lantern

The First Jack O’Lantern
Ripley's Public Images

WILMINGTON – There once lived a terrible, vile, drunkard of a man known to the local towns and villages as “Stingy Jack.”

Jack was a liar, a thief and all-around manipulator of those unfortunate enough to make his acquaintance.

He wandered from town to town deceiving hardworking folks out of food, drink, lodging, and money as he went.

And he was good at it, too.

So good, in fact, that Jack’s repugnant reputation slithered its way down to the Devil himself and sparked his curiosity.

And his envy.

The Devil decided he would go have a look for himself to see if this “Stingy Jack” was as wicked as the stories made him appear to be.

So, one night as Jack wobbled his way down the street, fresh from another night of impressive drinking, he stumbled upon a body lying in his path.

The body had a terrible grin upon its face and as Jack stared, it transformed into Satan standing directly before him.

Curiously, Stingy Jack was not frightened.

Rather, he told the Devil that he figured he would be coming for his twisted soul one day and if this was to be that day, so be it.

But first, would The Devil honor a walking dead man’s last request?

Stingy Jack asked to be allowed to drink ale just one more time before they left for Hell and Satan, who claimed himself to be an “honorable entity,” agreed.

The Devil took Jack back to the local Pub from which Jack had emerged only minutes before and began to supply him with drinks.

Jack drank and drank and laughed and spilled and drank some more until the pub announced that it was closed.

Thirst quenched, and full of liquid courage, Jack asked the Devil to pay the tab.

Impressed by Jack’s confidence to even make such a request, the Devil agreed, and transformed himself into a gold coin.

Jack quickly snatched the still wobbling coin off of the bar top and shoved it into his right front pocket.

The same right front pocket that also held a wooden crucifix.

The crucifix prevented the Devil from using his powers to change form and he suddenly found himself at the mercy of ol’ Stingy Jack.

Jack demanded that Satan spare his soul for all eternity and, in exchange, Jack would set him free.

Satan, furious but powerless, reluctantly agreed to Stingy Jack’s offer and Jack removed the coin from his pocket, flicked it across the bar and watched as it disappeared in a powerful puff of sulfuric smoke and ash.

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The Devil was gone, but he had not forgotten their deal.

Stingy Jack continued his lifestyle of hard drink, lies and deceit for years, but eventually his body gave out on him and he died.

Jack’s soul rose to Heaven where he was stopped just outside of St Peter’s Gates.

Jack was informed by God that due to his sinful way of life and the many people he hurt along the way, he would never be allowed into Heaven.

So, he travelled down to the underworld where he found the Devil casually leaning against the Gates of Hell, awaiting Jack’s arrival.

Jack pleaded and begged to be allowed into Hades but Satan, once again “proving” to be an “honorable entity,” told Jack that he could never go back on his word and would thus fulfill his end of their agreement: to never take Jack’s soul for all eternity.

To caution others against trying to outwit him in the future, the Devil dropped a glowing ember into a rotten, hollowed out turnip and handed it to Jack.

Stingy Jack was forced to roam the purgatory of the netherworld, between the planes of light and dark, with only the ember inside the turnip, to light his way as he went.

Over time, the escapades of Stingy Jack began to fade (and the turnip became a pumpkin), and most folks forgot his name.

But the story of Stingy Jack lives on to this day and is symbolized in every glowing pumpkin face resting on a darkened front porch around the Halloween holiday, inspired by the very first “Jack Of The Lantern.”

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