The Legend of Jack Lantern is a short story I wrote in either 2009 or 2010. It was originally posted on my Xanga blog. At one time I would write short stories and poetry and post it on my blog. I stopped doing that once I found out that when you post it on your blog, it is considered by many magazines and publishing companies already published. Now I save all I write to submit to places.
But The Legend of Jack Lantern is already a story I shared on my old blog and so I know I can’t submit it to magazine. However, it is one of my favorite short stories I’ve ever written. I love Halloween and have since I was a child. It is my favorite holiday and I love to read about it, learn its history and legends, too.
My short story is inspired by the folklore of Stingy Jack. I recommend checking out wiki for the folklore of Stingy Jack. My story has some similarities with the folklore, but in my story Jack isn’t a bad person.
I love this story and had so much fun writing it. I hope you all will enjoy it too.
The Legend of Jack Lantern
I’m sure you all know about Jack O’ Lanterns and how they came to be. It is said Jack O’ Lanterns were created because of a wicked man, whose restless spirit roams every Halloween looking for a place to finally rest.
For May Ann, she knows the story too well.
You see, May Ann knew the man in the story of the Jack O’ Lantern. She was young at the time, maybe 9 or 8 and now it is well over sixty years ago the story came about. It was started by the people of her town, Drivits Village. The story is interesting and creepy, no doubt. Parents tell it to their children every year in October. The parents tell the story and explain, “This is why you must be good; otherwise you will end up like Ol’ Jack!”
Mary Ann laughs every time she hears the story. Not because the children are scared, or that it’ll teach them a lesson. She laughs because it is all a lie.
I am sure you are wondering about this story and I will tell it to you. I’m sure May Ann wants everyone to know the truth of how the Jack O’ Lantern came to be. But, I warn you, it is a bit of a long story.
You see, there was a man named Jack and he was a farmer. His full name was Jack Lantern. May Ann knew Jack well. He was not wicked, or sinful as the story says. Jack was a good man, a kind man and cared for everyone in town. He was also a rich man, but not greedy.
Jack was 40 years old when he had married Erica, who was only 16 at the time.
Erica and her family were new in town. They were never rich and what money they did have, they were quite greedy with it. They cared of no one, but themselves. However, Erica’s life changed soon after meeting Jack.
Jack had fallen for the young Erica and this made her family happy. They quickly wed and Erica moved to the farm with Jack. Erica didn’t care about Jack, or even love him. But, Jack did love and care for Erica very much. He gave her whatever she wanted and more and never asked for anything in return. Erica’s happiness was enough for him. But, Erica was hardly ever happy and Jack didn’t know why. But still, Jack did all he could for her.
The years went by quickly and it was ten years Jack and Erica had been married. Jack was often depressed and seemed to have lost himself since marrying Erica. He was not mean nor cruel. He just wasn’t lively anymore. He knew Erica wasn’t happy, hadn’t been for these last ten years and Jack blamed himself for that.
Erica’s family could see that Jack was also unhappy and they pushed her to spend more time with Jack and have a baby with him. Erica never planned to have Jack’s baby, but after years of her family’s pushing, she gave in and finally became pregnant with their first and only child. It was a baby girl. And the new life in the house kept Jack happy and busy.
Jack spent much time with his daughter. Playing games with her and when she got a bit older he began to show her around the farm. The little girl barely saw, or even knew her mother.
Another 8 or so years had passed. Jack’s daughter knew the farm and its duties well. She helped her father every day. And every night she stayed in her room while her parents fought.
Then one night, Jack had enough and left the house. Erica stayed and did not shed a tear, did not worry if her husband would ever come home. Instead she laughed. Laughed until a knock came at the door. She opened it to find a man, dressed in black, smiling at her.
“I know what you want,” he said, still smiling. “And I can help you get just that.”
Erica invited the unknown man in and together they came up with a plan. A plan to get rid of Jack. She didn’t know who the stranger was and didn’t much care.
“Give me your husband’s soul!” His smile was sinister.
“How? It is not mine to give.”
“It can be,” was his reply. “Dear, all you must do is get your husband to hand over his soul to you.” The man had pulled out a contract and laid it before Erica. “Sign your name here and as soon as he gives you his soul, it will become mine. Then I can get rid of your husband for you. I will take him to hell with me.”
Sign it she did and with a smile too.
The unknown man went to leave and had said, “In three days time I will come back. Will this be enough time to get his soul?”
“Yes,” she replied.
“Good. I will be back.”
He turned and started to the door.
“Wait,” she said. “Who are you exactly?”
“Why, I am everything that is darkness and evil. I am the reason for every terrible thing that happens in our world. I am the prince of darkness.”
And with that he was gone.
Jack had returned early the next morning. Erica acted strange. She was nicer than she had ever been. She hugged and kissed him, told him how sorry she was and how much he meant to her. But, Jack quickly forgave her and enjoyed the attention.
“Jack, would you give me anything I want?”
“Yes darling, you know I would.”
“Even your soul?”
“What?” This question had surprised him.
“Well, if you love me as much as you say you do . . . . . . Wouldn’t you give me your soul to prove it?”
“Yes,” Jack answered without thinking. “My soul is yours take.”
Erica smiled and kissed her husband. Only two more days and it would all be over.
What Erica hadn’t thought of was her daughter. She had heard everything and when Erica left to go see her family, the daughter went to her father and told him what she had heard. Jack had become angry. Angry at Erica for doing this to him. His soul was no longer his and it belonged to the devil!
Erica was gone for two days. And instead of waiting for the devil to come claim his soul, he made a plan of his own. First a will was made and said that if he were to die, his farm and all of his fortune would go to his daughter. The second part was how to trick the devil.
Jack set to work, digging a hole in front of his porch. Inside the hole he threw crosses, as many as he could find and covered the hole. By the time Jack was done, it had looked as if there were never a hole dug.
On the second night Jack waited on his porch and not before too long a man, dressed in black and smiling, approached.
The devil had no clue about the trap and fell right in. Jack dropped more crosses into the hole and the devil was trapped.
“If you agree not to take my soul to hell, I will release you,” Jack said.
The devil thought for a moment and agreed. Jack climbed in the hole and began throwing the crosses from the hole. Both the devil and Jack climbed from the hole.
“You got me, Jack. It takes quite a man to do such a thing and for that, I will not take your soul to hell.”
The devil kept his word and did not. However, he did shove Jack back down the hole and the fall had killed him.
“I promised not to take your soul to hell. I did not say I wouldn’t end your life.”
And once again he was gone. Erica returned to find Jack dead, but she was not happy to learn her daughter now owned everything of Jack’s. Erica and her family left town a few days after Jack’s death and they were never seen again. The daughter was left behind, but Jack was so loved that the towns people helped raise his daughter until she was old enough to care for herself.
And in the town of Drivits, Jack’s daughter still lives. May Ann was Jack’s daughter and all these years she is still trying to get the story straight. But, no one believes her. They like the tale of Jack the wicked, Jack the sinful better than Jack the kind man.
It is true that his soul wanders, searching for rest. You see, after his death, the devil had promised not to take his soul and heaven couldn’t take him because his soul was still owned by the devil. It was May Ann who carved a turnip and gave it to her father’s restless spirit. As a little girl she had told his spirit it was to help light the way for him to find a resting place.
Since then every year on All Hallows Eve, in the fields the towns people will often see Jack’s spirit and his carved turnip lit. Soon after the towns people began carving turnips and years later, pumpkins, hoping it will help the restless spirit find his way.
And that is the story of the Jack O’ Lantern. As May Ann knows it, I know it and now you know it.