"Death is no more than passing from one room into another." – HELEN KELLER

History of Halloween

Halloween or All-Hallows Eve, as some may call it, started out as an ancient Celtic festival called Samhain. The Celts celebrated their new year on November 1st which marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of winter. It was a time that was often associated with death. The Celts believed that on the night before New Year the boundary of the worlds between the living and the dead became blurred.

Therefore, on the night of October 31st, they celebrated Samhain, the day ghosts were believed to return to Earth to cause trouble and damage crops. The Celts also thought that the presence of the otherworldly spirits made it easier for the Druids and the Celtic priests to make predictions about the future. For those dependent on the violatile natural worlds, these prophecies were an important source of comfort and direction during the long, dark winter.

To celebrate this event, the Druids built huge sacred bonfires to sacrifice crops and animals to the Celtic deities. During the celebration, the Celts wore costumes made from animal skins and head and attempted to tell each other's fortunes. When the celebration was over, they re-lit their hearth fires, which they had extinguished earlier that evening, from the sacred bonfire to help protect them during the coming winter.

The Romans had conquered most of the Celtic territory by A.D. 43. Within 400 years, two Roman festivals were combined with the Celtic tradition of Samhain. One was called Feralia, a day that the Romans commemorated the passing of the dead. The other was a day to honor Pomona, Roman goddess of fruit and trees. Since the symbol for Pomona was apple, this explains why we practice the game of "bobbing" for apples on Halloween.

In the seventh century, Pope Boniface IV declared November 1st All Saint's Day, a day to honor saints and martyrs. Many believed that the pope was trying to replace the Celtic festival with a related but church-sanctioned holiday known as All-Hallows or All-Hallowmas. The night before was celebrated as All-Hallows Eve and eventually, Halloween.

In A.D. 1000, the church made November 2nd All Souls' Day, a day to honor the dead. It was celebrated similarly to Samhain, with big bonfires, parades, and dressing up in costumes as saints, angels, and devils. Together, the three celebrations, the eve of All Saints', All Saints', and All Souls', were called Hallowmas.

On that note, have a safe and happy Halloween!

*Ancient Origins. Retrived on October 31, 2005 from The History Channel website:

Cheesman Park

Did you know that the movie Poltergeist was based on the history of a real cemetery? Located in Denver, Colorado, Cheesman Park was apart of a city government scandal. Buildings weren't built on the cemetery by mistake. How about I start from the beginning.

In 1858, William Lamier set aside 320 acres of land for a new cemetery named Mount Prospect. Sites on the crest of the hill were set aside for the wealthy, paupers and criminals were buried on the far sides and the average people were buried somewhere in the middle.

John Stoefel murdered his brother-in-law and was sentenced to hang from a cottonwood tree. Stoefel and his brother-in-law were buried in the same grave. More and more murder victims and those killed from accidents were buried in the lower parts of Mount Prospect. Nicknames like "Old Boneyard" or "Boot Hill" were soon given to the cemetery.

In 1873, the graveyard was re-named the City Cemetery. The lack of interest and care made the cemetery become an eyesore. Cattle were allowed to graze among the graves, tombstones had fallen over, and prairie dogs had burrowed into the hills. Affluent families started burying their families at the new Riverside and Fairlawn Cemeteries. The City Cemetery was left for the criminals, paupers, transients and other unclaimed bodies.

Meanwhile, ownership of the cemetery passed on to John J. Walley and he did little to improve it. With new homes and buildings being built nearby, the city government had to do something about it. The U.S. Government discovered an Indian treaty which made the United States Government the legitimate owners of the cemetery. They sold it to the City of Denver for $200 in 1890.

While Walley owned the cemetery, it was divided into three sections. The Catholic and Jewish sections were well-maintained while the city's had deteriorated. The Jewish churches removed their dead and leased it to the City Water Department while the Catholics purchased their land and kept it well maintained.

That following summer, the City Government announced that all interested parties had 90 days to move the dead elsewhere. Most were reburied but 5,000 were left unclaimed. In 1893, preparations were made to remove them. An undertaker named E. F. McGovern was awarded the contract. Each body would be dug up and placed in a 3 1/2 feet long and 1 foot wide box. McGovern would be paid $1.90 for each box that was delivered to Riverside.

In March, McGovern's men went to work. At first, the work was orderly and soon but it didn't take long for it to get careless. The bodies that wouldn't fit in the boxes were broken up and shoveled out of the coffins. Reporters and curiosity seekers stopped and watched them work. One elderly woman told them to say a little prayer for every body they dug up or they would return. Of course, they just laughed at her.

People who lived nearby reported seeing spectral manifestations in their homes and confused spirits knocking on their doors and windows at night. Low moaning sounds could be heard over the field of open graves... a sound that can still sometimes be heard today.

Local newspapers ran front page stories about the atrocities being committed at the cemetery and the overall corruptions at City Hall. There were discrepancies between the number of reburials being charged to the city and the number of boxes being delivered to Riverside. Because it had become a full-blown scandal, the project was brought to a halt. There was an investigation and some graves were left unfilled. The rest of the bodies were forgotten and still remain under the park grounds and gardens.

In 1907, the City Cemetery was turned into what is now known Cheesman Park (named after prominent Denver citizen Walter S. Cheesman). Two years later, a marble pavilion was constructed in his honor. The Catholic Churches portion was turned into Denver's Botanical Gardens and the Jewish section is now Congress Park.

Confused ghosts still wander the grounds. Misty figures and strange shadows are still occasionally seen there. Possibly they will always remain there, searching for peace.

More Info:

*Taylor, Troy (2002). Rest in Peace? Colorado's haunted Cheesman Park. Retrieved on October 28, 2005 from the Prairie Ghosts website:

Sloss Furnace

From 1882 to 1972, Sloss Furnaces in Birmingham, Alabama transformed coal and ore into hard steel. From skyscrapers in New York to automobiles made in Detroit, Sloss Furnaces were relied on for providing materials to produce thousands of products.

In the early 1900s, James "Slag" Wormwood was the foreman of the graveyard shift where 150 workers toiled to keep the furnace fed. Only the poorest and most desperate men would take on the harsh conditions of working the graveyard shift during the summers. Wormwood would make the workers take dangerous risks in order to impress his supervisors. Forty-seven men lost their lives during his reign not counting the numerous accidents that left men unable to work. They weren't allowed breaks or holidays.

In 1906, James "Slag" Wormwood lost his footing at the top of Big Alice (the highest blast furnace) and fell into a pool of melted iron ore. He was killed instantly. It was reported that he became dizzy from the methane gas produced by the furnace and lost his balance. During his reign, he never once set foot on top of the furnace until that day. Many believed the workers pushed him into the furnace after growing tired of his slave driving, but no worker was convicted of it. Soon after, the graveyard shift was discontinued.

The legend of "Slag" grew each year with workers complaining that they frequently saw an "unnatural presence" in the work site. In 1926, a watchman was injured after being "pushed from behind" and told to "get back to work" by an unknown being. In 1947, three supervisors were found knocked out in a small boiler room unsure of what happened to them. They ALL claimed to have been approached by a man who was badly burned and told them to "get back to work." In 1971, Samual Blumenthal, a night watchman, said he came face-to-face with a half man/half demon who tried to push him up the stairs. Upon refusing, the monster began beating on him with their fists. After being examined, it was reported that Blumenthal had several intense burns. He died before returning to Sloss.

Hundreds of reports of paranormal activity have been recorded by the Birmingham Police. Some minor while others more of the physical nature. Majority of the reports took place at night during the months of September and October. Some think the paranormal occurrences are nothing but Halloween hoaxes. What do you think? Could James "Slag" Wormwood still be working the graveyard shift after all this time?

Source: Fright Furnace

History of Jack-o-Lanterns

How many of you knew that carving a Jack-o-Lantern at Halloween is an old Irish tradition? Those who didn't know that don't feel bad. Neither did I. If you didn't know that, then you probably didn't know that the original Jack-o-Lantern wasn't even a pumpkin. Ok so here is how the legend goes.

Hundreds of years ago in Ireland, there was a man named Stingy Jack who was a miserable, old drunk. He loved to play tricks on everyone including family, friends and even the Devil himself. One time, he tricked the Devil into climbing up an apple tree and once he was up there, Stingy Jack placed crosses around the trunk of the tree. Since The Devil was unable to come down the tree, Jack made him promise not to take his soul when he died. Once the promise was made, Stingy Jack removed the crosses and let the Devil down.

Years later, Stingy Jack died and his soul went to the pearly gates. Unfortunately, Saint Peter denied him access to Heaven. Saint Peter told him that he was too mean and cruel and led a miserable worthless life on Earth. since he wasn't allowed in Heaven, he went down to Hell. Slthough, The Devil kept his promise and would not allow him to enter Hell. Stingy Jack asked The Devil how he could leave since there was no light. The Devil gave him a few embers from the flames of Hell which he placed in a hollow out Turnip to light his way. Since then, Stingy Jack roamed the Earth without a resting place and lighting "Jack-o-Lanterns" along the way.

Ever since then on all Hallow's Eve, the Irish hallowed out Turnips, rutabagas, potatoes, gourds and beets. They place a light in them to ward off Stingy Jack and other evil spirits. In the 1800s, a group of Irish immigrants came to America. They discovered that Pumpkins were much larger and easier to carve out. Thus, the reason why we carve Jack-o-Lanterns every year on all Hallow's Eve.

So, go pick out your pumpkins and get your carving knives ready. Get creative but don't forget to put them outside on Halloween. Wouldn't want Stingy Jack paying you a visit. ;)

For more information and maybe a few ideas for Halloween:

*Matthews, Bob (1998-2005). History of the Jack-o-Lantern. Retrieved on October 18th, 2005 from the Pumpkin Nook web site: http://www,
Blogger Templates