Centuries ago in Ireland, lived a miser named Jack. He was a blacksmith by trade and a cruel drunkard by reputation. He was a trickster, a con man, belligerent, unkind and self-centered. These unsavory attributes are what afforded him the nickname by which he is forever known - "Stingy Jack."
No one was safe from his schemes and cruel manipulations; not the priests of the church nor the children of the schoolyard. Everyone along the countryside's of Ireland knew that he did not exhibit an ounce of humanity.
Over time, Stingy Jack's infamy spread far and wide. So far in fact, that tales of his scheming ways had reached the lowest pits of hell and graced the ears of Satan himself.
Upon hearing of the despicable reputation of Stingy Jack, Satan could not believe so evil a man could exist and he decided to put forth plans to meet him.
One evening while Jack was walking in the moors of the countryside, Satan posed as a dead man hanging from a tree branch. He was waiting, of course, for Stingy Jack to approach.
When Jack came across the body, a deranged face with wide eyes an evil grin stared back at him in it was in that instant that Jack realized his time was up and that the devil had come to collect his soul.
Jack asked the devil for a final request before departing and in a merciful mood (uncharacteristic of himself) Satan granted it. Jack told him that he wanted just one more drink before he had to depart the living world and he took the devil to the nearest tavern.
One drink turned into another and then another and another and another.
When it was time for them to pay their tab, Jack casually turned to his new drinking buddy and persuaded him that since he had magical powers he could simply transform himself into a piece of silver to pay their tab. The devil obliged and shifted form into a piece of silver but instead of paying the bartender, Jack shoved the coin into his pocket.
The devil fought to get out but a crucifix also in Jack's pocket kept Satan in the coin form.
Jack made Satan a proposition - if Satan would leave Jack alone and let him live another decade he would release him from the coin.
With no other option, Satan reluctantly agreed.
Ten Years Later
Stingy Jack's amnesty had reached his limit it was time to pay the devil.
Jack asked his dark companion for a final request: he asked for an apple from a nearby tree to quell his hunger for the long journey. While Satan selected apple from the tree, Jack quickly carved four crucifixes into the trunk of the tree thus trapping the evil being within its branches.
Yet again, Stingy Jack had double crossed the Devil.
Satan yet again was trapped and at Jack's mercy. Jack offered the demon his freedom on the condition that Jack would never go to hell. Satan had little choice but to submit to the con man's wishes.
Stingy Jack continued the rest of his life safe in the knowledge that he outsmarted the devil for good and no matter what he would do from then on, he would not go to hell.
Eventually, years of heavy drinking finally exact their toll and Jack dies. Satan made good on his word and Jack did not go to hell upon his death.
As the story goes, as Jack approached the gates of Saint Peter, he was barred from entering and he was told that despite his victories over Satan, he still led a deceitful life of cruelty; drinking too much and abusing, tormenting and manipulating all who crossed his path. He had lived a very sinful life.
Such a soul would never be granted access to the kingdom of Heaven.
Dejected, Jack turned away and journeyed down to the entrance of hell but Satan also refused Jack's entrance into his kingdom. His intentions were twofold. First and foremost, he was honoring their agreement but also, this was the opportunity to act upon his revenge against his prior humiliations at Jack's hands.
Trapped Forever In The Spirit World
The way back was windy and very dark, Stingy Jack pleaded with the devil to at least provide him with a light to help him find his way. Satan, as a final gesture to Jack, tossed Jack an ember straight from the fires of hell. To carry this burning ember, Jack found a turnip and hollowed it out turning it into a makeshift lantern.
Ever since, Stingy Jack's ghost could be seen wandering aimlessly around the Irish countryside. Whenever locals saw mysterious lights they would say that's just "Jack of the lantern."
As Stingy Jack was damned to wander the world until judgment day, the people of Ireland did not want his wicked spirit ever visiting their homes. So, on October 31st, the day of the Celtic festival of All Hallows Eve - when the spirits of another world could pass through to the world of the living - each home carved a menacing face in the turnips, gourds, potatoes and rutabagas and prominently displayed them on their doorsteps with a burning candle to ward off Jack of the lantern and all other evil spirits.
As time evolved into the more modern times of today, the turnips, gourds, potatoes and rutabagas have been replaced by large pumpkins and subsequently, these took on the name - Jack O'Lantern, in recognition of the Irish Folklore telling of this miserly evil drunkard who outwitted the devil, not once but twice, and who's evil soul has forever been doomed to soar in the spirit world trapped for all eternity.
This October 2022 in Eureka Springs has been quite windy. These windy days have caused a stir in our clouds and in our environment. In viewing this particular image, taken just days ago by a local Eurekan Peggy Kjelgaard, it reminds me of Stingy Jack's soul in eternal captivity soaring between worlds looking for a new place to cause paranormal mischief.