Halloween fun: All Hallows Eve then and now

By Dr. D. Jackson Maxwell
Traditionally fall is the harvest season, when the last fruits of summer are collected and fields are prepared for next year. The land takes on a stark, bare look. Leaves turn colors and fall from trees, darkness encroaches earlier, and first frosts appear. With fall comes a holiday that is a favorite of children and adults alike. Halloween has roots dating back centuries to harvest festivals, pagan celebrations, and primeval superstitions.
Since ancient times, people the world over have held festivals in the fall honoring the dead. For example, The Day of the Dead is celebrated in Mexico from October 31-November 2. During this celebration families remember relatives who have died by visiting cemeteries, holding picnics, and decorating graves. The Celts in Britain held a festival called Samhain on October 31, the day they believed that spirits roamed the land making mischief and causing mayhem. Later this holiday was combined with the Christian All Saints’ Day, eventually becoming known first as All Hallows Eve and today, Halloween. Due in part to these customs and the change of seasons, fall and early winter are frequently the setting for stories about ghosts, haunts, monsters, aliens, supernatural beings, and other unusual occurrences.
In the United States, Halloween is celebrated on October 31. Traditionally pumpkins are decorated and cut into jack-o-lanterns, scary decorations adorn lawns, haunted houses abound, and children dress up in costumes often appearing as monsters, ghouls, or demons. On the evening of Halloween children visit neighbors’ homes or attend parties where they trick-or-treat, asking for candy and trinkets for their bag or bucket. Today, Halloween focuses less on a belief in spirits and the supernatural, and instead is a time for costumed children to gather for fun and frivolity.
The following game focuses on Halloween related topics plus teaches Internet searching techniques. So, take the challenge and go online to seek the answers while also having some fun!
The Game:

  1. Do a keyword search for “Monster Mash Video” and then select the related youtube.com link. Explore the music videos found here. Who had the 1962 hit song “Monster Mash?”
  2. Go to Wikipedia and keyword search “monster.” Read the entry. From which Latin word does monster come?
  3. Using the same website, what was the first RKO giant monster film with sound?
  4. A final question for the Wikipedia monster site. Click on the “Werewolves” link. Read the text. What is the Greek word for werewolves?
  5. Do a keyword search using the phrase “Mythic Creatures Yahoo”. Name the mythic creature from Jewish folklore made from inanimate matter and featured in a book by David Wisniewski.
  6. Using the same Yahoo website, click on the link for “Bunyips” and then choose “Bunyip Stamps.” According to Australian aboriginal stories, where do bunyips live?
  7. On Yahoo’s Mythic Creatures website, select the link for “Trolls” (trollmoon.com). Read the short story about trolls. What two related things do trolls fear most?
  8. Using Google (google.com), search for The Dollhouse Murders, Moonlight Man, and Christina’s Ghost to discover the name of the popular author of all of these ghost stories for children.
  9. Once again, conduct a keyword search on Google using the phrases “Author Frankenstein” and then, “Author Dracula.” What are the names of the authors of these classic novels?
  10. Go to Dav Pilkey’s homepage at pilkey.com and find the title of his hilarious story of a trick-or-treating dog who ends up saving the day.
  11. Go to answers.com and keyword search the name of the person who came up with the term cryptozoology to describe the search for hidden animals such as yeti or werewolves.
  12. At pibburns.com/cryptozo.htm, follow the links to the Jersey Devil. Anthony Perticaro retells the long history of this legendary creature. According to the article, Pine Barrens is where the Jersey Devil lived. What is the nickname of the area where it was born?
  13. Bad luck and superstitions play a big part of the mystique of Halloween. Search for the roots of the myth of unlucky number 13 at shyamsundergupta.com/unlucky13.htm. Halloween is celebrated on October 31, which is 13 backwards. Do you believe this is a coincidence?

Dr. D. Jackson Maxwell is a National Board Certified Teacher at Downtown Elementary School. If you have any questions or comments, please email Dr. Maxwell at djacksonmaxwell@gmail.com.

Answer Key:
1    Bobbie ‘Boris’ Pickett and the Cryptkickers
2    monstrum
3    King Kong
4    lycanthropes
5    Golem
6    creeks, swamps, and billabongs
7    thunder and lightning
8    Betty Ren Wright
9    Mary Shelley (Frankenstein) and Abraham “Bram” Stoker (Dracula)
10    The Hallo-Wiener
11    Bernard Heuvelmans
12    Leeds Point


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