Bram Stoker

How the Halloween we know came to be

How the Halloween we know came to be

Imagine: It's late October, pre-electricity, no moon, and you’re outside. The wind kicks up, and branches click like skeletal finger bones. You run home, and wedge a chair against the front door. There’s a sharp rap at the window, and when you turn, terrified, it’s there leering at you — a glowing, disembodied head with a deep black hole where its mouth should be.

It's just a scooped-out pumpkin, nicked from a field by some local boys and lit from the inside with the stub of a candle.

Halloween in early 19th century America was a night for pranks, tricks, illusions and anarchy. Jack o' lanterns dangled from sticks, and teens jumped out from behind walls to terrorize...