Stingy Jack

Stingy Jack is a character in Irish folklore. He was a poor, dirty man who was often drunk. He outsmarted the devil at least three times.

Jack-o'-lanterns were originally carved with scary faces to frighten away goblins and the spirits of the dead.

He invited the devil to have a drink with him. Jack did not want to pay for the drink. He persuaded the devil to change himself into a coin. The devil did so, and Jack put the coin in his pocket. There was a silver cross in his pocket that made it impossible for the devil to return to his original shape. Jack eventually allowed the devil to resume his shape, but only after he promised not to bother Jack for a whole year and to not try to claim his soul when he died.

A friendly-faced Jack-o'-lantern

On another occasion, Jack persuaded the devil to climb an apple tree to gather apples. Jack quickly carved crosses into the trunk of the tree, making it impossible for the devil to come down. Jack allowed the devil to come down, but only after he promised not to bother Jack for ten years and not to claim his soul when he died.

On the third occasion, Jack died before the ten-year time limit. God did not want Jack in Heaven, so he was sent to Hell. The devil could not claim his soul, so Jack was sent back into the world. The devil gave him a glowing coal to light his way in the darkness. Jack put the coal into a hollowed-out turnip. He is said to still walk the earth with his lantern, and can be seen around All Saints Day November 1.

Jack became known as "Jack of the lantern". This name was shortened to "Jack-o'-lantern". In the United States, his lantern became a pumpkin rather than a turnip. Pumpkins were common in the U.S. and easier to carve. The story of Jack is little known, perhaps because he was an unsuitable role model for entertaining children.


  • Gray, Rich (2004). Click Or Treat!: The Best of Halloween and Horror on the Internet. McFarland. p. 12. ISBN 0-7864-1862-1.