It’s that time again – when the ghosts, ghouls and goblins all come out to give us a fright night we won’t soon forget . . . and free candy. But do you know where the tradition of Halloween came from?

It’s over 2,000 years old and based on the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in or sah-ween), during which townspeople would gather together, light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off spirits.

The festival was held between fall and winter – when food sources were growing scarce, the days were growing short, the nights long, and death and illness increased. Over the years, the day evolved into our current holiday, which now involves millions of people celebrating and billions of dollars in sales.

And what about the jack-0′-lantern?

It comes from an Irish legend about a man named Stingy Jack, who lived up to his name. The story goes that he invited the devil to have a drink with him, but didn’t want to pay for it. Jack tricked the devil into turning himself into a coin to pay for it. But instead of paying for the drink, Jack put the coin in his pocket next to a silver cross, which kept the devil from changing back.

Time went on and Stingy Jack let the devil out, but made a deal with him that the devil would never take his soul when he died. The devil agreed. When Jack died, it was said that St. Peter didn’t want him in heaven, as he was an unsavory character. The devil kept his word and wouldn’t let him in hell, so he gave Jack an ember and sent him out to wander the darkness between heaven and hell.

Jack put the coal into a carved-out turnip, which eventually led to the modern-day jack-o’-lantern made of a turnip, potato or beet. The tradition didn’t involve pumpkins until the legend reached America, where pumpkins were native.

Be on the lookout for Stingy Jack on this Allhallow’s Eve.

As to your search for all other things Halloween, we offer you road trip suggestions for your costume needs, haunted entertainment, seasonal decorations, ghostly tours and even some spirited eating. But be careful . . . you may find more than you bargained for. HA HA HA HA HA!

Fright at the Fort

Fort Knox

740 Fort Knox Road

Prospect

469-6553

http://fortknox.maineguide.com/

Oct. 19: Beat the Crowd Night — Be the first to experience the Zombie Apocalypse! (Begins at 5:30 p.m.)

Oct. 20: Ghostport activities all day in Bucksport. Includes “Night of the Living Dead” zombie movie classic at 10 p.m. at the Northeast Historic Film’s Alamo Theatre.

Oct. 26: Pirate Night at Fright — The Pirates of the Dark Rose will be making a cameo appearance at this evenings Fright at Fort Knox. Arrrghhhh

Oct. 27: Come in costume and get a jump on Halloween. The “Rocky Horror Picture Show” starts at 9 p.m. at Northeast Historic Film’s Alamo Theatre.

MacLeods Restaurant

63 Main St.

Bucksport

469-3963.

http://www.macleodsrestaurant.com/

If you get hungry fighting off all the ghosts at Fort Knox, stop in at MacLeod’s for a meal to satisfy any hunger.

One Stop Party Shop

262 Main St. Route 1

South Portland

767-5966

www.partyshopmaine.com

Stop in here for all your party needs; they have lots of scary costumes to dress up in. They even have skeleton decals to put on your car window to make it look like you have a scary passenger in your back seat.

Broadway Gardens

1640 Broadway

South Portland

772-0415

www.broadwaygardensgreenhouses.com

More than just flowers and trees, they are stocked for fall and Halloween with pumpkins, corn stalks, hay bales, scarecrows and other holiday decorations for your fun. Right around the corner from One Stop Party Shop.

Drapeau’s Costumes of Maine

20 Main St.

Lisbon Falls

353-2216

If you’re looking to rent a costume for Halloween you better get there now while the choices are still available. Any kind of costume you might want from ghouls to wookies to the Mad Hatter.

Dr. Mike’s Madness Cafe

10 & 12 Main St.

Lisbon Falls

353-3200

Right next door to Drapeau’s – make sure you stop here for a meal any ghoul would die for. They have homemade pies and desserts, and serve breakfast all day, along with a great menu of other food to choose from. Sit in a booth with James Dean or Marilyn Monroe and enjoy the ’50s decor.

Pumpkinland at Harvest Hill Farms

Route 26, 125 Pigeon Hill Road

Mechanic Falls

www.harvesthillfarms.com

207-998-3259

Where to begin?!? This could be the one stop for all things Halloween, from the many family-friendly offerings of Pumpkinland, to the corn maze, the Gauntlet Night Ride fright ride, harvest tours, animals, food and the list goes on. If they don’t have it, it’s not a fall or Halloween tradition.

Wicked Walking Tours’ Ghost Tour

http://www.wickedwalkingtours.com/

730-0490

This walking tour of Portland includes pirates, witches, Indians and more. The tour leaves from Bell Buoy Park, located at 72 Commercial St. (between Casco Bay Lines and Ri Ra Irish Pub).


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