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Two More Halloween Books from Lesley Pratt Bannatyne

Last year I read and reviewed an amazing book by a true Halloween expert, Lesley Pratt Bannatyne. The book is titled HALLOWEEN: An American Holiday, an American History. I loved it and learned so much from it that I’ve referenced the book several times here on the blog. I immediately ordered her follow up book, but I saved it for this year’s autumn lineup. So tonight I present to you HALLOWEEN NATION: Behind the Scenes of America’s Fright Night.

If Lesley’s first Halloween book is the history, then HALLOWEEN NATION is a fun and in-depth snapshot of the current reality of the holiday here in the USA, with some history thrown in when it is necessary, of course. The book covers everything from our obsessions with ghosts, witches, zombies, costumes, and pumpkins, to tricks and pranks, and the different ways we choose (as children AND adults) to celebrate the holiday. Also, she discusses many of the horrifying and heart-stopping haunts that we love to put ourselves through for entertainment. And she truly does go behind scenes, tracking down many interesting people, such as event organizers, a witch, artists, people in the haunted attraction industry, and the people who build and create the creatures used in those attractions.  

The book includes a 20-page section of notes that really shouldn’t be skipped. I’m in the process of finishing these now. She also includes a section of helpful resources and a selected bibliography.

HALLOWEEN NATION is full of fascinating photos in full color. Lesley writes in a friendly style and tends to add humor at the very moment you have the urge to turn to your invisible friend to throw in a funny comment. She’s got you covered.   

A few weeks ago I also picked up Lesley’s A Halloween Reader: Poems, Stories, and Plays from Halloweens Past. I grabbed this one in hopes of finding some stories to share with my students at school on Halloween. I always try to do something different, spooky, and fun to celebrate the day. I’ve also just become more and more fascinated and interested in the history of the holiday. If anyone has access to a time machine, let me know please. I haven’t started this book yet, but I believe I’ll start tonight!

For more on Lesley Pratt Bannatyne, visit her site at iskullhalloween.com.

 

You might also like:

Planning a Halloween Party (in 1911) (Big Séance)

Planning a Halloween Party (in 1911) (Big Séance)

A New Spin On Your Halloween Altar and Decorations (Big Séance)

A New Spin On Your Halloween Altar and Decorations (Big Séance)

Classic trick or treat loot: nostalgic candy & prizes from Halloweens past. (Renae Rude - The Paranormalist)

Classic trick or treat loot: nostalgic candy & prizes from Halloweens past. (Renae Rude – The Paranormalist)

The Haunting of Al Capone (News From the Spirit World)

The Haunting of Al Capone (News From the Spirit World)

 

 

 


HALLOWEEN: An American Holiday, an American History…

It makes me sad to admit, but my reading has really slowed down in recent months with so much going on. So I knew I needed to get an early start on this one to get it done in time. I’ve always been the person who gets overly excited about each season before it even arrives (my first “Fall” post was back on August 1st, for God’s sake), so it really worked out for me. 

As you’ve heard me say so often in this blog, I heard this author being interviewed on The Paranormal Podcast with Jim Harold. She is a pro on the topic of Halloween, and I just love listening to her. I believe Jim has had her on a few times. 

The author, Lesley Pratt Bannatyne, from her Amazon author page.

What we know as “Halloween” comes from so many places, traditions, and cultures that it is very easy to get lost in it all. Just like America itself, Halloween really is a blend of it all. The earliest roots come from Pagan traditions that were later changed by the Catholic church into what we know as All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day. Throw in a little Guy Fawkes Day (which I’d never heard of), the Celtic festival of Samhain, and the Roman festival of Pomona, and hundreds of years later we open our doors on the evening of October 31st to hear “trick or treat” being shouted by masquerading children of all ages.

 

 

Some interesting things I learned…

  • Interested in a 9th century recipe for “All Souls’ Bread” that the Roman Catholic clergy encouraged the living to offer to spirits of the dead? This book has it. 
  • For a while the holiday seemed to be more about love than anything spooky. Many early Halloween traditions included young women practicing divination of all kinds to determine their future husbands. If you’d like to try it, you can stare into a candle lit mirror at midnight on Halloween. The face of your future love will show up over your shoulder. Not creepy at all (rrrriiiiiiight). This is also where bobbing for apples came from. Another tradition was for girls to hang their wet blouses to dry above them while they slept. Apparently your future husband will visit and “turn the sleeve”. Good to know. 
  • Another interesting tradition… the Irish “Dumb Supper”. A young woman was supposed to see the shape and image of her future love if she cooked and served an entire meal backwards. I’m not sure how this works but I’d love to see it. 
  • Lesley includes a page out of the October 1911 issue of The Delineator, where ideas for entertaining in October are given. Love it! Time machine, please!
  • Using pumpkins as lanterns, or carving pumpkins into “jack-o-lanterns” came from the Irish. Before they arrived to America where large pumpkins were available, they used hollowed out turnips. The story of “Jack” (which there are different versions of) is also fascinating.
  • The Mexican “Day of the Dead” is something I think is fascinating… and I’d love to experience it. 
  • I’ve always wanted to experience the Victorian era, but Halloween in those days just seems so interesting and fun! LOVED this section in the book. Also, one of the main reasons I like the movie Meet Me In St. Louis is the depiction of Halloween in those few scenes. 

There is also plenty in this book on the more familiar 20th century Halloween traditions. 

This is not a new book (it was originally published in 1990), but it’s a good one with lots of fun facts and history. If you want to learn about the history of many of our traditions from this season while also getting in the mood for ghosts and goblins, you should check out this book… maybe put it on your list for next fall. 

 

Halloween is just around the corner! Enjoy!

 

Peace!

 


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