31 fascinating Halloween factoids for all your party convos
The ultimate in nerdy knowledge and freaky origins.
You've got your costume sorted and you've locked down some epic parties to attend all Halloweekend. But what in the name of All Hallow's Eve are you going to talk about when that comely cat or vampire creeps into your personal space?
Once you've adjusted your wig and flashed a confident smile through a layer of grease paint, you're going to drop some Halloween trivia like a boss. And by boss we mean nerd.
Here are the fun Halloween factoids (read geeky icebreakers) you'll need to impress any creatures worth meeting while making your Trick or Treat rounds.
Wiccans rise up
Housed in pagan polytheistic nature worship, and with 143% growth per year, Wicca, one form of neo-paganism, is the fastest growing belief system in North America.
OG pumpkin spice lattés and pies
The first pumpkin pie was actually more of a pumpkin spice latté. Apparently, colonists filled the orange gourd with honey, milk and spices then let it cook in a fire pit… yum? No but actually, that's probably pretty yummers. Try it tonight.
If superstition is to be believed, babies born on Halloween are said to have the ability to ward off evil spirits. They're also said to "second sight" powers of extrasensory perception.
Kirking in the shadows
The highly recognizable "Michael Meyers' mask" is actually Canadian actor William Shatner's face. A death mask had been made for him on Star Trek and the extremely low budget horror movie, Halloween, picked one up for two bucks and spray painted it white.
Swoop, there it is
If a bat flies into your house on Halloween, it means your home is haunted because a ghost almost certainly let it in. But if a bat flies around your home three times, don't sweat it. That just means someone inside is marked for death. Phew.
We said it first, eh?
Canadians may have coined the term "Trick or Treat". Albertans to be precise. A 1927 newspaper clipping from Blackie, Alberta is the first recorded use of the seasonal question.
Not so fun for everyone
Samhainophobia is the clinical term for people who suffer an acute and debilitating fear of Halloween and all its associated traditions and symbols.
Which witch is which?
Scholars can't quite agree on the root of the word "witch". The closest we come is the Old English wicca "sorcerer, male witch" and wicce "sorceress, female witch". Other roots link it to old words for "to know", " to bend" and "to dance". Still, what's in a name? A witch by any other name would, um, smell as sweet, right?
Fruits of passion
Bobbing for apples is actually about bobbing for love. During the Roman festival held for Pamona, the goddess of agriculture and abundance, a ritualistic courtship game was practiced. When young women plucked their lover's apple in one go, it was true love. Unsuccessful chomps didn't bode well for young lovers.
Plenty lot of celebs are into more pagan spiritual practices too. By some accounts, Björk, Viggo Mortensen, Gabrielle Anwar, Madonna, Cybill Shepherd, Elvis, Fairuza Balk, Grimes, Katy Perry, Sammy Davis Jr, Jennifer Lopez and David Bowie also all lean(ed) a little witchy. Rapper Azaelia Banks used to do blood magic in her closet as part of her Brujeria practice.
Historians confirm that "only" 20 women were actually killed at the Salem witch trials. Although 200 were accused of witchery. Still, some scholars estimate that anywhere between 40,000 and 100,000 people (largely women) have been executed for witchcraft since the middle ages.
By now, you likely know that the bulk of our Halloween traditions are linked to the ancient Celts and their harvest-time festival, Samhain (translation: Summer's end). But you're saying it wrong: it's pronounced sow-win. Irish lilt optional.
See you at the crossroads
Fortune telling is soundly wrapped up in many Halloween traditions. Love, success, death — all can be divined this time of year. But if you stand at a crossroads on Halloween night and listen to the wind, it'll whisper life event highlights from your next 12 months on earth.
The first Jack-O-Lanterns were actually turnips that went by the name of Stingy Jack, aka Drunk Jack or Jack the Smith. Irish myth tells that Stingy Jack tricked the devil out of taking his soul (at least twice) and so was forced to walk the earth forever when he died. The reason? He was such a bugger that heaven didn't want his soul his either. The devil had given him a coal ember from Hell as a parting gift, so Jack made a turnip lantern to light his way… forevermore.
Just one of the boos
Scary costumes are actually worn to blend in with real supernatural baddies. Ancient Celts believed if they hid in plain sight among malevolent spirits spilling into this realm around Halloween, they'd escape a good spooking. Like rubbing yourself in zombie guts before meandering through a stampede of undead flesh eaters.
Snap Apple was once a well-liked and decidedly devilish Halloween game that involved spearing an apple onto one end of a long stick. A lit candle was then fastened to the other end. As the stick was spun, players had to bite the apple-y end while deftly avoiding a mug full of flaming wax. It's since waned in popularity (despite having a fantastic name) but in Newfoundland, Snap Apple Night remains a synonym for Halloween. Still, we prefer all our apples on sticks to be candied and sans wax.
Tough time to be a cat
In the Middle Ages, black cats were considered symbols or incarnations of demons — if not Satan himself. Which is why witches were often said to mind dark and furry familiars, given to them by their dark lord.
In the late 19th century, the Wunderlee Candy Company of Philadelphia gave the world the tri-colored treat we know as Candy Corn. Jelly Belly followed suit. Initially though, due to its kernel shape it was called "Chicken Feed" and featured a rooster on the box. It was marketed as "Something Worth Crowing For". Is it though?
Criss Crossing a witch
...will make you jump. According to superstitious lore, if you walk backwards at midnight with your clothes on inside out, you'll summon a witch.
Canucks are keeners
Canadians love Halloween so much we spend more per capita on costumes, candy and decor than our American cousins.
Mischief abounds, statistically
About 3,870, 938 kids were prime trick or treating age (5 to 14 years old) in 2016. Numbers this year will likely be comparable. Go buy more candy (or kill the lights and hide in the basement until dawn).
In an attempt to tone down Halloween hooliganism, the U.S. Senate recommended a name change in the 50s: they proposed dropping "Halloween" for "Youth Honor Day." The goal was to have teenagers trade in "tricking" and pledge acts of benevolence instead.
Light it up
Samhain rituals had ancient Celts striking up bonfires to make sure the sun would return after a presumably rough winter. Druid priests throwing cattle bones into the fire as auspicious offerings gave us the term "bone fire" — it eventually became "bonfire."
Way to grow
Canada produced 63,945 tonnes of pumpkin for consumption and carving in 2015. That tonnage outweighs the Titanic by over 10 tonnes.
Some shelters ban the adoption black cats this time of year because they fear ritualistic torture. Thankfully, the Toronto Humane Society doesn't think that's a real problem and promotes adoption all year in favour of ritualistic cuddling.
More life/less life?
Believing that owls were witches, Medieval folk used to think that that an owl call was actually a death call announcing an occult murder. Owls would then swoop down to eat the souls. Pro tip: turn your pockets out to stay safe. Still, blasting your favorite Drake tracks likely isn't going to put you in harm's way; October's Very Own loves the owl.
POTUS and terror clowns are trending
President Trump and Pennywise are both shaping up to be the most popular costumes in Canada this year if sales are any indication. Yup, no further comment needed here.
Can't beat the classics
The standard witch costume is the most popular adult costume in America for 2017. Never tired if you do it right — the secret is making a classic costume your own. A tried and true superhero costume is the top kids pick.
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