Halloween originated from the medieval times. A night of the dead, villagers were terrified of venturing outside of their homes for fear of being demon possessed so they cowered inside their meager dwellings until dawn began to rise above the horizon. Yet, the Christians created their own spoof of Halloween called "All Hallows Eve" which was a sarcastic reaction to the paranoia of the pagans who were horrified of death and its minions. Believing that evil spirits could be grabbing their unsuspecting children and others, they remained inside their dwellings with the doors locked the entire evening.
There was much to fear in Medieval Times, the bubonic plague, superstition over evil spirits, and those who would quickly accuse anyone they suspected as being witches. Yet, there were those who were the assistants to warlocks or sorceresses. So, evil, the forces of the Devil, and spirits of the dead became the common explanation for all things that could not be explained. The villagers of medieval times in Europe lived in filth and dread. Somehow, this morbid day of angst was transformed into costumed children having fun and running from house to house opening their bags with a knock on the neighbor's door for trick or treats. For many people it has become their most cherished holiday while devout Christians shun Satan's celebration of the supernatural. Still, to most it seems to be an innocent kid's fantasy.
The dread of evil
As with most myths and legends there is usually some corroborating evidence or some incidents that contributed to the beliefs that seemed to substantiate these superstitions. History is replete with bizarre occurrences that sparked widespread panic and fear. The ignorance of our ancient ancestors frequently served as the platform for fear and suspicion. In Hungary during the evil reign of Vlad the Impaler an out break of rabies infected the population! Red eyed, delirious, victims suffering from hydrophobia and the brain virus that doomed many to a horrible death were interpreted by superstitious villagers as the actions of zombies or demonically possessed servants of the Devil! Modern medicine was still in the distant future.
Curse of the werewolf
One historic account of the frequent preoccupation of the medieval commoners was the fear of werewolves! One story recorded for centuries to come describes a European village plagued by several murders. It was suspected that the killer was supernatural as they were unable to determine the identity of the culprit. Then, one night after another murder where the victim's throat had been ripped out, several vigilantes got together in the classic torch carrying crowd of avengers! They followed what appeared to be the footprints of a wolf until the imprints changed to those of a bare footed man! This led them to a villager whom they immediately accused of being a werewolf. The suspect was quickly overpowered by the mob and after a swift trial was sentenced to execution. For suspected witches, vampires, or werewolves there were sadistic punishments thought to ensure that the monstrous individual would not return from the dead. Such practices survived all the way to the late 1800's even in America by some European immigrants who had brought their brand of superstition across the ocean along with them.
Being impaled by a silver sword, beheaded with parsley being placed in their mouths, and being burned at the stake were the most common forms of execution that the fearful peasants would believe minimized their chances of being killed by the vengeful spirit of the dead! Even the Spanish Inquisition specialized in brutal forms of torture whenever a suspected minion of the Devil was being interrogated! These inhuman practices were even known about and authorized from the Vatican by the Popes themselves.
A grain of truth
Remember the legend of Saint Colombo, who when seeing the Loch Ness Dragon descending upon a swimmer invoked the Lords Prayer upon the malicious serpent vanquishing snakes to this very day from Scotland! To date, irregardless of all of the Loch Ness Monster sightings there has never been a single account of anyone being harmed by the infamous water beast. Strangely, it seems that fiction and fact do merge to produce the unexplained we are often compelled to raise our eyebrows over.
Loss of a great performer
Halloween, occurring on October 31, has also been the date of many unfortunate losses of human life and tragedies that many would blame on the thin veil of separation that exists between reality and the spirit world on this particular night. World famed magician and escape artist, Harry Houdini attempted to make spiritual contact with his beloved and deceased mother on Halloween and he himself succumbed to appendicitis after allowing a student to punch him in the stomach due to his reputation for having a well muscled midsection. Apparently, Harry was not set to take the punch yet when the powerful young man landed a hard blow. Physicians suspected he suffered internal injury that night leading a week later to his demise.
Blood in the Atlantic
On October 31, 1941 just a week before the Pearl Harbor attack in Hawaii the USS Reuben James, an escort Destroyer that had been at sea for 22 years was the first US Naval ship of World War II to be sunk by the enemy. While patrolling off the Eastern Coast of the US the unfortunate crew of the warship were torpedoed by a German U-Boat that had been pacing merchant sea shipments to the British Isles . Little did the American public know that many of the fires they observed out in the ocean at night from the coast of Florida to Virginia were the torpedoed American ships attempting to deliver aid to the embattled British Isles during the Nazi bombing raids of 1940 over London.
Broadcast of fear
Perhaps, the most well known event that occurred on Halloween night was the infamous Orson Wells and Fireside Theater radio play production of the H. G. Wells classic "War of the Worlds" in 1938. So convincing was the on the spot reporting aspect of the play that even though there were numerous announcements during the broadcast that this was a Fireside Radio program play, thousands of American listeners went into a widespread panic! Some were killed in accidents while a few others committed suicide before the Martian Invaders could get them. It was said that Orson Wells ordered that the switchboards not be answered as frantic callers tried to reach the radio station to confirm whether or not the invasion from space was really happening! The next day Orson Wells took a lot of flak over his radio play and how it endangered lives of the public by terrifying the listening audience.
Years later, it would be revealed that the Halloween presentation of the "War of the Worlds" radio play had not been a merely innocent entertainment gag, but had actually been a government sanctioned social experiment, an impact study. One must ask just what interest the federal government would have in using mass media to instill such widespread hysteria without considering the casualties that might also take place? Whether one considers Halloween to be a harmless day for children to put on costumers and collect candy or whether this day can be linked to an unholy alliance with evil has long been a subject for debate.