Welcome to my page of quotations about jack-o’-lanterns. Most of us think of carved pumpkins at Halloween, but this term also used to refer to night watchmen carrying lanterns and to ignis fatuus, or will-o’-the-wisp, meaning both eerily-lit marshes and figuratively, elusive goals or deceptive hopes. This page is mostly about October’s spooky carved pumpkin faces, but there are a few with the other meanings too. Enjoy!
Jack-o-lanterns burning bright
of soft and golden hue —
goblins of the cornfield stark,
pumpkins grinning in the dark…
~Hallowe’en postcard from the early 1900s [a little altered
Oh! fruit loved of boyhood — the old days recalling,
When wood-grapes were purpling and brown nuts were falling;
When wild, ugly faces we carved on its skin,
Glaring out through the dark, with a candle within…
~John G. Whittier, “The Pumpkin”
Soon pumpkins, as large as an apple were found.
Hidden, under the leaves on the ground…
When the farmer gathered many a load,
Which carefully, in his barn was bestowed;
Some fed the cows — some were made into pies —
And some, Jack o’lanterns, with fiery eyes.
~Eleanor W. Talbot, Jack o’Lantern and Other Rhymes, 1883
As the warm glow flickers from jack-o-lanterns, dark secrets are brought to light. Terrifying creatures rule the night and strike fear into eager souls who relish the unknown. ~James E. Garvey, The Legend of MacNawckett Castle, 2001
When the twilight comes down on all Hallowe’en
Then we fly on the wings of the night
Over land, through the streets, in each home we are seen,
And are known everywhere by our light!
For our eyes are like stars and our noses aglow,
With the candles that make us so bright
And our mouths are so jagged none can but know
We are Jack-o’-Lanterns all right!
~Jane A. Stewart, “Hallowe’en Exercise,” in American Primary Teacher, October 1914
He ran full speed up the front lawn to a brightly lit house with a big grinning jack-o’-lantern in the front window. A flickering candle inside it made its jagged eyes glow. ~R.L. Stine, Goosebumps Hall of Horrors: Night of the Giant Everything, 2011
Hide the radiant jewel under thy cloak, sayest thou? Why, it will gleam through the holes, and make thee look like a jack-o’-lantern! ~Nathaniel Hawthorne, “The Great Carbuncle,” 1835 [a little altered
Down the years that followed, though I trod strange paths unheeding,
Though I chased the jack-o’-lanthorns of so many maddened years,
Though I never looked behind me where the home-lights were receding,
Though I never looked enough ahead to see the Inn of Fears;
Still I knew your heart was near me…
~Reginald Wright Kauffman (1877–1959), “The Wastrel,” 1910
…that hollow feeling in his guts resurfacing again. He’d felt like a jack-o’-lantern for the past few days, as if his guts had been yanked out with a fork and dumped in a heap while a grinning smile stayed plastered on his face. ~Cassandra Clare, City of Ashes, 2008[E]very available inch of his face busts into a smile…. This guy looks unabashedly jack-o-lantern happy… ~Jandy Nelson, The Sky is Everywhere, 2011