Strange Facts About Halloween

October 28, 2023 | Jennifer Crump

Strange Facts About Halloween

Ghosts, ghouls, and candy: what’s not to like about Halloween? The supernatural celebration has deep pagan roots and a long history. Plus, who doesn’t want to get into the spooky spirit by watching a couple of horror movies and dressing up as your favorite character? Here are 45 strange but true Halloween facts to tide you over until your favorite holiday arrives.

1. Warding Off Demons

The tradition of wearing scary costumes on Halloween comes from the ancient Celts, and they had a creepy reason for doing so: back then, people believed dressing up as demons and the like would confuse or ward off the evil spirits who roamed the streets during Samhain, a holiday that was essentially the pagan version of Halloween.

Halloween facts

2. All Hallow’s Eve

Christians, in an effort to convert pagans, changed Samhain in the 11th century to a three-day celebration from October 31st to November 2nd. The first night of this holiday is called All Hallow’s Eve, which eventually became Halloween.

Halloween factsPexels

3. There’s A Name For That

Samhainophobia is the medical term for a pathological fear of Halloween.

Halloween factsPexels

4. Jack’s Lantern

People love carving pumpkins at Halloween, but few know the jack-o-lantern's dark history. According to Celtic lore, a miserly old man used to play tricks on the devil and was thus denied entrance to both heaven and underground. Instead, the old man was condemned to wander the Earth and used his lantern to lead people astray from their paths.

Surrounded by Idiots FactsShutterstock

5. Wicked

The word "witch" actually comes from an old English word that means "wise woman". Members of the Wiccan were once highly respected. It was popularly believed that witches held one of their two annual meetings, called sabbats, on Halloween.

Halloween facts

6. Owl Omen

Owls are popular Halloween symbols. In medieval times, owls were believed to be witches, and if you heard the call of an owl it meant that someone was about to die.

Halloween factsGetty Images

7. From Beyond the Grave

Legend has it that if you see a spider on Halloween night, it means a loved one is watching over you.

Bone-Chilling Events factsWikipedia

8. Are You Familiar?

Black cats are another symbol of the spooky side of Halloween: if a black cat crosses your path, you’ll be cursed with bad luck. In the Medieval ages, black cats were seen as the familiars of witches, and this belief perpetuated the black cat’s association with bad luck.

Halloween factsGetty Images

9. Going Batty

Bats were also feared as the familiars of witches. Bats have an additional connection to Halloween: the bonfires that the ancient Celts built to celebrate Samhain would often attract the flying mammals.

Halloween factsGetty Images

10. Looking For Toil And Trouble

According to legend, if you put your clothes on inside out and walk backward at Halloween, you’ll see a witch at midnight.

Halloween factsGetty Images

11. Staying Mum

During Samhain, some villagers would dress up in animal skins and dance around the fire to scare away spirits. This practice evolved into mumming in the middle ages, where bands of masked and costumed performers would roam the streets entertaining people in exchange for treats in the form of food or drink.

Halloween factsPxabay

12. Tricks For Treats

In Scotland and Ireland, young people would go guising, a tradition in which they dressed in costume and visited houses. If they performed a “trick” such as a dance or song, they would be given fruit, nuts, or coins as treats.

Halloween factsGetty Images

13. Going A-Souling

During the celebrations associated with All Soul’s Day on November 2, poor people would knock on the doors of wealthy citizens and be given pastries as treats. Like guising, souling was a precursor to modern trick-or-treating.

Halloween factsGetty Images

14. Prank Show

Scottish and Irish immigrants to North America brought guising and souling with them, but young people began to prefer pranks over performing. By the 1920s, these pranks were starting to cause serious damage to property. The increasing aggression of the “tricks” led to the more organized practice of trick or treating.

Halloween factsGetty Images

15. Sugar Crash

In the 1940s, trick or treating was halted because battle-time rationing had curtailed the use of sugar.

Goldie Hawn and Ruth Buzzi in a trick or treat skitNBC Television, Uploaded by We hope at en.wikipedia, Wikimedia Commons

16. Picky Eaters

50% of children prefer to receive chocolate on Halloween over other types of treats. 24% of children like candy, and 10% would choose gum. Toothbrushes didn’t make the list.

Halloween factsGetty Images

17. House Colors

Halloween is traditionally associated with the colors orange and black: orange because of its link to the fall harvest, and black because of its connection to darkness and afterlife. After all, Samhain was about celebrating the boundary between life and afterlife.

Halloween factsPexels

18. The Great Pumpkin

Ron Wallace holds the world record for the largest pumpkin ever grown: a 1,502 pound behemoth he grew in 2006.

Halloween factsFlickr, fishhawk

19. What a Cut-Up

Yes, "fastest pumpkin carving" is a real event. The record is 16.47 seconds and is held by Stephen Clarke.

Halloween factsPxabay

20. First Edition

Trick-or-treating was first mentioned in print in North America in 1927 in Blackie, Alberta, Canada.

Halloween factsGetty Images

21. That’s Just Silly

Since 2004, a bizarre law has been enacted on the streets of Hollywood on Halloween. They've outlawed the use of silly string for that 24-hour period. There is even a $1,000 fine for either using or selling the party supply on Halloween. Apparently, so many people flock to the area to celebrate, and its use caused so much of a mess for business owners, that the law was necessary.

Halloween factsGetty Images

22. Halloween By The Numbers

Halloween is the second highest-grossing commercial holiday behind Christmas. People in the US spent 8.4 billion in 2016 on candy, costumes, and decorations.

Halloween factsGetty Images

23. Move Over, Tinder

Can bobbing for apples also land you a mate? Maybe. Apples are symbols of fertility, and young women used to mark apples during apple bobbing. If a young man captured her apple while bobbing, that girl had found her match.

Halloween factsGetty Images

24. Get In Line, OKCupid

Another matchmaking tradition had young women peeling an apple on Halloween and then throwing the peel over her shoulder. The peel was then carefully inspected to see if it formed a letter; if so, that letter would indicate the initial of the girl’s future spouse.Green Apple with peelings.Getty Images

25. Like Looking In A Mirror

According to a legend from the late 1800s, if a young woman stared into a mirror in a dark room on Halloween, she would see the face of her future spouse.

Halloween factsPxabay

26. Burning Nuts

In Scotland, single women were told to choose an array of hazelnuts that each represented one of their potential mates and throw them into the fire on Halloween. The nut that burned, rather than popped, represented her future husband.

Hazelnuts.Getty Images

27. Hidden Treats

In 18th century Ireland, another tradition had a cook hiding a diamond ring in a bowl of mashed potatoes on Halloween. Whoever was the first to find the ring was sure to find true love.

Halloween factsGetty Images

28. Bad Behavior

Studies have shown that Halloween makes children a little more evil than usual. Children’s identities are hidden, and they are also emboldened by groups. Because of this, Halloween makes children far more likely to take candy and money.

Halloween factsGetty Images

29. Day of the Passed

In Mexico, people celebrate the Day of the Passed on November 2nd rather than Halloween on October 31st. Celebrants dress up as ghouls and roam the streets.

Halloween factsGetty Images

30. Long In The Tooth

Halloween is thought to be 6,000 years old and was first celebrated around 4,000 BCE.

Halloween factsGetty Images

31. Lantern Festival

During one Halloween festival in China, people hang lanterns shaped like dragons and animals outside their homes to guide spirits back to their homes. Citizens also leave food and water in front of the portraits of their ancestors.Halloween Stories FactsFlickr, Michelle Milla

32. Revenge of the Ghosts

In Hong Kong, Halloween is celebrated during the Festival of the Friendly Ghosts. Food is left out and fires are lit in an effort to make angry ghosts a little happier with the living.

Halloween factsGetty Images

33. Killer Night

Children are more than twice as likely to be hurt while walking the streets and sidewalks on Halloween than on any other night.

Halloween factsGetty Images

34. Time To Carve The Turnip

Jack-o-lanterns were originally turnips, not pumpkins.

Wholesome Stories FactsFlickr

35. Divine Fine

It is unlawful to dress up as a priest for Halloween in Alabama, and you can be fined and/or detained for the offense.

Halloween factsGetty Images

36. Full Moons

Although full moons are also associated with Halloween, a Halloween full moon is quite rare. The most recent Halloween full moons were in 1955, 1974, and 2001. A full moon is also expected on October 31, 2020.


37. Return Of The Passed

Every year since 1927, a séance has been held in the hopes of making contact with Houdini. Houdini had given a code word to his wife Bess before he passed and told her he would use it if he were able to cross over from the other world. Bess participated in the séance for 10 years until finally declaring that he wasn’t coming back. The séance, however, continues today without her.

Halloween factsGetty Images

38. Sinister Etymology

Ever have a bonfire on Halloween? Well, the practice has a surprisingly sinister origin. The word bonfire comes from the phrase "bone fire"—yes, that's right, during Samhain, priests would throw the bones of cattle into the fire.

Shocked man with opened mouth in red shirtAndrea Piacquadio, Pexels

39. A Tale of Two Masks

The infamous mask from the 1978 film Halloween was almost a clown mask. They had originally thought about going with a clown mask, as a throwback to the night that Michael Myers ended his sister Judith while dressed up as a clown for Halloween. They went for a Star Trek Kirk mask that had been spray-painted because it looked emotionless and they thought that was much creepier than the clown mask.

At that point, the killer clown archetype wasn't quite what it was today (Stephen King's It came out eight years later, in 1986). But had they used the clown mask, it would've been a chilling omen for the capture of a real-life killer clown, John Wayne Gacy, who was detained just two months after Halloween was released.

The Halloween Franchise Factspixabay

40. Primary Source

James Jude Courtney, who plays Michael Myers in the 2018 version of Halloween, learned how to kill from a former Mafia hitman. The hitman lived with Courtney after getting out of jailhouse. The hitman later went to see a film Courtney directed, The Hit List, and advised that the kills weren’t realistic. Courtney then learned from the best and put the knowledge to use to play Myers.

Horror's Scariest Monsters factsShutterstock

41. Born Under the Sign of the Devil

Appropriately enough, director Peter Jackson was born on Halloween, 1961. Although he's best known for the Lord of the Rings franchise, in his early career he was interested in the horror genre, making the horror comedy Bad Taste in 1987 and zombie comedy Braindead in 1992. His breakthrough film Heavenly Creatures from 1994 was based on a terrifying true unlawful story, where two girls from Christchurch, New Zealand, ended one of their mothers.

Fellowship Of The Ring FactsGetty Images

42. Never Too Old?

In 1964, Long Island homeowner Helen Pfeil had a problem. Every year, teens would show up to her house on Halloween asking for candy. She thought they were too old for trick-or-treating, so she came up with an utterly disturbing plan. She handed out treats with arsenic, a misconduct she was later detained for.

Espionage FactsShutterstock

43. Yes, You Can Be Too Old

Officials in Belleville, Illinois agree with Pfeil that you can be too old. The city banned trick or treating for kids over the age of twelve. Teens who venture out on Halloween for treats can be fined up to $1,000.

Halloween factsGetty Images

44. Tainted Candy Myth

Except for Helen Pfeil, the idea that strangers might tamper with children’s treats is largely a myth. The sad truth is that if a child's candy is poisoned on Halloween, it's likely that the child was actually targeted by a member of their own family. In one known case, a child passed after ingesting his uncle’s drug. The drug was later sprinkled on the candy to shift blame.

In another instance, a father laced his children’s candy with cyanide to collect on life insurance policies he had taken out.

Halloween factsPixabay

45. Fear Of Clowns

In 2014, the city of Vendargues, France, had a terrifying problem: adults dressed as clowns were terrorizing the town. Since then, it's been unlawful for anyone over the age of 12 to wear a clown costume or makeup on Halloween.

Hunters in the Woods factsShutterstock

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14

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