Celts, Customs, and Costumes: Halloween’s History

Celts, Customs, and Costumes: Halloween’s History

It’s Halloween, the time when ghosts, apparitions, spirits, other-worldly beings come out to play. They scare us, mystify us, and keep us in the dark. Almost everyone knows what they are and while not many have had experiences with them, at least 18% have. Or, at least, say they have. So, who’s to say they are – or are not- real?

When I was young, a little younger than 10, my great grandmother died after living a long, fulfilling life. After her death, I had nightmares about her. The most chilling being the one in which I was the reason she died. Knowing this was untrue, I pushed it to the back of my brain as a bad memory.

A few years later, my grandfather passed away unexpectedly.

Days after his passing, I dreamt of him. I was coming home from school and opened the solid wood door, walking into the place I called home. As always, to my left was the 1970s dresser-like table that we always put our mail on. As I closed the door, something behind me moved; there, in all his glory, was my grandfather. I turned to him in my dream, confused, and asked him, as he reached for the mail pile, what he was doing there. He looked at me and simply said, “I just wanted to check on my girls to make sure you were okay.”

I chalked these instances up to just what anyone else would, dreams. My subconscious missed my family members, it was normal to dream of them.

But it happened again.

Years later my cousin was hit by a drunk driver. It’s a very sensitive subject in my family — he was only 16.

That night, as I slept, I dreamt of the reception at my aunt’s house that I knew was to come the next day. I had an overwhelming sense that something horrible was following me around.

As I turned the corner I found a man standing at the dining room table. His face contorted as I stared at him. Horrifyingly I watched as he was transformed into a younger boy with a creepy and vicious cat-like mask on his face. He bellowed a laugh so terrifying I jumped, and he ran away, causing a ruckus in the house.

I woke up sweating, my eyes falling on my cousin standing in front of me, staring at me as I had slept. I screamed, and he vanished. My entire family woke up and consoled me as I tried to explain what happened. 

Since then, I’ve believed in spirits and ghosts. I believe there is something else out there. Maybe another world stuck between ours and an afterlife, maybe it’s not a world but just spirits stuck here, or maybe it’s the energy that our bodies must release when we are gone. Whatever it is, I believe it is real.

I am not alone in this thought. A 2013 study shows that 45% of people asked do believe in the “other-worldly”.

Stories from around the world, crossing borders, religion, language and even time, tell of poltergeists, demons, ghosts, and apparitions; many people still believe in these tales today.

In fact, a good chunk of our most thrilling TV shows, movies, and stories, have been based on these frightening macabre stories. Alfred Hitchcock, Edgar Allan Poe, Emily Dickinson, and so many more knew of, and played on, our need of the mysterious and foreboding.

Things that go bump in the night sell well, from movies to books, podcasts to haunted cities. As a great example, the ghost touring industry is in full bloom in just about any town you visit across America– the older the city, the dirtier the history.

Take New Orleans as a great start. You can choose your fright of the night depending on your mood: Want to visit the West-side of the city and learn about the colonial murders? Go ahead! Or how about a ghost hunting tour? Get equipped with machines to record and even trap- yes, trap- any ghost you may come across. A personal favorite of mine is the tour that focuses mainly on female murderers of New Orleans, which span decades. Informative and creepy. If you ever find yourself in the city, take a look here for some frights and facts.

Halloween’s original history even has roots in our inexplicable belief in the un-dead.

Going back 2,000 years, bonfires were lit and the Celts dressed up in animal skins to ward off ghosts which they believed could walk among the living on the eve of October 31st, which marked the beginning of Winter and the time closely associated with death.

Of course, over the years it has turned into a money-making business including, but not limited to, candy, decorations, parties, and not-so-scary costumes. This can be directly related to our loss of strict protestant ways, and immigration from all over the world.

But who’s to say the dead don’t walk among us on the 31st of October, or any other day of the year?

Whether you believe in the superstitions of days long passed, or ghosts from our more recent years, one thing is always present: humans love to believe in the other-worldly to some extent; whether it’s to find comfort in our own mortality, or to make sense of our own fears, we see what we want to. Sometimes it’s just a shadow, sometimes a chill down your spine in a dark corner of a place you’ve never been.

There are things we ignore because we can’t explain them, or because, we refuse to believe. While many stories cannot be proven, there are stories that are just a little TOO believable. It seems that there will always be things we adamantly deny because sometimes facing our reality is scarier than living with the unknown.

Ghosts, vampires, werewolves and zombies can’t be real, or can they?

2 Replies to “Celts, Customs, and Costumes: Halloween’s History”

  1. Your experiences with Supernatural or apparitions or whatever you call it or not uncommon in your family your grandma Stocker used to have dreams that came true and I myself have had some Close Encounters of the strange kind good read thank you

Comments are closed.