Tag Archives: Halloween

‘A Roman Ghost Story for Halloween’


I really loved this, from Pliny the Younger, via The Lion of Chaeronea:

There was a house at Athens that was large and roomy, but infamous for its pernicious atmosphere. Through the silence of the night the sound of iron would come, and, if you listened more keenly, the clanking of chains would echo, first at a distance, then near at hand. Soon a phantom would appear- an old man worn away with starvation and squalor, his beard long, his hair bristling; he bore fetters on his feet and chains on his hands, which he would shake. Then the inhabitants would spend gloomy, ill-omened nights awake in fear; sickness would follow on their wakefulness, and then, as their dread swelled, finally death would come. For even during the day, although the apparition had departed, the memory of it would pass before their eyes, and their fear lasted longer than the fear’s causes.

Subsequently the house was deserted and condemned to emptiness, given over entirely to that monstrous apparition; nevertheless it was advertised, in case someone ignorant of so great an evil should wish to purchase or rent it.

A philosopher called Athenodorus came to Athens and read the listing. When he heard the price, since its cheapness was suspicious, he delayed and learned the whole story; then he rented it nonetheless- nay, all the more. When evening began to draw on, he ordered his bed to be laid out in the front part of the house; he requested writing tablets, a stylus, and a lamp; then he sent all his servants into the inner rooms. He himself devoted his mind, eyes, and hands to writing, lest his mind, left unoccupied, should imagine the apparition he’d heard of and create empty fears for him.

At first, there was the same night-silence one would find anywhere; but then the iron began to be shaken, the chains began to be moved. He didn’t lift his eyes or cease his writing, but strengthened his spirit and tried to ignore the sound. Then the noise increased and grew nearer- now it could be heard as if it were on the threshold, now as if it were past the threshold. Looking up, he saw and recognized the phantom he’d been told about. It stood there and beckoned to him with its finger, giving the impression of trying to speak. He, however, indicated with a hand motion that it should wait a little while, and returned to his wax tablets and stylus. The phantom rattled its chains above his head as he wrote. Looking again, he saw it beckoning just as before, and delaying no longer, he picked up the lamp and followed it. The spirit made its way with a slow walk, as if burdened by chains. After it turned off into the courtyard of the house, suddenly it vanished, leaving Athenodorus alone. He marked the spot with grass and leaves that he plucked.

The next day he approached the local magistrates and advised them to order that site to be dug up. Bones were found, fitted into chains and intertwined with them- bones that a body grown rotten with age and soil exposure had left bare and eaten away by the fetters. The bones were gathered and given a public funeral. After the shade had been put to rest in the proper manner, the house was plagued by it no longer.

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Highland Park High School in Illinois craps all over the First Amendment


Halloween costumes are fine at Highland Park High School in Illinois.

I easily can imagine the halls full of figures like Michael Meyers, Freddy Kreuger, and other sicko characters from slasher flicks.

Costumes are OK — unless you dress up as a First Century Jewish man who was brutally executed by the Roman empire, who is at least remembered as a spokesman for loving one’s neighbor as oneself.

This from Reason magazine’s Brickbats blog:

Highland Park High School in Illinois allows students to wear costumes to class on Halloween. But when Mashon Sanders showed up as Jesus, officials pulled him out of class and made him change. They said some teachers found the costume offensive.

Let’s call this “Coercive Separation of Church and Individual.”

A special Halloween message


This Halloween, leave Fear behind and embrace Despair, an idea whose time has come. Read Vote for Despair, the Halloween installment of Strange Days.

Occupy Halloween


Why Christians SHOULD celebrate Halloween — and All Saints’ Day


“Halloween” is simply a contraction for All Hallows’ Eve. The word “hallow” means “saint,” in that “hallow” is just an alternative form of the word “holy” (“hallowed be Thy name”). All Saints’ Day is November 1. It is the celebration of the victory of the saints in union with Christ. The observance of various celebrations of All Saints arose in the late 300s, and these were united and fixed on November 1 in the late 700s. The origin of All Saints Day and of All Saints Eve in Mediterranean Christianity had nothing to do with Celtic Druidism or the Church’s fight against Druidism (assuming there ever even was any such thing as Druidism, which is actually a myth concocted in the 19th century by neo-pagans.)

This article gets even better in its refutation of the fundamentalist fear of Halloween. Read all of James B. Jordan’s “Concerning Halloween” here.

Halloween is also Reformation Day, on which we note that Wittenberg is not so Protestant


I am not among the anti-Halloween scaremongers and killjoys, yet I wish more people also knew the last day of October as Reformation Day.

This is a bit obligatory: On Oct. 31, 1517, Martin Luther posted his not-so-anti-papal Ninety-Five Theses on an important door in Wittenberg, Germany, and that act more or less marked the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.

These days, however, Wittenberg is only 10 percent Protestant.

The German news outlet Spiegel Online reports:

Martin Luther sparked the Protestant Reformation in the German city of Wittenberg 500 years ago. But, today, only 10 percent of its population is Protestant. Church leaders have launched a major drive to change that — but have come up against the city’s communist past.

It’s impossible to walk through Wittenberg, also known as “Luther City,” without stumbling across reminders of Martin Luther. There’s the “Luther oak,” then Luther Street, which leads to the Luther House. Along the way are restaurants offering a “Luther menu” (choice of meat or fish) and a travel agency touting a tour boat named after the city, which couples can book for their weddings. The bars serve Luther beer; the bakery has Luther bread. There’s a huge memorial to Luther in the main marketplace. And the city is crawling with guides decked out in long frocks à la Luther. The city has been completely Lutherized.

Wittenberg, in fact, is as important to the history of Protestantism as Rome is for the Catholic Church. But there’s an essential difference: While Rome is full of Catholics, less than 10 percent of Wittenberg’s 46,000 citizens are Protestants.

Read the rest of the article here.