Ah, Halloween. That glorious time of year when we order a $50 taco costume from Party City, only to have our child say that actually, she wants to be Moana. A hint of cool in the hair and suddenly we all pretend we’re farmers and ride on hay bales, and decide to eat fun-sized Twix like they’re doctor-prescribed. And of course, it’s that very special season when a quick stop at the pharmacy for some essentials means also listening to your child activate a screaming skeleton every few seconds. Halloween (or All Hallows’ Eve, as it
was originally known) has a pretty bonkers history, and there are all sorts of weird and interesting Halloween facts to be learned and shared.
Here, we’ve rounded up 23 Halloween facts about our favorite spooky traditions, beloved horror films, and the trick-or-treat candy we jam into our faces on October 31. I mean, when you think about it, Halloween is definitely one of our weirder holidays and so perhaps it’s not totally surprising that there are lots of great little Halloween facts to know. You can totally bust these fun facts out at the neighborhood party, as you gesticulate wildly while wearing an inflatable cactus costume, or hand them out (along with plenty of candy) on Halloween night.
1 The mask worn by Halloween’s Michael Meyers is actually a mask of Captain Kirk.
Bizarre, yes. But totally true. During the original filming of
Halloween, a production designer picked up a Captain Kirk mask for a few dollars, painted it white, and it became the face of everyone’s favorite butcher-knife wielding horror icon. To make things even weirder, William Shatner himself apparently once went as Michael Meyers for Halloween. Meaning Shatner wore a mask of...Shatner. This is quite possibly my favorite of all Halloween facts. 2 Scottish girls expected a lot of their sheets on Halloween
According to Scottish folklore, Scottish girls used to hang wet bedsheets in front of the fire, with the hope that the face of their future husband would appear to them.
3 Trick-or-treating has been around for hundreds of years The tradition of wandering the streets and asking strangers for a hand-out dates all the way back to the Middle Ages. Back then it was known as “ mumming”, and people would dress as demons and ghosts, then go knock on doors and perform a song or a dance in exchange for food or drink. (No word on whether or not the song contained the words, “If you don’t, I don’t care, I’ll pull down your underwear.”) 4 “Monster Mash” was once banned in the U.K.
It’s true. In 1962, the United Kingdom felt the lyrics to this goofy Halloween anthem were a little “
too morbid”. I suppose lines like: “From my laboratory in the castle east, to the master bedroom where the vampires feast” would have been a a bit off the wall back then. 5 Leo was almost in Hocus Pocus
Leonardo DiCaprio, that is. Kind of hard to picture, I know, but yes, your
crush was almost played by your other, ultimate crush. Alas, Leo opted to go shoot Hocus Pocus What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, and so the role went to Omri Katz. 6 L.A. is serious about its Silly String ban
Back in 2004, people bought a bunch of Silly String from vendors on the street, and made such a mess that the city passed a law banning the using or selling of everyone’s favorite canned string between the hours of 12:01 am on October 31 to 12:00 pm on November 1.
7 New York City is home to the biggest Halloween parade in the world Anadolu Agency/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
The Greenwich Village Halloween parade is absolutely massive, with over two million spectators, and some of the most elaborate and hilarious costumes you can imagine.
8 The fastest pumpkin carving on record is 16 seconds
I admit, when I first read this one, I was a bit skeptical. I mean, what did the guy carve? A single nose? But no, Steve Clarke is in fact an incredibly skilled carver, and if you don’t believe me,
check out his Instagram. He holds the world record for fastest jack-o'-lantern. 9 The original Halloween masks may have been actual skulls
Many may know that the origins of Halloween can be traced back to the ancient Celts, who celebrated Samhain — a festival that commemorated the end of harvest season — by dressing in costumes and having a wild party and feast. But what you might not know, is that the Celts “costumes” were likely composed of actual animal parts and animal skins. (Whether or not they ordered these items using their Prime account or just paid for the shipping remains unknown.)
10 The origin of the jack-o'-lantern comes from an Irish folk tale about a man who wanted free beer Roy Rochlin/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
folk tale is long and a little bizarre, but basically all you need to know is it involves the Devil and some Irish guy named Stingy Jack who didn’t want to pay for his own pints. Jack gets the Devil to help him buy a few rounds, but then eventually the Devil and Jack have a falling out, and the Devil leaves Jack to wander the earth alone. He presents Jack with a burning coal, which Jack then places inside a carved out turnip to crate a lantern to light his path. The Irish referred to this mythical, wandering figure as, you guessed it, Jack of the Lantern. 11 Halloween pranks used to be a lot more intense than toilet papering some trees.
Some of the “tricks” played in the States in the late 1800s were so violent that some cities nearly banned the holiday. Tricks from those days were a lot
more intense than just egging a house — people used to put livestock up on people’s rooftops, or run through the streets splatting people with bags of flour. So uh, yeah. Let us be grateful the ol “cow on the roof” trick is no longer a staple of the holiday. 12 Halloween cards used to be a thing Rykoff Collection/Corbis Historical/Getty Images
This is a particularly fun fact. Apparently, people used to send cards to each other in much the same way we now do Christmas cards. From about 1905 to 1920, people would send these (slightly creepy) Halloween postcards.
13 The Irish Potato Famine brought Halloween to America
During the Potato Famine of 1845, over a million people fled Ireland for the United States, bringing their many Halloween traditions along with them. The customs and stories caught on quickly, and Halloween soon was celebrated across the country.
14 Reader’s Digest will tell you the most popular Halloween costume the year you were born.
Okay, this is pretty fun. I
f you go here, they list the most popular Halloween costume according to year, starting all the way back in 1950. It totally outs my age to admit this, but I have to say I was rather pleased to learn that Rocky Horror’s Frank N’ Furter was the top costume the year I came onto the scene. 15 During World War II, trick-or-treat candy was a no-go Harold M. Lambert/Archive Photos/Getty Images
When sugar was rationed during World War II, it put a five-year halt on handing out candy for Halloween. Remember this when you watch your child grab seven mini-Snickers out of your neighbor’s bowl.
16 Halloween was once called Snap Apple Night
In Ireland in the 1800s, Snap Apple Night was another name for Halloween. Likely because they played a game in which an apple was dangled from a string, and children were then blindfolded, and had to try and get a bite of the fruit.
17 In Germany, they worry about their ghosts’ safety
While the logic might seem a little flimsy, in
Germany it’s a Halloween tradition to hide all of the knives in the house so that if any ghosts return, they won’t hurt themselves. One can only assume that German ghosts are a.) exceptionally clumsy b.) able to be stabbed. 18 Here’s how to see a witch on Halloween
According to an old folk tradition, if you put your clothes on backwards and then walk backwards on Halloween, you will see a witch.
19 Sean Connery, Harry Houdini, and River Phoenix all died on Halloween.
The world’s most famous magician, Britain’s best spy, and the beloved actor all passed away on October 31.
20 In a small town in France, red rubber noses are cause for arrest. HUM Images/Universal Images Group/Getty Images
In Vendargues, France, they have outlawed dressing up like
a clown for Halloween. This isn’t because the French are particularly terrified of Pennywise, but rather because several years ago a roving group of teens dressed up like clowns and terrorized the place with vandalism and random attacks. Yikes. 21 The idea was originally to scare off spirits, not your neighbors.
In the ancient Celtic tradition, people dressed up in costumes on Samhain (the pagan holiday that Halloween has evolved from) as a way of actually thwarting off ghosts. They wore masks after dark so any roaming spirits would think they were just fellow spirits out for an evening stroll.
22 Candy corn used to be called chicken feed
When candy corn was first invented in the late 1880s, it was actually called “chicken feed”. It was also generally enjoyed by the public, and did not incite such passionate debate about whether or not it is in fact delicious or revolting.
23 Some people have purchased trucks for the sole purpose of transporting their giant Halloween skeletons.
Massive Halloween decorations from Home Depot are both loved and reviled. But, some people enjoy them so much, they have actually purchased vehicles just to transport them, and some have even have rented entire storage units in which to store their beloved bones.
There you have it. Plenty of spooky Halloween facts with which to dazzle your kids’ friends, as you try to distract them from the fact that you are now completely out of Tootsie Rolls. Happy Snap Apple Night to you!