Valentine’s Day has Cupid. Easter has the Easter Bunny. Christmas has Santa Claus, Rudolph, and dozens of others. Yet in spite of being the second most commercialized holiday in America, Halloween doesn’t have its own mascot… or does it?
After racking our abnormal brains, CreepyLA was able to count
seven eight characters (no more, no less) who bear the distinction of being Halloween icons.
The prerequisite to be counted is simple: 1. The character needs to be intrinsically tied to the holiday, meaning Halloween is essential to their legend. 2. Relative fame – a simple appearance in a short story, or obscure movie, wouldn’t count. However, they could come from film, TV, literature, or legend, but require established notoriety to make the list.
Of course, we dare our readers to come up with anyone (or anything) we missed.
8) David S. Pumpkins
Origin: David S. Pumpkins, as played by Tom Hanks, appeared for the first time on the October 22, 2016 episode of Saturday Night Live in the sketch “Haunted Elevator.” By the next morning the clip went viral.
Description: The “100 Floors of Flights” attraction at the fictional Fright Fest has a new character appear each time the bellmen brings guests to each floor, including the girl from “The Ring,” a chainsaw wielding maniac, and the ghost of a bride who hung herself. But according to the bellman, “David S. Pumpkins” is featured on 73 of the 100 floors.
Pumpkins, as played by Hanks, wears a suit and tie with a pumpkin pattern (which sold out within 24 hours of the sketch appearing), introduces himself and threatens to “scare the hell outta” the guests, then does a dance with two skeleton B-boy wingmen. He ends with uttering the Da-Da inspiring catchphrase, “Any questions?”
The guests on the ride are perplexed as to how he fits into the theme.
“I’m into pumpkins, man,” he explains. Upon further inquisition, he states he’s “his own thing.”
The bellman addresses the elephant in the room – with 100 floors of frights, “they can’t all be winners.”
Maybe David S. Pumpkins symbolizes the jumping of the shark of everyone lately jumping on the Halloween bandwagon just by slapping a pumpkin on it or the numerous “scary sales” in October, without any further thought. Or perhaps its because the character captures the true spirit of Halloween as a wacky, anything goes carnival that we shouldn’t think so hard about in pieces like this.
Either way, we’re including him in this list of Halloween mascots with the caveat that if he’s forgotten like oh so many SNL characters that have popped up over the years, we’ll delete the entry. But if he has the legs of “former porn stars Brecky and that other girl” we’ll keep it on this list for the near future.
7) Sam, the Spirit of Halloween
Description: Dressed in a burlap mask and worn orange footie pajamas, this mischievous trick or treater exacts deadly vengeance on anyone who shows disdain for Halloween.
If you smash pumpkins, take down your Halloween decorations early, or don’t provide candy to trick or treaters, Sam may show up at your door with the last trick you’ll ever see.
Despite being a film festival favorite, Warner Bros. unceremoniously dumped “Trick R Treat” straight to DVD. Since then, it has attained cult status among Halloween fans. In 2010 and 2011 the Fearnet cable channel has a 24 hour, marathon screening of the film on October 31st.
“Sam was the opportunity for me to create some kind of mascot for Halloween,” Dougherty said.
6. Mr. Carapace Clavicle Moundshroud
Origin: The day after the 1966 premiere of “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown,” animator Chuck Jones asked author Ray Bradbury what he thought of the show.
“I hated it,” Bradbury said, complaining of his disappointment that the Great Pumpkin never appeared. Jones followed up by asking Bradbury if he’d like to do a Halloween film with him. One month later, Bradbury had a screenplay ready for “The Halloween Tree.”
The film was cancelled before production, but in 1972 Bradbury released “The Halloween Tree” as a short novel.
Description: A group of boys searching for a lost friend on Halloween night find themselves in an apparently haunted mansion, where they meet the tall and skeletal Mr. Carapace Clavicle Moundshroud. Just outside of Moundshroud’s mansion is a giant oak tree, full of carved jack-o-lanterns, which he says is a Halloween tree.
Moundshroud, an expert on all things death and Halloween, offers to help the boys find their friend, taking them on a mystical journey through time and space where they learn about death celebrations around the world, including Dia de los Muertos and the origin of Halloween itself.
5. Michael Myers
Origin: The 1978 horror film, “Halloween,” where audiences first see Michael as a six year old boy kill his older sister on Halloween night. The film then cuts to fifteen years later, when Michael escapes a mental institution to kill again on Halloween.
About: The original “Halloween” film series spawned six sequels documenting the Michael Myers homicidal legacy, where ” The Shape,” as he’s also known, kills almost exclusively on October 31st.
Originally, writer/director John Carpenter set out to create a film about a psychotic killer called “The Babysitter Murders” before producer Irwin Yablans suggested film take place on Halloween night, and take on it’s current title.
It was until 1995’s “Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers” that the franchise attempted to explain why Myers kills every October 31st. In the film, audience learn that a centuries old cult gave inflicted Myers was inflicted with a curse that gave him his unusual strength and invincibility, but also compels him to kill on the day of every Samhain (Halloween).
4. The Headless Horseman
Origin: The original legend of the headless horseman dates back to Irish and German folklore from the middle ages, and appear in two Grimm Fairy Tales. Washington Irving popularized the tale as “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” in a collection of short stories he published in 1820.
About: In Irving’s story, the Headless Horseman is the ghost of a Revolutionary War mercenary who’s own head was blown off by a cannonball, and since then rides in search of a new head. School teacher Ichabod Crane disappears after coming face to face with the horseman.
While “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” takes place in the fall, and the hat of Ichabod Crane is found next to the shattered remains of a pumpkin, there is not a single mention of Halloween.
However, in Walt Disney’s 1949 animated adaptation of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” the audience is told that the Headless Horseman rides every Halloween night, and uses a flaming jack-0-lantern to fill the empty space above his shoulders until he can find a suitable replacement.
3. Stingy Jack
Origin: An old Irish folk story about a farmer who managed to trick the devil.
About: After tricking him to buy him a drink, farmer Stingy Jack managed to make a deal with the devil to keep his soul from going to hell. The problem, though, was that when he died, he was turned away from the gates of heaven for living such a wretched life. Taking some pity upon him, but unable to go back on his word, the devil tossed Stingy Jack an ember from hell to light his way on earth until he found a final resting space. Jack caught the ember in a hollowed out turnip, creating the very first jack-o-lantern.
According to some sources, when Irish settlers began coming to the United States, they brought their tradition of turning potatoes and turnips into lanterns to keep ghosts away, but quickly began to use larger, easier to carve pumpkins that were rare back in their native country.
2. Jack Skellington
Origin: The poem, “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” written by Tim Burton while working as a Disney animator.
About: Jack Skellington is the tall, wirey, and bone white “Pumpkin King” in the fantasy world of Halloween Town, tasked with coming up with ideas to make each annual celebration of their namesake holiday more frightening than the one before.
Adapted for the screen in 1993, “Nightmare Before Christmas” tells the tale of how Jack, exhausted of Halloween, stumbles through a doorway to Christmas Town and finds himself enchanted by the complete contrast to his home, going so far as to kidnap Santa Claus so he can wear the red suit. In the end, Jack can’t shake his macabre spirit and, after failing as a “Sandy Claws,” returns home to Halloween Town with “new ideas that will really make them scream.”
Besides being a familiar face on merchandise and decorations around Halloween, Jack Skellington’s misadventure with Christmas has legitimatized keeping up pumpkins and other macabre decorations between the two holidays.
1. The Great Pumpkin.
Origin: Charles Shulz introduced Linus’ recurring obsession with the “Great Pumpkin ” in his wildly popular “Peanuts” comic strip in October, 1959. After the success of 1965’s “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” Shulz and his producers followed up with the baseball themed “The Charlie Brown All Stars.” While a success, the network executives were banking on another blockbuster they could air year after year. On Thursday, October, 1966 at 8:30pm, “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown,” made its television debut.
About: Asked by producer Lee Mendelson why he came up with the Great Pumpkin, Shulz told him he was “always ambivalent of Santa Claus,” because of all the children around the world who don’t receive gifts, and the broken trust kids have after finding out he is not real. “The Great Pumpkin is really a a kind of satire on Santa Claus.”
According to Linus, every Halloween night “the Great Pumpkin rises out of the pumpkin patch, then he flies through the air to bring toys to all the good little children everywhere!” In spite of never having seen the Great Pumpkin, Linus writes him letters, and every year sleeps inside a pumpkin patch hoping to see the Great one rise. Each year, Linus is disappointed by the no-show (or that he fell asleep), but his faith is undeterred.
The Great Pumpkin is, arguably, one of the best known Halloween legends. For a holiday that can be many things to many different people, perhaps this is fitting.
After all, audiences have never seen the Great Pumpkin, leaving his possible appearance up to our imagination. Is it a giant orange gourd, or maybe a humanoid with a pumpkin as it’s noggin?
Shulz left this deliberately vague, because there was no Great Pumpkin to see. But the Great Pumpkin remains a staple of modern lexicon because he represents the joy that stems from the suspension of disbelief. Which may be exactly what Halloween is all about.
The Great Pumpkin is simply the great spirit of the Halloween season.
And if you disagree, perhaps I should take the advice Linus has for himself: “There are three things I have learned never to discuss with people: religion, politics, and the Great Pumpkin.”
Postscript: While we never see the Great Pumpkin in Peanuts, the television show “Robot Chicken” delivered on the promise recently. You can watch their take here: