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Stingy Jack

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"Happy Halloween, foolish mortals!"

Then since Jack is unfit for Heaven
And Hell won't give him room
His ghost is forced to walk the Earth
Until the Day of Doom
A lantern in his hand he bears
The way by night to show
And, from its flame, he's got the name
Of Jack O' Lantern now
— "The Romance of Jack O' Lantern", by Hercules Ellis

Stingy Jack is a character of Irish folklore, who is said to have tricked the devil into an inescapable situation, be it he was tricked into his pocket where a rosary was, or he climbed a tree with a cross on it—anything cross-y, really. Jack then made a simple deal with him: If Jack lets him go, the Devil must make sure that he does not enter Hell. Unfortunately for Jack, his party-filled lifestyle did him in, and when he entered the afterlife, he couldn't get into Heaven. Having nowhere else to turn to, he bit the bullet and made his trek to Hell. But oh no, the Devil was still sore over that silly joke he played! With Jack having nowhere else to go but into the infinite darkness, the Devil did him a solid and gave him a candle (a coal from Hell, in some versions) to light his way, which he keeps to this day inside a small hollowed-out turnip as a kind of lantern.

Over time, the idea of Stingy Jack would be revered as a cautionary tale to those who play tricks and are not exactly Christian enough for everyone's liking, even equating Jack to certain phenomena like Will-o'-the-Wisp.

With ye auld traditions migrating to America, some sacrifices were made and the traditions changed with the times, as the turnip was soon traded for the pumpkin (due to being larger and thus easier to carve); the rest, as they say, is history. To this day, the Jack-o'-Lantern (for "Jack o' the Lantern", another name for Stingy Jack) is a popular Halloween icon, and the idea of Stingy Jack has transcended into media in many incarnations.

Such adaptations usually portray him as possessing a Jack-o'-Lantern for a head, while some simply portray him as possessing a pumpkin somewhere on his person. Because of the secularization of the holiday, how Stingy Jack is perceived differs as well, from being portrayed as a jovial soul simply searching for peace to a Scary Scarecrow out to cause trouble and anarchy on old Samhain — like some sort of freakish Halloween Krampus. In more volatile settings, it's common to give him fire-based magic. Compare the Spirit of Halloween, who is usually more benevolent.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Buster Keel!: Jack "the Pierrot" is one of the Shikyou ("Four Evils", the four strongest monsters in the setting) and is an S-Class monster known as Jack O'Lantern: he appears as a clownish human with a pumpkin mask and is a deranged Psychopathic Manchild who dabbles in necromantic magic and summon horrible creatures he refers to as "toys". He's also the only Shikyou who's actually aware of the real Big Bad and his plot. Also, the pumpkin head is his real body.
  • The Shin Megami Tensei depiction of Jack O'Lantern (aka. Pyro Jack) appears in Persona 4: The Animation, representing the bond between Yu and Yosuke. He assists in battle by unleashing Fire spells as well as absorbing enemy Fire attacks with his lantern.
  • Lantern, the primary antagonist of the Tokyo Ghoul Prequel JACK. The murderous ghoul wears a Halloween-themed disguise when hunting, with a pumpkin-head mask and an overly-large trenchcoat. Their motivation also ties into the associated legends: Minami desperately wants to live as a human, but can never escape her existence as a ghoul. Trapped living a double life, she lashes out and kills people she thinks don't appreciate their good fortune.

    Comic Books 
  • In the Fables spinoff Jack of Fables, Jack Horner finds a devil by the name of Old Scratch who's trapped up a tree because the locals surrounded the tree with crosses. Scratch can tell that Jack is destined for Hell and decides to make a deal with Jack. Jack frees him, and Jack doesn't have to go to Hell. Sweet deal. He agrees, Old Scratch runs free, and Jack spends the rest of his life however he wants. He ends up getting caught kidnapping a princess and is executed for his crime, but the executioner is such a lousy shot that he ends up getting Jack's back, the side of his neck and his scalp cut off before the executioner somehow ends up getting his own face hacked at. Jack is denied entry into Heaven and makes his way to Hell where Old Scratch is waiting. Remembering their deal, the Devil keeps him out, giving him nothing but a lit coal to light his way. Lost in the mortal plane, Jack comes across the Headless Horseman, who he knocks out and takes his jack o'lantern head for himself to carry the coal.
  • A version of him appears in Ghostbusters (IDW Comics), in which he escapes the Devil by putting himself into a ghost trap.
  • The Global Guardians originally had a member named Jack O' Lantern from Ireland, and his powers came from a magic fairy lantern. There have been three people using the character's name. The first was killed and replaced by a supervillain's agent to act as The Mole, and then he was killed as well. The third and current version of the character is the cousin of the original. He's been a member of the Guardians and two other teams, Primal Force and the Ultramarine Corps.
  • The identity of Jack O' Lantern has been taken by several people in the Marvel Universe, usually as second-string D-Lister foes of Spider-Man. The first Jack O' Lantern, a former CIA agent turned mercenary named Jason Macendale was probably the most notable, though he only gained any sort of prominence (and supernatural ability) after he took over as the Hobgoblin and made a Deal with the Devil for demonic power. The current Jack O' Lantern is a lackey of the Crime Master, a pyromaniac, and appears to have regenerative abilities.

    Film — Animation 
  • Jack Skellington the Pumpkin King from The Nightmare Before Christmas has some clear parallels with Stingy Jack, including his name, his undead skeletal appearance, his ceremonial pumpkin-headed scarecrow costume, and his status as the charismatic figurehead of Halloweentown. He's a far more heroic figure, though.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • One of the many monsters in The Cabin in the Woods is a tall figure with a jack o'lantern for a head that breathes fire.
  • More than once in Headless Horseman, Headless appears with a jack-o-lantern in place of his head. Destroying the gourd does nothing to slow him down.
  • The Headless Horseman in The Hollow has a massive jack-o'-lantern for a head. He can remove it and carry it under his arm.
  • Pumpkinhead from Pumpkinhead is a demon of vengeance that is summoned from a pumpkin patch. Pumpkinhead is usually passed on from person to person, given corporeal form from the corpse of the previous summoner. To wit:
    Haggis: It's what you wanted, Ed Harley. For each of man's evils, a special Demon exists. You're looking at Vengeance — cruel, devious, pure-as-poison vengeance.
  • Sam from Trick 'r Treat is a malevolent being that appears on Halloween, doing trick or treating (said tricks killing people), and has a head that looks a lot like a jack o'lantern.

  • In the Goosebumps book "Attack of the Jack-O'-Lanterns", the main characters are forced to trick or treat all night by a group of fire-breathing entities with jack o'lanterns for heads. They are revealed to be anthropophagous aliens by the end.

    Live-Action TV 
  • This was one of the topics in the Truth Or Scare episode about Halloween, as it explains how Jack O' Lanterns came to be. The legend is simplified in that an Irish man named Jack tricked the devil into climbing a tree, but the devil had the last laugh. After Jack died, his spirit was forced to wander alone and the only thing that keeps him close is a carved turnip. When the Irish emigrated to the United States, they brought their legends with them and used pumpkins for this one as they are easier to find.

  • A racist British song from 1900 tells the story of a stingy Black man named Jack, who starves to death because he wouldn’t even spend his money to buy food. The devil doesn’t appear in this version; instead, Jack remains a ghost in order to prevent anyone from stealing the gold he was buried with. What makes this song racist is 1. it was written in a stereotypical “minstrel” dialect, and 2. the title is a pun on the similarity between the n-word and an archaic word meaning “stingy”. The cover art doesn’t help any, either.

    Myths & Religion 
  • The tale of Stingy Jack stated above, who tricked himself out of Heaven and Hell alike and was doomed to wander the world forever with a hollowed-out turnip lantern to light his way. An early form of the story in print can be seen here as "The Romance of Jack O'Lantern" (1851). (Although note that it doesn't say the lantern was a vegetable of any kind, which may have been a later addition to tie it into the Halloween tradition.)
  • The dú Irish oral history collection has several versions of Jack's story. Sometimes he gets his lantern from God or St Peter instead of the Devil, and often he's associated with marshlights and will'o the wisps. None of them mentions a turnip, although turnip lanterns are mentioned seperately, as is a very different story in which Jack is engaged in a "Scooby-Doo" Hoax.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Pumpkin Jack from the Champions supplement Enemies: The International File is a villain based on Stingy Jack. He is identified as Scottish rather than Irish, though.
  • The sourcebook "Autumn Nightmares" for Changeling: The Lost 1st edition features an NPC changeling whose backstory is based on the Stingy Jack myth; he tricked his Keeper into letting him go free by claiming he could fetch an incredible treasure from Earth, and now he's stuck traveling the World and the Hedge forever; his Keeper won't take him back until he finds that (nonexistent) treasure, but Jack also left something very important in his Keeper's possession.
  • King of Tokyo added Pumpkin Jack in a Halloween-themed expansion pack. The character is a pumpkin-headed kaiju with a witch hat and flame powers.

    Video Games 
  • Bound by Blades: The first boss, Gallows, is a scary scarecrow with a pumpkin for a head, who constantly glows green and can fire lasers from its core.
  • ClayFighter: Recurrent character Ickybod Clay is a ghost with a pumpkin head.
  • Psycho Crown from Cosmo Police Galivan is a hostile alien assassin with a pumpkin for a head.
  • Harmful Park has a boss being a gigantic Jack-O-Lantern who breathes fire on you.
  • The Nightmare Before Christmas: Oogie's Revenge: When Jack Skellington dons his Pumpkin King outfit—a scarecrow with a pumpkin head—he's capable of breathing fire and causing fiery explosions.
  • Overwatch: Reaper's "Pumpkin" skin is very similar to Stingy Jack in design, although he's only referred to as "a dread servant" or "the Reaper", and is generally compared to the Headless Horseman more than Jack.
  • Pokémon has the Pumpkaboo and Gourgeist, who are ghosts that are shaped like modern jack o' lanterns. Some of the moves they can learn are based on Halloween.
  • Pumpkin Jack: The titular character was once Stingy Jack, the world's greatest rogue who infuriated the Devil and was banned from the afterlife as a result. In exchange for removing that ban, the Devil tasks Jack with defeating the Wizard, the only being standing between the Devil and control of a world that's too saccharine for its own good. Jack appears in-game as a disembodied spirit residing within a jack-o-lantern atop a scarecrow body.
  • The Secret World: Subverted. Though players are expected to assume that the alarmingly persistent humanoid pumpkin abomination Jack, who haunts Solomon Island and rules over the local population of Will o' Wisps, is indeed Stingy Jack, he's later revealed to have been a turn-of-the-century Irish American musician who made the mistake of courting the daughter of local psychopathic sorcerer Archie Henderson and was transformed into a monster as a twisted punishment after being caught with her in Henderson's pumpkin patch. Although the player never encounters him, the lore implies that the original Stingy Jack also exists in the setting.
  • James from Savage Halloween, the pumpkin-headed undead protagonist. Whose partners are respectively a werewolf and a vampire.
  • Shin Megami Tensei: The character is a recurring low-level demon in the franchise, under the name Jack-o'-Lantern (usually changed to Pyro Jack in translations for space reasons). He has a pumpkin head, carries a lantern, and is the fiery counterpart to the icy Series Mascot, Jack Frost.
  • Slashout has various pumpkin-headed enemies in the forest, who attack you by throwing their heads. They regrow a new head after throwing the previous.
  • The player hero of Splatter Master is a heroic version of this trope, being a pumpkin-headed imp going around battling various undead enemies.
  • Spyro the Dragon (1998): Toasty, the boss of the first world. He wears a dark-brown cloak and a pointy hat, has a Jack o'lantern for a head, and carries a Sinister Scythe. Although, he's really just a sheep on stilts.
  • World of Warcraft has the Headless Horseman, whom players can fight in a themed event during the week leading up to Halloween.

    Web Comics 
  • This strip from Rock, Paper, Cynic depicts "Halloween Jack" talking about how he is brought to life by Halloween celebrations before having his head smashed in by Santa Claus.
  • Stingy Jack is a major character (heck, he's right there in the title) in the webcomic Zack Jack, where he tricks a recently-deceased young man, Zack, into giving him a ride back to Earth for as-yet-unknown purposes.

    Web Original 
  • SCP Foundation, SCP-2331 ("SCRAVECROW"). SCP-2331 is an animated scarecrow with a pumpkin head who throws spontaneous raves, most commonly during the month of October. The last interview log implies that SCP-2331 is the spirit of Halloween, saddened over the commercialization of the holiday, trying something new to relive the joy the holiday once brought him.

    Web Videos 
  • Gnoggin: "The DARK, R-Rated Origins of Pumpkaboo" features a retelling of the story of Stingy Jack, since the Pokémon in question is based on a Jack O' Lantern.

    Western Animation 
  • What, no mention of Freakazoid!'s Candle Jack? He'd be very pleased to note that he very much enjoys this trope and that he's very quickly running out of rope.
  • In the The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy episode "Billy & Mandy's Jacked-Up Halloween", it was revealed that Jack was a prankster in medieval times who caused Endsville so much trouble that the townspeople set up events for the queen to have one of her knights execute him. When The Grim Reaper came to his house, Jack tricked Grim into dropping his scythe, not giving it back until Grim gave him immortality. Grim agreed, then cut his head off immediately after out of anger, and Jack replaced his head with a pumpkin. Centuries later, he meets Billy (who had the scythe) and tricks him into giving him the scythe. He then uses it to turn his pumpkin patch into an army of monsters, with intention of enacting his revenge on Grim and making it Halloween forever.
  • As a homage to Jack from the Billy and Mandy Halloween special, Jonathan Crane/Scarecrow from Happy Halloween, Scooby-Doo! fits this as not only sports a scythe but also has an army of mutated pumpkins (though they're just drones).
  • Men in Black: The Series: As with other folkloric creatures, Stingy Jack turns out to be an alien. In this case, an evil creature that steals children for slave labor.
  • In keeping with the Halloween theme of Over the Garden Wall, this seems to be referenced by the Woodsman, who must keep a lantern alight at all times and lives in fear of the Beast. Actually, the Beast himself is closer to Jack, since the lantern is his Soul Jar and his true form appears to be made of trees, evoking a scarecrow.
  • In the The Real Ghostbusters episode "When Halloween was Forever", the Ghostbusters must stop a powerful Halloween ghost named Samhain (who notably has a pumpkin for a head) from gathering all of the ghosts and goblins of New York to make it Halloween Night permanently.


Video Example(s):



Grim recounts the story of a relentless prankster named Jack who was killed for his trouble and when Grim tried to reap him, Jack bargained with him to be granted immortality, but Grim beheads him.

How well does it match the trope?

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Main / StingyJack

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