Halloween and the Jack-O-Lantern

This week I have a Halloween treat I think you will not only enjoy, but will perhaps also learn a little something along the way.  Enjoy!

The Story of Halloween

Most people think of Halloween as a night of dress up in ghostly or funny costumes, to have parties, or to go “trick-or-treating” and never consider why or how much a holiday evolved from a serious annual rite in ancient times.  What is actually being celebrated is two customs that have been combined into one.

The first tradition is the observance of a Catholic religious day set aside to honor saints.  Referred to as “All Hallows Day” or “All Saints Day,” this holy day is held on November 1st.  The night before  is known as “All Hallows Eve,” from which the name Halloween evolved.

The second celebration is from Northern France and the British Isles where the Celtic people celebrated the end of the Celtic year known as Samhain (pronounced sow-en) or “Summer’s End.”  This festival was a time set aside to honor the dead.  The Celts believed that the realm of the dead, or the spirit world, and the physical world were closest together during Samhain.

The traditional celebration of Samhain included carving jack-o-lanterns from gourds and turnips, then lighting them with coals or candles to show the way for deceased loved ones.  At the same time, these lanterns were believed to ward off evil spirits.  Another version of the celebration indicates that disembodied spirits of those that died during the year intermingled with the living on that night.  They attempted to possess the living to hopes of being allowed to have an afterlife.  In an effort to frighten away the spirits, people would leave their houses unlit and cold, dress up in ghoulish costumes and parade around town being destructive as possible.  This tradition set the stage for today’s children’s refrain “trick or treat.”  When the Europeans arrived in the New World, they discovered a new fruit that was larger than the turnip and easier to carve: the pumpkin.  The pumpkin has been the symbol of Halloween ever since.

The Story of the Jack-O-Lantern

The story of the name Jack-o-lantern has a history of its own.  It derives from a folk tale about a disreputable drunkard by the name of Jack who, upon learning that the devil had come for his soul, tricked the devil into buying him one last drink.  Having no money, Jack convinced the devil to transform himself into coins so that Jack could buy his last drink.  Instead of buying the drink, Jack placed the coins in his pocket along with a silver cross, thus preventing the devil from returning to his common state.  To be released the devil agreed to leave Jack’s soul alone for ten years.

After ten years had passed, the devil appeared to Jack as he was walking down a country road.  The silver tongued Jack managed to talk the devil into climbing an apple tree before claiming his soul.  While the devil was in the tree, Jack pulled out his knife and carved a cross in the base of the tree, thus trapping the devil again.  Again he struck a bargain with the devil, this time extracting a promise that the devil would never take his soul.

When Jack finally died, he went to Heaven but was not allowed in because of his drinking and dastardly ways.  With no place to go he went to Hell.  The devil, remembering Jack’s trickery, refused him entrance.  Jack then convinced the devil that the way back was so dark and windy that he needed a light to find his way.  To get rid of Jack, the devil gave him an ember from Hell.  Jack placed the ember in a turnip he was eating to shield the flame from the wind and began to wander back in the darkness forever doomed.

Reader’s Comments

Last time we had a question from Glenn Calabrese of Fort Worth, Texas about how to finish off a face he had started.  I hope my explanation was helpful, Glenn.  After thinking further about what had said I thought that maybe a couple of patterns would be helpful.  So I’m including these two head patterns (Front & side views) which I believe will go a long way in helping carvers create better faces and heads.  They are very generic patterns which can be adapted to most any kind of face you wish to carve.  You can shrink them or enlarge them to suit your needs.

Following these patterns will enable you to get the general shape of the head correct.  Once the overall shape of the head is correct the rest of the facial details fall into place much more easily.

Side Pattern
Front Pattern

Photo Shop

“Photo Shop” is the section of Wood Chip Chatter where carvers can send in photos of their wood carvings for display. It’s your chance to show off your work…sort of a show and tell. The photos will only be displayed and no comments or critiques will be made.  For critiques on your carvings send them in to the “Carver’s Corner.”  Send your photos to carverbobk@woodchipchatter.com. 

Our first entries to the “Photo Shop” this week come from my very good friend, Al Santucci from Rockaway, New Jersey.  Al likes to carve all kinds of things.  He never gets hung up on one type of carving, but whenever he sees something I’ve carved he has to give the project a try.  So here are a few photo of carvings Al has done based on some of my patterns.

Our next entry comes from my very good friend, Wayne Smith from Nova Scotia who enjoys carving Christmas ornaments all year round.  Here is a photo Wayne sent in of the bright and whimsical Santa ornaments he has carved recently.

Wayne’s Christmas Ornaments

Excellent work, Al and Wayne, and thank you very much for sending in your photos.  They are always greatly appreciated.

Our next entries come from new subscriber, Jim Babcock from Columbus, Indiana who does some beautiful relief carving.  Here are two photos of his work.

Welcome to Wood Chip Chatter!  I’m glad you have decided to subscribe and hope you will find my blog both enjoyable and informative.  You do terrific relief work.  The depth and amount of detail you achieve are both exceptional.  Thank you so much for your photos!

Free Pattern

Here is a Pelican pattern that can be carved in relief or in the round:

News & Announcements

If you’re in the area this weekend stop by the show. It’s a great show and well worth it.

The International Association of Woodcarvers has upcoming Zoom meetings on the following Saturdays at 3PM EST with special guest presenters.  Check them out…

Zoom:  310-460-3575


10/29 – Rod Gatlin

11/12 – Jim Feather

11/19 – Ryan Olsen



The Jersey Hills Wood Carvers (JHWC) club is a small but growing group of wood carvers sharing their time, knowledge and joy of woodcarving.  The JHWC generally meets from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm on the 1st, 3rd and 5th Thursday of each month (when school is in session) at the Jefferson Township High School wood shop classroom.

Membership is “FREE” and open to anyone interested in woodcarving regardless of their ability.

JHWC’s Upcoming Meetings and Events

Nov. 3rd, 17th

Dec. 1st, 15th

Jan. 5th, 19th

Feb. 2nd, 16th

Mar. 2nd, 16th, 30th

For more information contact:

Al Santucci  alsantucci4@gmail.com  President

Bill Brunner  billbrunnerdesign@gmail.com  newsletter/website editor

Or visit:

Website:  https://www.jerseyhillswoodcarver.com/ Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/groups/736479646821641/

Upcoming Workshops


Teacher: Dave Stetson

Dates:    November5,6,12,13,19,20

Times:  Sat, Sun – 9:30am-11:30 Pacific /11:30am-01:30pm Central / 12:30pm – 2:30pm Eastern

12 hours (6 sessions – 2 hours each day)

Location: Online (Via Zoom)

For details and to sign up email Dave lcnmichele@aol.com

Carving the Nellie Doll

Teacher: Janet Cordell

Dates:  November 11, 14, 21, 28 December 2, 12

Times: 2-4 p.m. Pacific Time, 3-5 p.m. Mountain Time, 4-6 p.m. Central Time 5-7  p.m. Eastern Time

12 hours (6 sessions – 2 hours each day)

Cost: $185 Including Roughout and shipping (US)

 Location: Online (Via Zoom)

Contact Janet Cordell at: janet_cordell@yahoo.com

Raccoon Santa

Teacher: Bob Hershey

Dates: December 3,4,10,11

Time: Sat, Sun – Sat, Sun – 1:30pm-3:30 Pacific /3:30pm-05:30pm Central / 4:30pm – 6:30pm Eastern

8 hours (4 sessions – 2 hours each day)

 Location: Online (Via Zoom)

Contact Bob Hershey: bzcarvn@gmail.com

Teacher: Ryan Olsen

Dates:    January 14,15,21,22 in 2023

Times:  Sat, Sun – 9:30am-11:30 Pacific /11:30am-01:30pm Central / 12:30pm – 2:30pm Eastern

8 hours (4 sessions – 2 hours each day)

Cost: $95

Location: Online (Via Zoom)

For details and to sign up email: Ryan Olsen ryanscaricatures@gmail.com 

Online Classes With Chris Hammack

Teacher: Chris Hammack 

Chris Hammack is offering a new series of online classes to help students learn and sharpen their woodcarving skills.  Individual and Group Classes are available through his web site chrishammackart.com/groupclass

Whittle Wednesdays

Teacher: Dwayne Gosnell  

Dates:  Two – 2 hour classes each month on Wednesdays

Location: Online (Via Zoom) – Visit his web page and see learning opportunities.   To sign up contact Dwayne Gosnell via email dagwood_76@gmail.com


We are in serious need of your contributions to Wood Chip Chatter.  Your questions and comments help to keep this blog active and going!  Effective discussions are one of the best ways to learn about the topics that interest you.  Remember, there’s no such thing as a dumb question.  Plus we would all love to learn about the unique tips, techniques and products YOU use in your woodcarving process.

We also need more photo contributions to the “Carver’s Corner” and “Photo Shop”.  My “Carver’s Corner” is a great way to get constructive critiques on your carvings so you can learn where to improve on your next ones, and I’m sure you all have some terrific carvings to share in my “Photo Shop” section.  Photos of your carvings liven up the blog’s appearance and make it more interesting. 

Send your questions, comments and photos to carverbobk@woodchipchatter.com.  They will be greatly appreciated.

I want to be sure to wish all of you a very safe and Happy Halloween!  Eat loads of candy!  Just keep your dentist’s phone number on speed dial!

Keep a sharp edge, and keep on carvin’!

Funny Bone

Published by carverbobk

I’m a self taught award winning wood carver who has been carving since I was a teenager. I enjoy instructing other carvers, especially beginners.

6 thoughts on “Halloween and the Jack-O-Lantern

  1. Hey Bob, it was nice talking with you at the Wayne Pal wood carving show. Look forward to maybe getting some tips from the master.


    1. Thanks! That’s so kind of you to say. It was a pleasure speaking with you too. If you’re signed up for my blog hopefully you will be picking up some good tips now and then.


  2. Hi Bob, As usual, another fantastic edition of your Blog. Thanks for all your hard work. I’m slowly beginning to get back to carving after losing my wife and again, going thru Cancer treatments, which hopefully will be finished this next Monday. Fingers and toes crossed. I’m including a photo of some recent carvings I’ve completed. Some Santa’s, a Sunflower  carved for a family member and Mr Pear. All of them were inspired by someone but my memory has failed me again so will blame you as your Blog continues to be an inspiration to my carvings. Thank You for that. And Thank you for the face pattern. This will be very helpful as face proportions tend to drive me crazy.   Respectfully,   Jim Shay

    Sent from Yahoo Mail for iPhone


    1. Thanks for your note, Jim! I’m glad to hear you’re getting near to the end of your cancer treatments and getting back to carving. I too am a cancer survivor.
      However, the photos you sent didn’t come through. Could you resend them to my email address at: rwkoz51@gmail.com


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