THE SPIRIT OF HALLOWEEN
by Johanna Michaelsen*
Last Halloween when the doorbell rang, I was greeted by an adorable bunch of
little kids doing their level best to look like gruesome witches and vampires.
I bent down as I distributed apples and oranges in response to lusty cries of
"trick or treat!"
"You kids want to know something?" I asked very softly.
"Yeah!" came the unanimous chorus.
"With the Lord Jesus there is no trick. He loves every one of you very
Several little faces beamed up at me through their ghoulish makeup.
"That's neat!" exclaimed one little girl. "Yeah!" chimed
in a few others.
"This is Jesus' night," I said. Why, I'm not really sure. I was
poignantly aware of the fact that it is a night the devil has made a point of
claiming for himself.
"No it's not!" snarled a hidden voice. "It's Jason's
A boy who was taller than the rest stepped out from the shadows. He was
wearing the white hockey mask of Jason, the demented, ghoulish killer in the
movie Friday The 13th and was brandishing a very realistic-looking hatchet. I
have to admit that the boy gave me a start, but I stood my ground and dropped
a banana into his bag.
"No, Jason, this is still Jesus' night!" I repeated.
Jason evidently resented the competition, however, for he ripped our mailbox
right out of the ground and left his banana squished on the stair.
Most of us in the United States have grown up observing Halloween in one form
or another. From the time we're in preschool we make drawings or cutouts of
sinister black witches - the haggier the better. We make paintings of gruesome
black cats with gleaming, evil orange eyes; we hang up smirking paper
skeletons with dancing limbs; we glue together ghost and bat mobiles; and we
design demoniacal faces for our pumpkins.
For several years now, on thoughtful kindergarten teacher in Southern
California has even provided ghosts for her pupils to commune with at
Halloween. I spoke with one of the mothers from that school who told me that
her little boy was sent home with a note from the teacher informing the
parents that their child would be bringing home a "special friend"
the next day. The child was to nurture his "friend," name it, feed
it and talk to it - all as a part of a special class project that was designed
to "develop the child's imagination."
The next day the little boy came home with a sealed envelope along with
explicit instructions that his parents were NOT to touch it; only the child
was allowed to open the envelope. Mom said, "You bet!" and promptly
opened it up. Inside was six inches of thick orange wool string with a knot
tied a quarter of the way up to make a loop resembling a head. The
mimeographed "letter" that accompanied it read as follows:
Haunted House 001 Cemetery Lane Spookville
Dear Customer, Thank you for your order. Your ghost is exactly what you
ordered. You will find that your ghost is attached to an orange string. DO NOT
untie the special knot until you are ready to let your ghost go. Your ghost
will tell you when it is hungry and what it prefers to eat. It will sleep in
the air beside you all day. It especially likes quiet places where there are
cobwebs, creaky boards and corners. If you follow the above directions, you
will have a very happy ghost.
Yours Truly, Head Ghost
The mother, a Christian, didn't cotton to the idea of her son taking in a pet
ghost, however housebroken. So she confiscated the thing and put it in the
garage on a shelf until she could decide what to do with it. The next day his
sister was in the garage on an errand, unaware of the matter of the
"ghost string." Suddenly she was frightened by the sense of a
threatening presence around her. She heard the sounds of a cat hissing in the
corner and something like a chatty doll mumbling incoherently at her. Later
that night they threw the "ghost string" into the garbage pail and
prayed to bind and remove the entity. They were never bothered by the presence
again. This family had no trouble whatever believing that a spirit had indeed
been sent home with their little boy and that it didn't much like having been
assigned to a Christian household.
The Halloween ghosts were given out again last year by the same teacher. The
mother managed to get hold of the envelope, orange ghost-carrier and all, and
sent it to me. It is possible of course that the teacher meant nothing
sinister by it. Perhaps to her it was just a cute exercise in imagination for
her kindergartners. Nevertheless, in light of the stated intent of many
"transpersonal" educators to introduce children to spirit guides, I
can't help but be a little curious about any teacher who sends the children
home with imaginary friends.
Even in the church, Halloween is a time of spooky fun and games. Any number of
good, solid churches, ever mindful of their youth programs, will sponsor
haunted houses designed to scare the wits out of the kids. In Bakersfield,
California, Youth for Christ's Campus Life, Pepsi, Burger King and a heavy-
metal rock radio station are yearly sponsors of "Scream in the
Dark," an event held every night for about a week before Halloween. At
least 20,000 people brave the chilly corridors and dark passages every year to
face ghoulish figures, terrifying tunnels and screams in the dark.
A certain Assemblies of God church in Tampa, Florida, got more than it
bargained for in that department a couple of years ago when it borrowed a
coffin from a local mortuary for use at a Halloween fund-raiser and found a
long-forgotten corpse still in it.
The Lawndale Christian Church in Lawndale, California, offers discount coupons
for "The House." The advertisement reads: "You are entering at
your own risk. Young children strongly recommended NOT to enter The House.
Children under 12 must be accompanied by an adult. Persons with heart
conditions, health problems or pregnant women are not allowed."
Church-sponsored horror isn't a particularly new phenomenon. My husband's
Lutheran church in New York always sponsored a "Chamber of Horrors"
when he was a boy, complete with fluorescent skeletons, scary pop-ups, peeled
grapes to simulate dead eyeballs and a bowl of cold spaghetti that was
supposed to be... well, you know.
Halloween has become a full-fledged national children's play day, but for
hundreds of thousands fo people in the Western world Halloween is a sacred
time, the ancient pagan festival of fire and death.
The origins and traditions of Halloween can be traced back thousands of years
to the days of the ancient Celts and their priests, the Druids. The eve of
October 31 marked the beginning of the Celtic New Year. The Feast of Samhain
was a fearsome night, a dreaded night, a night in which great bonfires were
lit to Samana the Lord of Death, the dark Aryan god who was known as the Grim
Reaper, the leader of the ancestral ghosts.
On this night the spirits of the dead rose up, shivering with the coming cold
of winter and seeking the warmth and affection of the homes they once
inhabited. And even colder, darker creatures filled the night: evil witches
flying through the night, hobgoblins and evil pookas that appeared in the form
of hideous black horses. Demons, fairies and ghouls roamed about as the doors
of the burial sidh-mounds opened wide, allowing them free access to the world
of living men. These loathsome beings were usually not in a particularly good
mood by the time they arrived, and it was feared that unless these spirits
were appeased and soothed with offerings and gifts they would wreak mischief
and vengeance by destroying crops, killing cattle, turning milk sour and
generally making life miserable.
So it was that the families offered what was most precious to them: food - a
"treat" that they fervently hoped would be sufficient to offset any
"trick" the ghostly blackmailers might otherwise be tempted to
The ancient Celtic villagers realized, however, that merely feeding the
spirits might not be enough to speed them on their way. The ghoulies might
decide it would be rude to eat and run, as it were, and might just be tempted
to stick around. That simply would not do. So arose the practice of dressing
in masks and costumes; villagers disguised themselves as the creatures,
mystically taking on their attributes and powers. The "mummers," as
they were called, cavorted from house to house collecting the ancient Celtic
equivalent of protection money, and then romped the ghosts right out of town.
They carried jack-o'-lanterns to light their way - turnips or potatoes with
fearful demonic faces carved into them, which they hoped would duly impress,
if not intimidate, the demons around them.
As part of their ancient New Year's ritual, massive sacred bonfires were lit
throughout the countryside of Wales, Ireland and France - fires from which
every house in the village would rekindle their hearth fires (which had been
ritually extinguished, as they were at the end of every year). The villagers
would gather and dance round and round the bonfire, whose light and heat they
believed would help the sun make it through the cold, dark winter.
But the great fires served another purpose as well: On this night unspeakable
sacrifices were offered by the Druid priests to the Lord of Death. In his
Commentaries, Julius Caesar speaks of the great wicker images "in which
the Druids were said to burn scores of people alive."
Last Halloween, I watched a rerun of "Garfield's Halloween
Adventure." Garfield, the feline comic strip character, is thrilled at
the realization that Halloween is a night when he gets to rake in free candy.
"This is the night I was created for," he exclaims, with as much
enthusiasm as Garfield ever seems to muster.
He decides to sucker poor unsuspecting Odie, an exceedingly dumb doggie, into
going with him so that Garfield can double his personal candy haul. Well....
maybe he'll give Odie one piece of candy for his troubles.
Then suddenly Garfield pauses in his Machiavellian musings and wonders,
"Am I being too greedy? Should I share my candy with those less fortunate
than I? Am I missing the spirit of Halloween?"
Wouldn't it be nice if that were in fact the spirit of Halloween!
The spirit of Halloween is more accurately discerned in the horror movies and
videos traditionally released in honor of the season. Cinematic thrillers so
popular with teenage boys today like Halloween, Friday the 13th, Thriller,
Faces of Death, Nightmares on Elm Street, and any number of other slasher,
blood-and-gore, murder-and-terror flicks are truer to the original spirit of
Halloween - the spirit of murder and death - than is the sight of Linus
sitting all night in his "sincere" pumpkin patch waiting for the
Modern witches would vehemently deny that their celebration has anything to do
with the demonic horrors depicted in such films as Friday the 13th. To them,
Halloween is one of the four greater Sabbats held during the year. Halloween
for them is a time of harvest celebration - that season in which the Great
Goddess goes to sleep for the long winter months, giving way to the Horned God
of Hunting and Death, who will rule until her return on the first of May. It
is a time of ritual, a time for ridding oneself of personal weaknesses, a time
for feasting and joyful celebration. It is also a time for communing with the
spirits of the dead.
While the witches spend the Halloween season tucking in their goddess for her
long winter sleep and frolicking in joyful communion with the spirits of the
dead, there is another religious group that is equally serious about its
Halloween celebrations: the satanists. Halloween to them is a more sinister
and direct celebration of death and Satan. Unlike the witches, most of whom do
not even acknowledge the existence of Satan, the satanists are quite candid
about exactly who the dread Lord of Death happens to be, and they celebrate
Halloween as one of his two highest unholy days.
As is the case among witches, different "denominations" of satanists
have their own peculiar traditions, beliefs and practices on this night. For
some of them Satan is not a real, specific entity, but rather the
personification of evil resident within all men.
Other satanists however - cult satanists - understand that Satan is very real
indeed. To them the sacrifices he demands are not symbolic at all. They
believe that the blood sacrifice of innocence that Satan demands as the
ultimate blasphemy and sign of devotion to himself must be very literal
At Halloween the sacrifices of some of these satanic cults are unspeakably
vicious and brutal. Lauren Stratford, in her powerful and important book
SATAN'S UNDERGROUND, relates the horror of the practices of the particular
satanic cult that victimized her for many years. It was their practice to
begin the Halloween ceremonies five weeks before the night of Halloween. In
the fifth week the group performs the ritual murder of a tiny infant or a very
young child. The child is often the offspring of a female member of the coven
or a victim who has been impregnated for the purpose of turning her child over
for the sacrifice. Because of its innocence and frailty, a tiny child is
viewed by these satanists as the perfect sacrifice to their master. The infant
is seen as representative of the Christ child, and it is He whom they are
The night of Halloween another child, as well as an adult female, will be
slaughtered. Not all satanist groups participate in activities of this kind,
but some certainly do.
Halloween is thus a day in which virtually everything that God has called an
abomination is glorified. Christians have no business participating in that at
any time, much less in the name of fun.
There are any number of creative alternatives that can be provided for
children on Halloween without participating in the ancient religious
traditions of the witches and the satanists.
Parents or churches could hold parties and have kids come as Bible heroes.
Some families view the occasion as a witnessing opportunity and hand out
gospel tracts with the treats. Some churches are now sponsoring "Bible
houses," which kids go through to hear different Bible stories read or
acted out - a godly alternative to the haunted house.
Christian parents can also make a difference in the way schools attended by
their children celebrate Halloween. In the fall of 1987, The Eagle's Forum
reported a story about parents in Colorado who protested the traditional
celebration of Halloween in several public schools on grounds that it is a
"high holy day in the satanic religion, and as such is an inappropriate
holiday for schoolchildren." One mother said that she "would like to
see the same measures applied to the Halloween parties as have been taken with
the Christmas parties."
One thing that Halloween should NOT be for the Christian is a time of fear. It
should be a time to rejoice in the fact that "the son of God appeared for
this purpose, that He might destroy the works of the devil" (1 John 3:8,
NASB). Spend at least part of this night worshipping God by singing hymns.
Above all, spend time in prayer and intercession for the children.
Too many of our children have been vulnerable to a spirit of fear and to the
occult because we have for so long believed Halloween to be an innocent season
of fun. But Halloween is not at all innocent. After the repeal of the
Witchcraft Act in England in 1951, the witches and satanists experienced a
revival which is currently in full swing.
You might not know too much about witches or satanists or Jason or Freddie
Krueger, the killer in the horror film NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET. But I
guarantee you that most of your kids do!
* This article is taken from Johanna Michaelsen's book titled LIKE LAMBS TO
THE SLAUGHTER, which is published by Harvest House. She is also the author of
The Beautiful Side of Evil and Like Lambs to the Slaughter. An expert on the
occult, she lives in Southern California.
LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine
upon you and
be gracious to you; the LORD turn his
face toward you and give you peace." Numbers