There's a bridge near Hanover in Germany called 'Der Kopf der Braut',
which means bride's head. A 15th century legend has it that Reichsgraf
von Kesselstatt and his bride Gretchen were approaching the bridge in their
horse and carriage when their way was blocked by an elderly crone.
The Reichsgraf or 'Count' ordered the old lady to get off the bridge
instantly and make way for their carriage. But it was dark, and
the old lady had difficulty in herding her sheep off the bridge.
Because the old witch was moving none to fast, Reichsgraf von
Kesselstatt took his whip and have her a sound thrashing.
Bleeding, and cowering in a ditch, the old witch put a curse on the
carriage. Consequently when the bridal party eventually crossed
the bridge, one of the horses shied and the other reared up. The
upshot was that Gretchen was thrown from the carriage into the river
It seems certain that she drowned as the river was in torrent and
Gretchen was never seen again. However, it is said by Hanoverian wicca
that at Halloween you can see a headless bride standing on rocks in the
middle of the river. Some say she is looking for her lost head,
while other say she is looking for her beloved Reichsgraf von
When I was a boy, each year as the nights began to draw in, my uncle John
would tell we kids this Halloween story. It was a tale about a trick
played in a graveyard. One night Uncle John spotted his great friend Eddie
weaving his way home from the village pub. As John watched, he saw
Eddie open the church's litch gate and take the shortcut through the graveyard.
There was no doubt that Eddie was the worse for wear, and appeared disoriented,
really he should have taken the longer route home via the round ring.
But then he cried out to nobody in particular, 'Where am I?'
John replied instantly, 'Amongst the living'.
'Where are you?' cried Eddie'; to which John replied in his most sepulchral voice,
'Amongst the dead'.
Eddie sobered up instantly, rushed back the way
he came, and took the long way around the churchyard. This time he
preferring to go passed the round ring, rather than stay a minute longer
amongst the spirits of the gravestones.
There was once a little girl who was very wilful and who never obeyed
when her elders spoke to her - so how could she be happy?
One day she said to her parents, 'I have heard so much of the old witch
that I will go and see her. People say she is a wonderful old woman, and has
many marvellous things in her house, and I am very curious to see them.'
But her parents forbade her going, saying, 'The witch is a wicked old
woman, who performs many godless deeds - and if you go near her, you are no
longer a child of ours.'
The girl, however, would not turn back at her parents' command, but went
to the witch's house. When she arrived there the old woman asked her:
'Why are you so pale?' 'Ah,' she replied, trembling all over, 'I have frightened myself so with
what I have just seen.'
'And what did you see?' inquired the old witch. 'I saw a black man on your steps.'
'That was a collier,' replied she. 'Then I saw a gray man.'
'That was a sportsman,' said the old woman. 'After him I saw a blood-red man.'
'That was a butcher,' replied the old woman.
'But, oh, I was most terrified,' continued the girl, 'when I peeped
through your window, and saw not you, but a creature with a fiery head.'
'Then you have seen the witch in her proper dress,' said the old woman.
'For you I have long waited, and now you shall give me light.'
So saying the witch changed the little girl into a block of wood, and
then threw it on the fire. When it was fully alight, she sat down on the
hearth and warmed herself, saying:
'How good I feel! The fire has not burned like this for a long time!'
There was a murder in Texas at Halloween, and the FBI were called in to
investigate. Hitchcock, one of the officers, saw something written in blood
on the wall. It looked like the number '7734', but he was not sure; anyway,
he took lots of pictures.
When Hitchcock got back to the lab he developed the film of the crime
scene, but he still could not make any progress with the number. In the hope
of inspiration, he took the sheaf of photographs home and spread them on the
dining room table. Just at that moment his 7 year old daughter Emma came in
through the patio door opposite, and looked down at the photographs.
'Why have you photographed hell?', she asked, then Hitchcock saw that
when held upside down, 7734 spelt: 'hELL'.
An intern was sent to collect a new skeleton from the central store.
When he arrived at the consultant surgeon's office there was already a queue
of patients waiting. As the intern wrestled the skeleton through the
outside door he became aware of people gazing at him enquiringly.
He gave them a smile and said, 'I am bringing him to the doctor.'
An old lady said sympathetically, 'My dear! Isn't he a bit late for the
...There was once a pumpkin who lived on a farm with a very kind
farmer...and a lot of other pumpkins.
The farmer was a good man who loved his pumpkins very much, and he always
spoke kindly to them. He took good care of them and taught them all how to
In the morning, he sang a sweet song to his pumpkins, and after lunch, he
told them to sit very still and soak up the sunshine. Then, as it began to
get dark each evening, this farmer came to his pumpkins and told them to
drink up the water from the ground through their roots--very slowly. (It's
kind of like drinking through a straw when pumpkins drink water through
their roots.) Then, when it was time to go to bed, he came again and told
them all to go to sleep and get plenty of rest so that they could grow up
big and strong.
There was one pumpkin that did everything he asked. When it was time to
sit quietly and soak up the sun, she did it. When it was time to drink up
the water, she sucked it up nice and slow, just as he showed her. And when
it was dark and the farmer said, 'Sleep, little ones...' our pumpkin would
smile and let her body relax, and soon she would be fast asleep.
It was a nice life, and the pumpkin was happy because the farmer loved
her. She was really glad when he told her that she was special and pretty.
She wanted to make the farmer proud. And when they were all little, the
pumpkins were very good and loved each other. It was perfect!
But the pumpkins began to grow, and as they did, they all changed. Each
one got stronger, fatter, and could do more things. Everyone except our
sweet little pumpkin. Instead of growing bigger, she stayed small, and when
all of the other pumpkins began staying up late or would not to soak up the
sun or drink their water, our little green pumpkin kept being good. She
obeyed the farmer even when everyone else didn't, but soon, the other
pumpkins began to make fun of her.
'Ooh, there's the good little baby! She never does anything wrong...she's
so GOOOOOD!' When the farmer said it, all of that sounded nice. But now,
they were saying it to her in a new way--in a mean way. She didn't feel
proud when THEY said it...she felt embarrassed and sad. Why did they have to
pick on her?
For the next few days, life was hard for our little pumpkin. All of the
other pumpkins laughed at her when she sat very still and quiet, soaking up
the sun. They all wanted to talk and laugh and say mean things about
her--none of them sat still. And when it was time to drink water, she kept
drinking nice and slow, while they gulped it down so that they could go back
After a while, the pumpkins began to grow up. Every day, the farmer came
and said, 'We're going to have delicious pies this year--yes, indeed, they
will be lovely.' All of the pumpkins were proud of that. They each wanted to
be eaten and enjoyed by the farmer. But everyone knew that there was
All of the pumpkins had heard the story of the seed pumpkin. Each year,
the farmer chose a very special pumpkin that he didn't cook. That pumpkin
was always the biggest and most beautiful pumpkin of them all. The farmer
would choose the best pumpkin, take out all of the seeds, and plant them for
next year. Her mom had been the seed pumpkin last year. This year, her
biggest dream was to be chosen.
Deep down, she knew she wouldn't be chosen. After all she had tried to be
good, and even after working so hard and doing everything right, she was
still the smallest pumpkin. She was also the only one left who was green.
All of the other pumpkins had turned orange by now. She was sad about
that--she still looked like a baby!
A few days later, the farmer came over to her and said, 'You remind me of
your mother. You'll surprise us all yet.' She didn't understand him, but she
knew that he loved her, and that made her happy. The little green pumpkin
smiled and decided that even if she never was special, she was glad that she
had been good, because the farmer was happy with her. She went to sleep that
night very glad, and all of the days until the big harvest party, she was
During this time, she started turning orange. It was a nice change, and
she liked her new color. Also, the other pumpkins stopped making fun of her.
In fact, they made friends and were very nice to her now. She was glad about
that, but she didn't stop being good, even when they asked her to play
during sun-soaking time. 'Nope, I have to do what the farmer says,' she
would answer. And they didn't laugh at her. She wondered why...
The harvest party finally came, and the farmer was very busy in his
house. He didn't even come out to speak to them that morning, but they
weren't sad. This was the day that the seed pumpkin would be chosen. 'We all
know who that's going to be,' one of the pumpkins said, and everyone agreed.
'Who?' said our pumpkin. But no one would answer her; they just kept on
drinking. They were all trying to drink extra today so that they would be
sweet and juicy when they were made into pies.
The farmer finally came out to them before the harvesters came. Smiling,
he cut our pumpkin's roots free and picked her up, saying, 'Your time has
come, my little Baby.' Smiling, the pumpkin felt very happy. She guessed
that he planned to make an early pie of her, and she was proud of being
chosen. Happily, she bounced against his chest as he carried her into the
The pumpkin looked around the house, thinking of her mother. 'She was in
here, when she was chosen as the seed pumpkin. I wish I could have been like
her.' Suddenly, she missed her mother, and she began to cry. 'Oh, Mom, I'm
sorry I didn't get to make you proud. I'm sorry that they didn't choose me
to be the seed pumpkin...'
The farmer walked by a wall that had pictures of all his old seed
pumpkins. She saw her grandfather, her mother, and finally, it looked like
another picture of her mother again. But then, she realized it wasn't a
picture! It was a mirror! She looked just like her mother, the old seed
pumpkin, and she suddenly had an idea...
The farmer took her into the kitchen and laid her on the counter.
Smiling, he said, 'You were chosen because you wanted to be good, and you
love to obey. I knew that you would grow bigger and brighter than the others
because you were the best one inside, and when a pumpkin is good inside, it
will someday turn pretty outside. Smiling, the pumpkin realized that being
good was hard, but it was worth it. And she was very, very, happy.
When the other pumpkins saw the seeds, they all were sorry that they had
been bad. But it was too late for them. They had lost their chance to be the
seed pumpkin. But they could still be good, and they decided to be good
right then! Because of their changed hearts, they made yummy pies. And when
people remembered the party, they said, 'It was the best one we ever had!'
Once upon a time there was a young man who was engaged to marry a pretty
girl. After a while the bridegroom-to-be became suspicious of his fiancée
and her mother. You see, they were both witches.
The day came when witches go the Brocken, and the two women climbed into
the hayloft, took a small glass, drank from it, and suddenly disappeared.
The bridegroom-to-be, who had sneaked after them and observed them, was
tempted to take a swallow from the glass. He picked it up and sipped a
little from it, and suddenly he was on the Brocken, where he saw how his
fiancée and her mother were carrying on with the witches, who were dancing
around the devil, who was standing in their midst.
After the dance was ended, the devil commanded everyone to take her glass
and drink, and immediately afterward they all flew off in the four
directions of the wind. The bridegroom-to-be, however, stood there all soul
alone on the Brocken, and freezing, for it was a cold night. He hadn't
brought a glass with him, so he had to return on foot.
After a long, difficult hike he finally came to his fiancée's. However,
she was very angry, and her mother scolded him as well, for having drunk
from the glass. Mother and daughter finally agreed to turn the
bridegroom-to-be into a donkey, and that is what happened.
The poor bridegroom-to-be was now a donkey, and he plodded unhappily from
one house to the next, crying a sad 'ee-ah, ee-ah.' A man felt sorry for the
donkey, took him into his stall, and gave him some hay. But understandably
the donkey did not want to eat, and was driven from the stall with blows.
After wandering about for a long time, long-ears finally came back to the
house of his fiancée, the witch, and he cried out pitifully. The fiancée saw
her former bridegroom-to-be, standing there before her door as a donkey with
bowed head and ears hanging down.
She regretted what she had done and said to the donkey, 'I will help you,
but you must do what I tell you. At a child's baptism, place yourself before
the church door and let the baptismal water be poured over your back, and
then you will be transformed back into a human.'
The donkey followed his fiancée's advice. The next Sunday, a child was
baptized, and the donkey placed himself before the church door. When the
baptismal service was over, the sexton wanted to pour out the baptismal
water, but the donkey was standing in his way.
'Go on, you old donkey!' said the sexton, but the donkey did not yield.
Then the sexton became angry and poured the water over the animal's back.
Now the donkey was redeemed and was transformed back into a man. He
hurried to his fiancée, married her, and lived happily with her from that
A Long Short Story for Halloween
A Feast at Samhain By Andrew Mitchell
Huddled together in their hut of stone and sod, Elder Ongham hugged his
children closer as the spirits of the dead raged outside.
For it was the festival of Samhain, the first full moon after the
harvest. On this night the dead rose up from their graves and communed with
the living, gently knocking on doors to have a quiet word with their kin.
Candles burned in windows and hollowed out gourds so the waking spirits
might find their way home through the mist, and warm their souls by the
hearth awhile. It was a homecoming of sorts, and most welcome to families in
mourning for loved ones.
But there was also a spirit in town who was not so welcome, said to be
none other than Finart, the only son of Dis Pater; Lord of the Underworld.
It was told that Finart, a warrior in his prime, met his bloody end in the
fields nearby a hundred years before in a great battle. To punish his
killers, Dis demanded a human sacrifice for his son each year on the night
of Samhain or he would unleash all the dark souls in his keeping on the
And so each year the folk in the area drew lots, and this Samhain it was the
Ongham's youngest daughter Brigan who was picked by Druid Mera. Just six
years old, she was to be tied to a stake outside their home with an offering
of wine at her feet, and left there for Finart's hungry ghost to devour.
But in the end Elder could not bear it, and as the sun dipped below the
horizon he cut his daughter's bonds and carried her inside.
"It weren't fair," he argued with his terror-stricken wife, "that she
should be picked. The Onghams and my kin have given seven souls to the beast
in 20 years, while the Corans, Morannons and Fensters have given naught. And
small wonder, for it is they that rule the town and their Druid who picks
the names! Why, none of the families of wealth ever seem to give their sons
and daughters, and when a name of a rich family is picked it's always an old
relative not long for this world anyway."
Elder began to reconsider his decision a short while later when the
spirit of Finart passed his home and saw the empty stake. The ghost raged
against the small home with wind and rain, plainly trying to blow it over so
that he might have his feast and bones to chew on all the long winter. For a
spirit - even the son of a god - could not suffer to pass the doors of the
living unless invited inside, but a broken home offered no protection.
Elder knew his house was strong and built of heavy stones, but as Finart
howled outside and mortar dust filled the room he knew a moment of doubt.
Finart would depart when the sun came up, but that was hours away and he was
stronger than piles of stone. Ongham also knew that he had the power to
summon Dis, and that there would be no denying the Lord of the Dead if he
joined the assault.
He wondered if he gave his daughter up now if the ghost would be sated,
or whether it would take more of his children to quell the demi-god's
"I've got an idea," said his wife suddenly. "When the god comes, and
surely he must, he will be seeking mortals to devour."
"Aye," said Elder, as if it were obvious. "That's the way it's done."
"But what," his wife suggested, "if they found no mortals within these
walls, just more spirits such as they?"
"Are ye suggesting we kill ourselves now and save the bloody ghost the
effort?" he demanded. Elder had already planned to fight, though little good
it would do.
"I'm saying, husband, that we make ourselves up to be spirits, and walk
right past them. Tell them the Onghams have died in the plague."
"And how, my Morgana, do you propose we fool them?" asked Elder,
She looked around the room desperately, focusing on odds and ends.
"Like so!" she said, and rose from the patch of floor where they were
huddled. She took down a pair of antlers from the wall and fixed it to
Elder's head with a bit of string. She reached into their sack of fine
ground wheat and began tossing clumps into their faces so they were as pale
as the dead. She grabbed lengths of sack cloths and linens, and they wrapped
themselves like the dead were arrayed before a burial. She cut the head from
a poor chicken that cowered clucking in the corner, and dabbed their faces
"Now," she said, "we look like proper spirits."
"You're a miracle worker," said Elder, astonished by their
transformation. The antlers were heavy and uncomfortable, but he felt this
Just then the howling outside stopped. Finart was now chanting, his harsh
voice invoking a spell to summon his father.
"Well," said Elder. "It's now or naught, I gather." He clapped his hands
together. "So-who wants to go first?"
His family stared at him in disbelief.
"Jes' joking," he said. "Pulling yer legs. Trying to lighten the mood
somewhat. Remember you lot, we're either evil spirits or we're dinner for a
god and his bastard son."
Elder pushed open the door with a creak. The mist surrounded his house,
glowing blue beneath the moon that rose over the moor.
He started moaning, like he'd seen the spirits of the dead do at many a
Samhain, and walked slowly from his house with his family in tow.
"Whooooooo," he said.
"Arrrrrggghh," groaned his wife.
"Moooooooan," moaned his children.
"Who goes there?" asked a sharp and rusty voice from the gloom And just
then the mist parted enough for the Onghams to see a mighty wight, clad in
armour and animal skins. Finart was eyeless and his earthen face creeped
with worms and bugs. Behind him they could see two legs, the knees as high
as Finart's foul head, the body hidden in the mist.
"Just us spirits, roaming the earth on the Festival of Samhain," said
Elder, matter-of-factly. "You wish to make something of it sir?"
"Peace, spirit," said Finart. "I have come for my sacrifice."
"What?" said Elder. "Here? I'm afraid you're a month past it, ghost.
You're behind the times. The plague took every last one of the poor
"Plague?" asked Finart suspiciously. "Then why have the people of the
town placed the sacrificial post outside? Why can I smell the blood of the
"I think there's a few chickens left in there," said Elder helpfully.
"Though I know not what the post is for." He lowered his voice. "Though, my
lords, I do suspect treachery!"
"Treachery!" boomed a voice, and Elder quailed for a moment when he
realized that the god had spoken.
"Aye, treachery most foul," Elder repeated. "You didn't hear it from me,
but I think you should pay a call on the rotten Corans, three houses down.
Then the dirty Morannons, who live in that grand stone house at the end of
the lane. Just past them in the country, in a fine manor lit up for Samhain,
ye'll find the wretched Fensters."
Finart regarded him for a moment through his empty eye sockets.
"What say you father... shall we visit these folk?"
"Hmmm," boomed the voice. "I think we shall, my son. For spirits have
naught to fear and so they never lie. This horned spirit tells the truth.
And I am hungry!"
"Yea, well tuck in," said Elder. "Eat the lot and more power to you. As
for us, we'll be going on our way. See you again next year."
"And a happy Samhain to you," said Finart, and the two marched away.
The Onghams let out a collective sigh of release.
"Cor! I thought we was done for!" said Elder, kissing his wife and
gathering Brigan in his arms.
"I think we should do this every year, daddy," said Brigan, giving him a
"Aye," agreed Elder. "We'll go door to door dressed like this, and see
what we can rustle up in the way of offerings - and haunt the ones that
wronged us! And we'll fear the dead no more."
"Who's for roast chicken?" asked Morgana, and they all filed back into
their stone house for a late supper.
Three houses down they heard stones shattering and the screams of the
Corans rent the night. But if you closed your eyes and chewed, you could
pretend it was just the wind.