Halloween History and Traditions with Scott Culpepper

Halloween History and Traditions with Scott Culpepper Thou Shalt Not Suffer: The Witch Trial Podcast

An engaging conversation on Halloween history and traditions, witchcraft, horror films, jack-o-lanterns, ghosts, zombies, the Satanic Panic, and more. We welcome back the podcast’s inaugural historian guest, Dr. Scott Culpepper, a historian, storyteller, author and Professor of History at Dordt University in Sioux Center, IA.  After listening to this episode, be sure to return to episode 3 where he kicked off our historian episodes last year discussing  the Connecticut Witch Trials in depth.Dr. Culpepper's Blog, The Imaginative HistorianYouTube – Connecticut Witch Trials with Dr. Scott CulpepperDr. Scott Culpepper Professor ProfileSign the Petition to Exonerate those Accused of Witchcraft in MassachusettsBuy Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night, by Nicholas RogersUpcoming Events with Author and Connecticut Witch Trial Exoneration Project Cofounder Beth Caruso Leo Igwe, AfAWJoin One of Our ProjectsSupport Us! Buy Book Titles Mentioned in this Episode from our Book ShopSupport Us! Sign up as a Super ListenerEnd Witch Hunts Movement Support Us! Buy Witch Trial Merch!Support Us! Buy Podcast Merch!Join us on Discord to share your ideas and feedback.WebsiteTwitterFacebookInstagramPinterestLinkedInYouTubeTikTokDiscordSupport the show

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Show Notes

An engaging conversation on Halloween history and traditions, witchcraft, horror films, jack-o-lanterns, ghosts, zombies, the Satanic Panic, and more. We welcome back the podcast’s inaugural historian guest, Dr. Scott Culpepper, a historian, storyteller, author and Professor of History at Dordt University in Sioux Center, IA.  After listening to this episode, be sure to return to episode 3 where he kicked off our historian episodes last year discussing the Connecticut Witch Trials in depth.

Dr. Culpepper’s Blog, The Imaginative Historian
YouTube – Connecticut Witch Trials with Dr. Scott Culpepper
Dr. Scott Culpepper Professor Profile
Sign the Petition to Exonerate those Accused of Witchcraft in Massachusetts
Buy Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night, by Nicholas Rogers
Upcoming Events with Author and Connecticut Witch Trial Exoneration Project Cofounder Beth Caruso
Leo Igwe, AfAW
Join One of Our Projects
Support Us! Buy Book Titles Mentioned in this Episode from our Book Shop
Support Us! Sign up as a Super Listener
End Witch Hunts Movement
Support Us! Buy Witch Trial Merch!
Support Us! Buy Podcast Merch!
Join us on Discord to share your ideas and feedback.


[00:00:10] Josh Hutchinson: Welcome to a haunted episode of Thou Shalt Not Suffer: The Witch Trial Podcast. I'm Josh Hutchinson.
[00:00:18] Sarah Jack: And I'm Sarah Jack-o'-lantern.
[00:00:22] Josh Hutchinson: We're talking about the history of Halloween with Dr. Scott Culpepper.
[00:00:26] Sarah Jack: Lore and the history.
[00:00:30] Josh Hutchinson: Find out why we do certain things that we do every year at Halloween time and find out where the holiday came from.
[00:00:39] Sarah Jack: What might have they been up to centuries before?
[00:00:45] Josh Hutchinson: What is Samhain? What did they do at Samhain? Did they do human sacrifices?
[00:00:51] Sarah Jack: If this episode was a neighborhood for trick or treating, we hit every house.
[00:00:57] Josh Hutchinson: Full size candy bars for everyone.
[00:01:00] Sarah Jack: All Souls Day, All Saints Day, Hallowtide, Day of the Dead. You'll hear a little bit about everything.
[00:01:09] Josh Hutchinson: Yes! Where do all these different Halloween things come from? Where did we get jack-o'-lanterns from? Who is this Great Pumpkin I've been hearing so much about?
[00:01:21] Sarah Jack: What kind of things do people get up to? Why is Halloween rebellious? 
[00:01:27] Josh Hutchinson: Yeah. Why is Halloween a night you get to act out? We'll talk about the origins of the word Halloween itself. Where did that even come from? We'll learn how Halloween became an American thing.
[00:01:43] Sarah Jack: Even though we're excited about Halloween and exploring its history, you can't talk about much of it without witches.
[00:01:57] Josh Hutchinson: Yes, we do talk witches a lot in this episode, and Scott gives some great information on the connections between witchcraft and Halloween, and we talk about the Satanic Panic at the disco.
[00:02:16] Sarah Jack: Did you say at the disco?
[00:02:18] Josh Hutchinson: Yes. We talked about the colors, the candy, the costumes.
[00:02:24] Sarah Jack: Hollywood and movies.
[00:02:26] Josh Hutchinson: Yes, there was some discussion of Halloween favorites. Be thinking about yours when you hear our questions.
[00:02:36] Sarah Jack: It was so great to have Dr. Culpepper back. When Dr. Culpepper talks history, you can picture it. 
[00:02:44] Josh Hutchinson: I know you're going to have as much fun with this episode as we did.
[00:02:48] Sarah Jack: We did have a lot of fun in this episode.
[00:02:52] Josh Hutchinson: So grab that bag of candy that you were thinking you were going to give to the trick or treaters and pop some kettle corn, drink some apple cider, and settle right in. 
[00:03:06] Sarah Jack: Welcome back, Dr. Scott Culpepper, Professor of History at Dordt University, who holds a PhD in religion with an emphasis in historical and church state studies from Baylor University. He specializes in Europe and the Atlantic world with a particular emphasis on the intersections of politics, religions, and popular cultures. You will enjoy what he has to share. 
[00:03:28] Josh Hutchinson: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?
[00:03:32] Scott Culpepper: Ah, I think the whole haunted house thing. I just like to go in as an adult. I like to go into the haunted houses and be scared a little bit, but then I also like trick or treating. It's hard to put that second, but that's up there as well. Two of my favorite traditions.
[00:03:49] Sarah Jack: Awesome. And what is your favorite Halloween candy?
[00:03:53] Scott Culpepper: Ah, Nestle Crunch, which is my favorite candy overall.
[00:03:57] Josh Hutchinson: Okay. So when you're trick or treating, you'd look forward to getting that in your basket.
[00:04:04] Scott Culpepper: Absolutely. Yeah, it was always fun as a kid, and then as a dad, to get to go along, do the ride along, and my kids like Nestle Crunch okay but it's not their favorite, so I was able to assist and then get rewarded with Nestle Crunch. It was always great.
[00:04:19] Josh Hutchinson: Oh, that's perfect. That would be dangerous for me to be assisting anybody with trick or treating these days. We always have enough candy just at the house to give out to the trick or treaters.
[00:04:32] Scott Culpepper: I don't think we ever ate all of ours. We had so much. Not that we didn't eat more than we should, but I can remember it being around in the house for months after.
[00:04:42] Josh Hutchinson: What is your favorite Halloween movie?
[00:04:45] Scott Culpepper: Oh, that's a good question. I think just because it's a classic of classics, Halloween, the original Halloween, and I like it just because of the atmosphere. It is very evocative of Halloween in middle America. And it's funny because, of course, it was filmed in California. We actually went to visit my daughter and we were in Los Angeles, and we went and saw the house, Michael Myers' house that was in the film, and we saw the yard next door, which was supposed to be Laurie Strode's house, the realty house. And it's crazy. It's just like in downtown Pasadena. You go around the corner and you've got California, palm trees all around, but you've got this one little street where they create the illusion of middle America.
[00:05:29] Josh Hutchinson: It's funny how they're able to do that with a place like Pasadena. I know that's used in Back to the Future, Dr. Brown's house was in Pasadena.
[00:05:39] Scott Culpepper: Yes.
[00:05:40] Josh Hutchinson: Yeah. So I've been by that one.
[00:05:43] Scott Culpepper: Yeah, it's been so impressive on our trips out there to go to the studios and all that and just see the magic of movie making. You've always known about it, but to actually see how they transform these spaces and just bring you into a very different reality from the place that you're actually in, it's just incredible.
[00:06:00] Sarah Jack: That's awesome. And do you have a favorite Halloween topic?
[00:06:06] Scott Culpepper: That's a good question. Witches, obviously, which is the topic that kind of draws all of us, the associations of Halloween festivals and ritual and lore with people's assumptions about witches and witchcraft and all of that. I like ghost stories, and so that's one of my favorite things, as well. And of course, being somebody who studies the Reformation and the fallout from both the Protestant and Catholic Reform movements, it's fascinating to me how there are very powerful influences, which we'll probably talk about later, stemming from that period into at least the precursors of what we now call Halloween.
[00:06:45] Josh Hutchinson: We are excited to announce the Massachusetts Witch Hunt Justice Project, which seeks recognition of all of Massachusetts' witch trial victims.
[00:06:56] Sarah Jack: According to the available research, the colonies of Massachusetts Bay and Plymouth took action against at least 211 different individuals.
[00:07:06] Josh Hutchinson: Past legislation has focused on the 30 convicted during the Salem Witch Hunt, plus Giles Corey, who was pressed to death with stones. Legislation to date has not included 180 other individuals prosecuted by Massachusetts. 
[00:07:26] Sarah Jack: The Massachusetts Witch Hunt Justice Project proposes that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts restore to good standing those convicted of witchcraft and issue an apology to all who were accused and suffered the consequences of accusation.
[00:07:41] Josh Hutchinson: This effort follows on the heels of the exoneration of Elizabeth Johnson, Jr. by Massachusetts in 2022 and the exoneration of 34 individuals by Connecticut in May, 2023.
[00:07:53] Sarah Jack: We welcome individuals, schools, and organizations to be a part of making this project a success. Please visit massachusettswitchtrials.org to find out how you can volunteer.
[00:08:05] Josh Hutchinson: Lend your voice and effort to speak for people like Tituba and little Dorothy Good, both jailed during the Salem Witch Hunt, all but forgotten to history.
[00:08:14] Sarah Jack: These memorable victims, and many more, deserve to be formally recognized by name as innocent victims of Massachusetts witch trial history.
[00:08:24] Josh Hutchinson: Sign the petition today. The link is in the show description. Thank you.
[00:08:29] Josh Hutchinson: There doesn't seem to be a lot of knowledge generally about the origins of Halloween. Has the fear of Halloween hidden the knowledge, or is that from some other? Why do you think it's obscure?
[00:08:46] Scott Culpepper: I think so. And not even so much that it's obscure as we have legendary ideas about where Halloween comes from. Probably most people have heard the term Samhain, the ancient Celtic festival, which supposedly is one of the precursors of Halloween. And a lot of people are aware of that, but they have a lot of folkloric sort of concepts of what that is, and rightfully so, because we really don't know much about what that festival was. Yeah, I think that is definitely one barrier to people learning more about the past of Halloween, and the legend that it's primarily a pagan holiday has really obscured the fact that it's got those very strong Christian roots and origins. Especially fundamentalist Christians, they'll go off on the pagan rites, and maybe even Greek and Roman rites if they're a little bit better read, that may have been precursors to Halloween, but they don't acknowledge the very deep roots of the observance in the history of the church and the church's attempt to convert pagan peoples in the early medieval period. So definitely, yeah, I think fear, suspicion, and then just the willingness to accept legends that may not actually have had very little to do with the development of the holiday really obscures people's knowledge of the true origins.
[00:10:07] Sarah Jack: Yeah, I think the legend aspect of things is so interesting. That makes me think about, specifically, Goody Bassett. She's such a legend to her community, and they really love the legend, and they are starting to embrace her as a person, too. But I think that also, Halloween of course is such a massive thing, but the legends are such a cherished piece and some people that, it doesn't matter to them necessarily. It's not important to them to enjoy it, what's historic and what's legend. And I was chatting with my sister briefly about Halloween questions, and one of the things she said was, "what's myth and what's the history?"
[00:10:48] Scott Culpepper: Yeah. And that is such a good question, because so much of what we think we know about the world is entangled with mythologies, and we all have our personal mythologies that we embrace. So it really is, it's a tricky thing. And sometimes the myth is enriching, the myth is empowering, the myth serves a good purpose.
It's always important to try to, as accurately as possible, I think, get to the historical roots, but the mythology has its own impact that's worth appreciating, as well. It's interesting in the history of modern paganism and modern Wicca, modern forms of witchcraft. That's, of course, very different from the accusations that were made during the early modern period. But early on in the early 20th century, you had scholars of folklore, like Margaret Murray, who were talking about legends of ancient rituals, and they constructed this whole framework of what people might've been practicing out in the groves and out in the forest and all that. And a lot of that inspired modern forms of Wicca and contemporary witchcraft.
The reality is probably none of that was actually going on, or at least very little of it. And the people who were accused of witchcraft, as you say often on the podcast, during the early modern period and later, these were people that had no thought of practicing real witchcraft. At the most, they may have been involved in some forms of folk magic or superstition.
So it's interesting in terms of the folklore, the mythology, looking at that duality as well, how you've got this contemporary movement that has really made the concept of witchcraft cool in our culture now, and its associations with Halloween today make the idea something that's more culturally acceptable, but they're grabbing onto, in some cases, the very folkloric stories that led to the accusation of these people that were so violently mistreated in the past.
[00:12:36] Josh Hutchinson: You mentioned Samhain. Can you explain what that is?
[00:12:41] Scott Culpepper: It is. It's an ancient Celtic festival that was practiced around the time of the end of October, about the time that we now celebrate Halloween, and it marked the transition from the days of light to the time of darkness. It seems like in a variety of different ancient religious systems there was an attachment of the religious system to the cycles of agriculture, as you would expect, because most people's lives depended very much on that cycle operating successfully and that ties you to the mystical forces that foster the earth, that whatever deities you believe in, they're expressed through those natural cycles and through natural phenomena. 
And so the idea was you're getting to the end of the cycle of growth. You're entering the time of harvest when things need to be as perfect as possible for you to have a good crop to last through the winter. And you're entering the time of darkness. Days are going to get shorter. The nights are going to get longer until, of course, finally, you get to the winter solstice, when you have the very longest night of the year. And so it's seen as a time of death and a time of pending rebirth, so to speak, as you're entering into the winter months.
And so from what we know, Samhain is a celebration of that, an expectation of what's to come and an honoring of what happened in the past. It seems like they were probably ceremonial rituals with bonfires, maybe people bringing some of the produce that had been harvested in those fall months, and just crying out to the gods for a good winter and fruitful times to come in the future.
And so it's very much marking that point of transition. It's one of several observances throughout the year that marks the point of transition. Having said that, that's what we know, but there's so much we don't know about exactly what happened. 
And one of our struggles to understand a lot of the ancient Celtic religions of the British Isles is the fact that most of the information we get about them is mediated through other people, particularly the Romans. And the Romans had all kinds of reasons to exaggerate and to misrepresent what was being practiced. People like Julius Caesar, Tacitus, many other Roman historians, they'll write about the people of the British Isles and they'll record the actions of the Druids, who were said to be the priestly class among the Celtic peoples of the British Isles, and they'll talk about human sacrifice. They'll talk about the resistance of Celtic peoples to the Romans. And so you get these very enticing images of Celtic peoples worshiping out in the groves with the sacred trees and all of that, a lot of which probably is based on accurate information to some degree, but then you get a lot of things about ritual sacrifice and all that as well that we're not nearly as sure about.
We do appear to have some archaeological evidence of people dying violently in some parts of the British Isles, and so the scholarly community is very divided about the degree to which there might have been human sacrifice, and if there was, in what way or what context it operated. Most scholars that I've seen would argue that where there were sacrifices or offerings, they typically were animals or they were the produce of the earth, the things that had been gathered during the harvest, more so than human sacrifice. But there is still an ongoing debate about there being pockets where human sacrifice was practiced. 
Now, of course, for the Romans, this is the kind of thing that they certainly wanted to magnify and amplify. They're overcoming these, what they would view as twisted cultures, uncivilized cultures. And then with the transition of the Roman Empire to being a Christian empire, you get a lot of Christian leaders who are willing to sign on to those legends, as well, because again, they're Christianizing these people who are uncivilized, who are practicing violence against others. And so it's something that got a lot of legs. 
We really don't know all of the specifics, but at least those are some of the things that we know about the traditions of Samhain.
[00:16:51] Sarah Jack: Thank you so much. I'm learning a lot. I knew I was going to. I love it.
[00:16:57] Josh Hutchinson: Yeah, and you also mentioned that the holiday has Christian origins. Can you tell us about the origin of the word Halloween?
[00:17:06] Scott Culpepper: Yes. It's very interesting. You've got these different observances that mark not only the transition of the seasons, but also there arises this belief that that period is a very liminal time, because you've got that transition from greater light to greater darkness. And part of that liminality is the idea that the barrier between the living and the dead becomes more permeable.
There were Roman festivals that were practiced around May 13th that sort of venerated the dead, those who had gone before, and even posited the idea that the dead might be in contact that night. Samhain seems to have had an element of that as well, where the power of the ancestors is invoked to try to help increase yields in the future, to preserve the people over the course of the long winter months.
So when you move into the early medieval history of the church, a lot of officials are wanting to reach out in a variety of ways to pagan peoples, people who practice the old religions, and bring them into the Christian fold. And one way they do that is by trying to adopt and then co-opt, transform practices that are very popular amongst them.
And one of the things they'll do is to move that festival that in Roman culture happens around May 13th or May 16th to the end of October. And during that point of transition from the greater light to the greater darkness, they will set aside the observance on November the 1st of what's called All Hallows Eve. And the idea behind that initially was to celebrate the saints, because during the early medieval period, the concept of sainthood is beginning to rise in prominence in the medieval church. And so first and foremost, they set it as a day to celebrate the saints and the way the saints, through their great actions, have set aside treasury and merit for people. That whole sacramental system is developing within the Catholic church. 
People are also having a need to acknowledge their own ancestors, as well, not just the sort of super sanctified Christians represented by the Saints, but people that are dear to them, as well. And so they'll also eventually create another day, November 2nd, which is All Souls Day. All Hallows Day is set aside to commemorate the Saints. November 2nd is set aside to commemorate others who have gone before. So October 31st becomes known as All Hallows Eve, the day before All Hallows Day. And eventually it gets transformed from All Hallows Eve or Even to Halloween, the compound word, it gets all incorporated together. 
That cycle really becomes popular by the end of the 12th century. It goes through a period of evolution, but we see pretty good evidence that by the end of the 12th century or the 1100s, it's very well established. There were some monks that were headquartered around Cluny in France in the early 900s who began to be very taken with that whole cycle. And so the Cluniacs especially helped to popularize that so that by the end of the 1100s, it's a pretty central part and pretty widely accepted observance within the Catholic Church.
[00:20:25] Josh Hutchinson: Is there a relationship between Halloween and the Day of the Dead?
[00:20:32] Scott Culpepper: There is, and again it stems through the Church, because so many of the areas that commemorate the Day of the Dead, especially in Latin America, Spain, Italy. These are places that are very heavily Catholic influenced, and it's an interesting sort of joining of popular folklore and Catholic tradition.
So definitely, I would say they stem from many of the same roots, and I think you see that, especially in the fact that some of the rites of Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, and Carnivale, in parts of Latin America, they're similar to things that are done on the Day of the Dead. They have a similar purpose, commemorating those who have gone before, especially in cultures that believe in purgatory, praying for those you love to advance through purgatory well.
So yes, definitely there are affinities there, and it's just a great recipe. It's a great mix. As we were talking about earlier, Sarah said the importance of acknowledging mythology and the richness of it. We try to draw these hard barriers, these hard lines, especially in a lot of contemporary cultures, and the reality is it's all a big soup flowing together. It's the Christian traditions, it's the pagan traditions. Once all of that arrives in North and South America, it's the traditions of the Native peoples there, as well. You see like, say, the Virgin of Guadalupe. She is so much an amalgamation of Christian and Native conceptions. In many ways, she's a combination of the Virgin Mary and conceptions of an Aztec goddess forged together. It's interesting how that soup of mythology, folklore, just blends together and creates these traditions.
[00:22:12] Josh Hutchinson: Yeah, that's really intriguing, the connection there and the merge of those two.
[00:22:21] Sarah Jack: And I really love the soup metaphor, just because, thinking of the cauldron.
[00:22:26] Scott Culpepper: Yes. Yes.
[00:22:27] Sarah Jack: but
[00:22:28] Scott Culpepper: I saw a special a while ago, I think it was produced by the History Channel, where they were talking about the legend of the witch, how it began to arise in the late medieval and early modern period. And they noted the fact that these are primarily women who are being accused of witchcraft, and her tools are born of the domestic sphere. And they talk about the ordinary household broom and the ordinary household cauldron that is used for cooking and how that becomes incorporated into the legends as the tools of the witch, because those are the tools that women would have used in that culture. 
[00:23:02] Sarah Jack: What is Hallowtide?
[00:23:04] Scott Culpepper: Hallowtide is that whole sort of sweep of events, that whole cycle from the very end of October through the beginning of November. And it's just a time of commemorating death, rebirth, new life, and of course is very central to the background of what eventually is going to become our celebration of Halloween.
[00:23:27] Josh Hutchinson: And when did Halloween come to America?
[00:23:31] Scott Culpepper: It comes pretty early in the sense, and I, to kind of preface that, it would be important to talk about where it stood in the British Isles, especially, but in other parts of Europe, too, about the time that the American colonies began to come together. The Reformation had really affected people's concept in the British Isles of Halloween and how its origins played into current politics and culture. You'd had the reform movements, the Protestant Reformation. You'd had the answering Catholic reform movements within the Catholic Church.
In the British Isles, especially, Halloween is suspect because of its Catholic associations, which is interesting. Now it's suspect because of its supposed supernatural or demonic associations. At the time, it was suspect because they rightly saw it as a very Catholic sort of observance. And of course, Protestants reject the idea of purgatory. And so the entire premise of this in many ways, and also they reject saints. So the whole premise of this cycle of days is a problem for them. 
And so they very actively campaigned against it. Protestantism as it comes to the fore in England is somewhat puzzled about how to deal with it. Under Henry VIII, they really didn't do much about it because he was a very pragmatic sort of reformer. With Edward, his son, he tries to ban observances of Halloween, and then of course with his sister, Mary, they go the other way. Mary tries to revive it because of her Catholicism. Finally, under Elizabeth, Protestantism gains control of the conversation, and Halloween is less often commemorated. 
But then at the very beginning of the 17th century, in 1605, you get the infamous Gunpowder Plot, where Guy Fawkes tries to blow up the Houses of Parliament, and immediately after that, the year after Guy Fawkes is executed for that crime, you get the birth of Guy Fawkes Day. And so during the 17th century, a lot of the things we associate with Halloween, they're being practiced as part of Guy Fawkes Day observances, and it's an interesting patchwork quilt where you see Guy Fawkes being magnified, the Guy Fawkes Day celebration in some parts of the British Isles. And in those pockets where Catholicism is stronger, you see still Halloween or at least those sort of pre-Halloween observances still practiced.
And it's interesting, because a lot of the customs are the same for both. They'll have their cake and eat it too, so to speak. For instance, one thing that's practiced in the Catholic tradition at the time of Halloween is that poor people would go to the homes of people who are a little bit more affluent, and they would ask for offerings to pray for the souls of those who had gone before, those who are in purgatory. So if you're a poor person, you go to a family and say, "if you give me something, I will give prayers throughout the rest of the year for your family members who have gone on." Of course, Protestants are not open to that theology, but it becomes a way still of gathering alms. And so here you see the incipient origins of the idea of trick-or-treat, the idea of people coming for candy.
So I go into all that as background just to say that it was in a very interesting place in the British Isles. And so when colonists first came to America, they brought that with them. If you had more Protestant immigrants, they're going to tend to commemorate Guy Fawkes Day more in that Protestant tradition. If you're a Scotch-Irish immigrant, you're from the Highlands or whatever, and you're more Catholic in your orientation, you'll probably practice some of those older versions of Halloween folklore, Halloween observances. But it's interesting because some of the customs were the same all around. Looks like it really begins to get a lot of attention from people like Longfellow and Hawthorne in the 19th century. Robert Burns had been writing about it in his Scottish poetry in the late 18th century. It's being practiced, it's part of the custom.
Probably about the mid to late 19th century is when it really starts to get traction in American culture. I've heard some people refer to the Civil War and say that the large number of dead coming out of the Civil War may have given an impetus to this obsession with the dead, with commemorating the dead, with the idea of the veil between this world and the next, as that's also the time when spiritualism is really popular in American culture, probably in part because of all the deaths that were suffered during the Civil War and people's desire to get in touch with their loved ones. So that seems to be the moment when it becomes more popular, although it's a very different sort of celebration then than it's ultimately going to become.
[00:28:19] Josh Hutchinson: What would it have been like around the end of the 19th century?
[00:28:25] Scott Culpepper: Very interesting, very different, but you can see the beginnings, the contours of what we do now in it. You had this whole tradition, of course, of the gift giving, people coming and petitioning for gifts, and that was still a present thing. 
There was this tradition of the Lords of Misrule in the early modern period, where people would also play pranks. It was a time a lot like some of the other festivals, too, like Carnival, where you had this inversion of the social structure, where people could pretend to be something else, and you would have people put on masks and basically pretend to be something other than they were. They could dress like a lord or a lady. 
And sometimes people would engage in pranks that were quite cruel. They would damage property. There were instances in the early modern period where people challenged each other to go and to mock a witch as a way of essentially trying to control malevolent powers in the area. So some poor woman is going to be beset by people accusing her of being a witch. And a lot of those sort of customs continue, probably carried by Irish and Scottish immigrants into the late 19th century.
You get a lot of pranks during Halloween, and it begins to get out of hand, so much so that by the time of the Great Depression, there are people who are concerned that there's too much vandalism, too much rowdiness, the holiday has gotten very out of control, and so it's during the Great Depression that retailers and other culture producers begin to work to transform the holiday. 
They basically set out to tame the holiday, and one of the ways they're going to do that is by making it a more child focused event. They'll take some of these customs, such as coming and asking for favors to be granted, trick-or-treat, and they'll start to encourage the idea of giving candy to those who come, people coming just to seek gifts for nothing in return, as a way to pacify those who might engage in more socially unacceptable behaviors, and this actually came from a custom where people would sometimes pay folks off that they thought were going to engage in rowdy behavior. In the 1910s, 1920s, some people who want to protect their property, they would pay folks off. And so this is a way of taming that, making it more culturally acceptable.
[00:30:57] Josh Hutchinson: And you talked about how Halloween was frowned upon by the English Reformation movement and was somewhat vilified as this Catholic practice. When did it begin to be vilified as demonic or satanic?
[00:31:14] Scott Culpepper: Probably I would say a more modern vintage because in the 1950s and early 1960s, it was a fairly mainstream sort of holiday. American culture had done a really good job of making it a cherished family observance. And that seemed to be very widely accepted. I've seen a lot of people give tremendous credit to the Great Pumpkin episode of Charlie Brown as a way to mainstream Halloween, which I'd never thought of. I watched it every year as a kid and never thought about the fact that this was a very representative presentation of what people do on Halloween to a culture that may not have been as familiar with it as we would think.
Also, they talked about Disney cartoons. Donald Duck had several episodes where he was featured with his nephews trick-or-treating. And so they're mainstreaming these practices through these cultural artifacts, and it seems very innocent and fairly well regarded. You had people dressing up like the Wicked Witch from Wizard of Oz, and nobody's really batting an eye.
The hostility seems to have really arisen powerfully during the late 60s and early 70s when you've got this whole series of upheavals associated with the counterculture, a lot of older people's mistrust of young people. You've got things like Anton LaVey founding the Church of Satan and some people having concerns about what that is and how exactly it's going to influence the culture, so it seems that is the point where you have a little bit of a tipping point where you've got concerns about demonic activity. 
I'm sure you could find evidence of, especially fundamentalist groups, even as early as the 1950s, are criticizing the idea of people dressing as witches and things like that. That's a perennial thing in American culture, but it really gets legs in the 60s and 70s, anxieties about where culture is going, things changing, some people think too fast. And then these legends that persist that are universal, that have always been there, as well. They're meeting the moment.
Really goes into overdrive in the late 70s, early 80s, with the development of Satanic Panic. You've got Michelle Remembers, Michelle Smith, and Lawrence Pazder released this memoir where she claims to have recovered memories of satanic ritual abuse, which were later demonstrated to be completely false. And so you get this whole movement concerned about satanic covens in the hinterlands practicing satanic ritual abuse. 
You get things like in a 1982, this Tylenol scare where you had several people that actually did die from tainted Tylenol in the Chicago area, a case which is still open. It's still never been solved, and, associated with that, you started to get accounts of Halloween candy being tampered with. There may have been one or two instances where that actually happened, but as one historian said, we don't know if it's a case of the chicken or the egg. We don't know if somebody did that at some point in one isolated case and it started something or if that was a reaction to the legends that grew. And where there has been demonstrated evidence of any tampering with Halloween candy, it was in the case of a family member doing that to children in their family because of issues they had because of problems in the marriage and just a lot of emotional issues, and so it's within that family. It's not someone setting out to do this to strangers, but the legends really grew during the eighties, and that's when you get this full-fledged belief among at least a minority of the population that Halloween is a demonic time, a time when Satan is at work and evil things can happen and evil people are trying to harm the innocents.
[00:35:12] Sarah Jack: And is that about the time that the theories about the witches' Sabbaths became inaccurately passed and affected legends around alleged witchcraft in the modern period?
[00:35:26] Scott Culpepper: To some degree. They've always had their cycles. They are very prominent at certain times. As you so well know, the early modern period, which was the big age of very intense witchcraft hunts in Europe, and then the cycle in America with the Connecticut witch, trials with the Salem Witch Trials, and that never absolutely goes away at American culture.
It goes into hibernation. But as you talk about all the time, it's still there. It's always in the background informing and creating accusations and false understandings of who people are. Like we said earlier, Margaret Murray's work, the folklorist in the early 20th century, did a lot to prompt people to speculate about whether there weren't actual rituals going on on which the witchcraft accusations were based.
For a while, people were really intensely into studying that possibility, and it was a big fixture in academia. And that's a great illustration of the fact that academia is not perfect. We struggle towards the truth. We try to understand the evidence as best we can. Sometimes that means eventually we have to let go of pet theories. And that was one of the ones that was let go of pretty much by the early seventies. Most scholars would acknowledge by then there's no real evidence of any major organized movement that would have rightly been identified as even a revival of what was perceived as ancient pagan worship. That's all mythology, but the cycle of belief in it, it just ebbs and flows.
It's very powerful in the early 20th century, very powerful in the 60s and 70s and 80s. And what's so interesting is the interplay of different groups. This is not just the creation of fundamentalist Christians, although they certainly are going to thrive off of it and they're going to incorporate it quite a bit. But Hollywood's obsessed with that, as well. You've got Rosemary's Baby. You've got lesser known films. When Sharon Tate was killed tragically by the Manson family, one of the things that some outlets showed were stills from a picture that she was in called Eye of the Devil a few years ago, and they alleged that Sharon Tate was involved with a satanic cult. She wasn't. She had been in this movie, and they were stills from that movie. The Exorcist, which William Friedkin just died this week, that was the director of that film. The Omen. Just a lot of interesting cultural artifacts that connected with those fears and anxieties and then connected with Christian theology, as well. And some groups just really use those to highlight. 
And so the template they've got for like the satanic groups and Rosemary's Baby, the satanic coven there in the uh, apartment building where she lives, the practices that you see on TV, they're crafted and shaped by those legends. It just grows like a snowball.
There's a scholar named Joseph Laycock who has done some work on Dungeons and Dragons, and he's done some work on the Satanic Temple. He's got a book coming out later this fall that he wrote with someone else. I'm not sure who his coauthor is, but they are looking at how Hollywood films have shaped religious practice in American culture, and they're looking at films like The Exorcist, and they're going to look at The Conjuring series, and they're talking about how the exorcism ritual in the Catholic Church changes in many ways, and people's expectation of what it can do and what it is, changes because of The Exorcist, because of this cultural product that is created by Hollywood entrepreneurs that are just wanting to entertain people but has a very real impact over religious practice.
And so I see those legends of witches sabbaths and all that as serving the same role. It really through those different forms of media conditions what we expect, how we see the past and the rituals of the past.
[00:39:24] Josh Hutchinson: Yeah, it's amazing how pop culture can influence people's behavior.
[00:39:30] Scott Culpepper: Yeah, it's incredible. And both positively and negatively, because on the one hand, you've got the continuation of these terrible misconceptions about what women may have been practicing in earlier times and this idea of the witch as a malevolent figure. But then you get to the 90s, especially the late 90s, and you get this whole collection of media products that are celebrating the power of the witch.
Even in the 60s and 70s, the notion of the witch or the liberated woman is transformed into this idea of a woman who has power, a woman who has agency. And that's probably part of the kickback against the notion of witchcraft and Satanism, as well. People who were threatened by second and third wave feminism, they often linked witchcraft, especially modern witchcraft like Wicca to women undermining the system or whatever. And in their attempts to do that, of course, they often misrepresent contemporary practitioners of Wicca by using the old tropes. They associate them with the old, legendary behaviors of witches in the past. But you get a refurbishment of the image of the witch, you get Buffy the Vampire Slayer with Willow, and you get movies like The Craft, and increasingly Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and it becomes something that's actually cool in American culture. 
And it's a double-edged sword. You guys have talked about this really well on the podcast in the past. On the one hand, it's created this new religious tradition, and it's very empowering for many women who are part of practicing it. On the other hand, it does muddy the waters when it comes to trying to assess the harmful legacy of witchcraft trials, because you never want to accept the illusion that was cast by their persecutors that these women were guilty of anything. And there is a tendency within those revived pagan religions or neo-pagan religions to want to find connections to the past and want to say these women must have been proto-Wiccans or whatever, which, as we all know, does a disservice to their memory, because more than likely they were not guilty of anything but just being different sometimes in a society that didn't tolerate difference well.
[00:41:50] Megan: Hello everybody, this is Megan, and welcome to Tea Time Crimes, the true crime podcast that explores women's stories under the lens of murder and mayhem. Each week my co-host Alana and I delve into the psychology of killers, the strength of survivors, and everywhere in between. 
[00:42:07] Alana: Wait, what? I thought this was a tea podcast.
[00:42:09] Megan: Oh yeah. And Alana is left completely in the dark for each episode. So join us every week for a fascinating case with Alana's fresh perspective and a comprehensive yet accidentally comedic tea review. 
[00:42:21] Alana: I bring the tea, and she brings the crimes. 
[00:42:24] Megan: Find us wherever you listen to your podcasts. 
[00:42:27] Alana: Tea Time Crimes, out.
[00:42:31] Josh Hutchinson: It's amazing how few references there actually are in the colonial witch trial records to actual magical practices. The appearance, at least, is that of all the people accused of witchcraft, like a very small minority were doing some kind of magic, and the rest had probably nothing to do with it at all.
[00:42:56] Scott Culpepper: And it's amazing when you look back at those kind of practices. Those women are noted for doing that because they ultimately get involved in these witchcraft accusations. But how many other people were doing things like that? That was not as well documented. What kind of folk superstitions did people practice every day that just didn't attract the attention of the authorities, because they weren't on the margins or they didn't fit the profile?
[00:43:20] Sarah Jack: Yeah, and I've had a question recently and some of this conversation is clarifying it for me, but it I feel like interested in understanding in the last 300 years or less, how did we as a American culture forget what those ancestors, six, seven, eight generations back, what their symbols of protective magic were that they had hidden in their home? Like, how did we become confused about images? I also think about how Hollywood or fears associated with the devil vilified specific symbols, like really boldly for generations and generations, but the actual, historical protective magic that many people had passed down, we are surprised now when we're finding them in these historical buildings and during research.
[00:44:20] Scott Culpepper: Yeah, symbolism has changed so much through the centuries. You look at something like the swastika, which was a part of Hindu belief at one point, and then it became incorporated as a Christian symbol, and then reversed and transformed, it becomes the symbol of antisemitism and Nazi Germany, and of course, very rightfully becomes so notorious.
The pentagram is now so tied to occult activity and Satanism in American popular cultures, but there are times it was incorporated as a Christian symbol. There've been times when it was used simply to highlight the elemental forces of nature in alchemical beliefs. So yeah, the transformation of those symbols is just incredible, and it is amazing how we lose contact with their meanings even within the span of one lifetime, much less over the course of decades or centuries. 
[00:45:11] Sarah Jack: There's other things that have just endured for centuries, but other stuff falls away.
[00:45:18] Scott Culpepper: Yeah, and there's a temptation to want to tie that to institutional sponsorship or protection, and that is some of it, especially Christianity. The Christian church has been a very powerful preserver and negator of cultural elements, depending on the need. But at the same time, you get these interesting symbols that survive despite that, ones that have been suppressed and others that have been pushed forward have gone by the wayside, so I guess the institutional sponsorship or protection is part of it but it's not the whole story. It's complicated.
[00:45:53] Josh Hutchinson: I want to talk about Halloween symbolism a little. And part of that is I'm wondering about things like the origin of the jack-o-lantern and where we got the colors for Halloween. It's generally orange and black, maybe a little purple thrown in. Can you explain some of the origins of those traditions?
[00:46:16] Scott Culpepper: Yes, definitely. There was a custom during the nights when the bonfires were lit and people were doing these commemorations for the dead of putting a light in the turnip so that people could walk along and light the path as people are progressing through the woods or whatever. And that evolves into jack-o-lanterns in the early modern period as a more durable and a bigger sort of product to carry that light in. There was a legend about a guy named Jack who was so bad that he went to hell and the Devil decided he didn't want him in hell and so he ejects him from hell and condemns him to walk the earth. And he gives him, as a small comfort, a light to light his way as he walks the earth, and supposedly that's in a pumpkin. So that was one of the folklore streams that fed into the origin of the jack-o-lantern, as well. 
The colors, black obviously from the darkness of the night, and associations with the supernatural, maybe even the malevolent supernatural. I think the orange probably arises from the continuing central place of the jack-o-lantern in the celebrations. And so black and orange just naturally arise from the incorporation of those symbols. And then the purple, I don't know, it's not quite as easy to say. It matches well and that may be one aspect of it. And that seems to be a more contemporary addition, the purple and sometimes the green, as well. You're seeing like some green, which I assume may have something to do with the stalk of the jack o lantern. 
Those have been incorporated more recently. It's worth noting that a lot of that different innovation has come in the last 30 or 40 years, where you have Halloween lights, which has led to a further embracing of those colors of Halloween. And part of the reason for that is because the kids that enjoyed Halloween in the 50s and on through the eighties, they have now become the adults with kids of their own. The holiday has become a very adult holiday once again. It's come full circle. It's still very kid friendly, but it's very adult focused, as well.
It's like a billion dollar industry now every year. And a lot of that is adult costuming, not kid costuming, and the lights and all that as well. So I think part of that's commercial. The colors have become embedded, and then they've expanded on them, as well. They become a little more creative with the palette so that they can create better products.
[00:48:44] Josh Hutchinson: Yeah, I remember as a younger adult how important Halloween was as just a festival and a time to have a party, and everybody dresses up. The adults all embrace the costuming very much. And yeah, then you just do the traditional Halloween things, but in an adult setting.
[00:49:09] Scott Culpepper: That draw to be someone else, to be something else for just a little bit, it's pervasive in our culture now. We see it not just at Halloween, but cosplay, things like Comic Con, Renaissance festivals, and the LARPing that's associated with those now, just that pull to be able for a little bit to be somebody else, to be somebody we admire or to be the monster. I heard one historian say it's fun to put on the mask of the monster, because the idea is if you're the monster, then the monster can't hurt you.
[00:49:41] Josh Hutchinson: A thread that's come up in this episode so far has been the subversive nature of Halloween, flipping things on their head. You talked about the power structure being inverted and people costuming to be the wealthy, but there's also that costuming to be the scary, and yeah, it seems like almost a night that you want to get a lot out of your system.
[00:50:09] Scott Culpepper: Yes. And that's not only tied to Halloween, but that's tied to the Guy Fawkes traditions, as well. As you probably know, one of the things they have done is burn a figure in effigy, and it started out as Guy Fawkes. Now it's everybody. You're not really somebody significant in British politics if you haven't been burned in effigy on Guy Fawkes night. Almost everybody gets that treatment at some point.
And yeah, in American cultures as well, we see masks that look like our political leaders or look like pop culture leaders, and people like to dress up like them. And sometimes they'll do it in a mocking sort of way. It's an inversion. I get to be this powerful figure for a night, either as a show of admiration or as a way to poke fun at them.
[00:50:54] Josh Hutchinson: And now Halloween's become the the fall version of Christmas, in regards to, you talked about the lights being put up and the decorations all over the yard. It's a very Christmassy almost co-opted a holiday. I can't think of too many holidays where you go that all out to decorate.
[00:51:17] Scott Culpepper: Absolutely. It is, what is this, August 10th, the day that we're recording, and I just went to what formerly was a very well cherished store that sold products for bath and for smelling good and all of that at one point. Rest in peace. And literally, rest in peace, because now it is a Spirit Halloween, and I just went on August the 8th, so they are already open, and they are active. Like you said, it's like the Christmas season, it starts, it's a three month affair now, at least.
[00:51:51] Josh Hutchinson: Yeah, we saw people celebrating Summerween this year.
[00:51:56] Scott Culpepper: Oh, wow.
[00:51:57] Josh Hutchinson: Doing, like it was the middle of the summer, dress up and do jack-o-lanterns and things like that.
[00:52:04] Sarah Jack: It's a jack-o-watermelon, wasn't it?
[00:52:07] Josh Hutchinson: Yeah, they were doing watermelons, yes.
[00:52:10] Scott Culpepper: Oh, that's great.
[00:52:12] Josh Hutchinson: Summerfy, or whatever.
[00:52:14] Scott Culpepper: I interact with a lot of horror movie fans and a lot of agents as well that do, they try to represent horror novels and other works for publication. When they get to October 1st, they'll release their schedule of the movies that they're going to view that month. They've got all of their favorite Halloween films and 31 days, 31 movies. It's amazing how many people are doing that now.
[00:52:39] Josh Hutchinson: Wow. Yeah, I've actually found myself starting earlier and earlier in the year to watch the classic horror movies and the new horror movies. It seems like by Labor Day, if not even earlier than that, people are getting geared towards Halloween.
[00:53:01] Scott Culpepper: There's this email service that I think operates out of Substack. It's called Dracula Daily. Yeah, Dracula famously is an epistolary novel made up of letters and journal entries. This service sends you an email for every day there's a dated entry in Dracula. And so you start with Jonathan Harker's journal, which starts in early May, and they'll send you an email throughout the summer. And so it covers the whole story, Jonathan's experience, the voyage of the Demeter, and all of that. And then it picks up with Mina and other characters. And pretty much from early May until early November, they will send you an email every day there's an entry in the journal. And so you're following the story in real time throughout the summer and into the early fall.
[00:53:47] Josh Hutchinson: Wow, that's like half the year.
[00:53:50] Scott Culpepper: Yeah.
[00:53:51] Sarah Jack: I love that.
[00:53:53] Josh Hutchinson: Yeah, we love the dedication that we see among Halloween fans.
[00:53:57] Scott Culpepper: Yeah. It's neat.
[00:54:00] Josh Hutchinson: Yeah.
[00:54:02] Sarah Jack: I've been curious, the last three years or so was so affected by the pandemic and sickness and that first fall when towns were canceling the trick or treating. And then I loved some of the creative ideas people had, shooting candy down these long pipes down their stairs and I think some of that's gonna stick around and it's so fun to, you know, have your bag at the bottom and it comes shooting down but I'm wondering, you know, are people going to have like just so many parties they can't get to all of them this year, and what other ways is it possibly going to surge larger because we're not being held back as much?
[00:54:49] Scott Culpepper: Absolutely. I think we're seeing what a huge community gathering place it is, that it is a great moment for bringing people together and fostering community and, yeah, I agree. I think we're going to see even more of that. And it was really cool to see the creative ways that people tried to deal with it during the pandemic.
We left candy out for people where they could drive up and just take it. And that's not quite the same, but it was neat to see the resilience of people overcoming those horrible barriers that we were dealing with.
[00:55:21] Josh Hutchinson: Yeah. And I know that last year was a record year in Salem for October visits. They had over a million people come in the month of October, and it's a town of 40,000 or something. And yeah, I could see it getting even bigger this year. Seems like as many people as will fit in Salem will go there.
[00:55:48] Scott Culpepper: That is Oh My Bucket List. I may be crazy because it sounds really busy, but I would love to go to Salem and Halloween at some point. That sounds like a lot of fun.
[00:55:59] Josh Hutchinson: I was there in October probably seven years ago. And yeah, it was just this whole carnival atmosphere to the whole city.
[00:56:10] Scott Culpepper: That's another of those strange aspects of all this. I've had some people, as I've been working on the Satanic Panic book that I've been researching, who have said, you've been really good at highlighting the dangers of this kind of thought, and the terrible consequences, but don't forget that one of the reasons why this became such a cultural phenomena is that for some people, it was fun because they enjoy being scared. And that's one of the interesting things about the whole Halloween mythos and all of the mythologies that go into it, as well. As some of it has caused great harm and there's no doubt at the same time, we love it. We love to scare ourselves, and I think sometimes even the people that act most offended in culture and do some of the terrible things, there's a part of them that kind of likes being scared. They like the notion that they're engaged in some great crusade, light versus darkness or whatever, and so you see that really in those festivities, in those celebrations. We, even those of us who know that these dark legends are not true, we still enjoy scaring ourselves with them this time of year.
[00:57:16] Josh Hutchinson: Yeah, I really buy into the movies when I'm watching them. You can't help but get caught up in the emotions, and the fright is part of that. Why do you think people are so attracted to horror?
[00:57:33] Scott Culpepper: At one point, I was reading this book by a lady named Judith Flanders, a scholar named Judith Flanders, called The Invention of Murder. And she was talking about why we love murder mystery so much. It seems contradictory because we're reading stories about violence being done to somebody, and why is that comforting for us to read on a rainy night? And for her, she said, there's some comfort in it because it's happening out there. It's not happening right in front of you. It's a fantasy world that you can go to where these terrible things are happening, but at the end of the day, you can come back to your normal world, your normal life.
And I think there's something to that. I think we like the thrill of it. It's the same reason why people love roller coasters. We like to live on the edge, but in safe ways, we like to experience a little bit of that adrenaline rush, but in a way that preserves our life and limb, that's not dangerous to us.
I've always loved ghost stories, and I'm not a believer in ghosts, but I enjoy the mystery, the thrill. It just really pulls me in. That's probably my favorite type of horror story is a good ghost story. M. R. James or Edgar Allen Poe or whoever, it just really just enjoy the fascination, the gothic settings that it just transports you to another world.
[00:58:54] Sarah Jack: Yeah, I agree. I'm also a ghost fan, especially ghost children, if they're good or bad. I just love that element. When they're meddling in, whatever the storyline is for good or bad in one of my favorite films that may have that in it, is The Devil's Backbone, if you haven't seen that. 
I really enjoy that one. I think another reason people enjoy reading and watching horror, it can be for that ending. Sometimes it isn't great, but sometimes you see the villain defeated or you see the person who's been running or suffering come out on top or win. And that's one of the things I like about it, but I'm a zombie fan.
[00:59:42] Scott Culpepper: Oh yeah.
[00:59:42] Sarah Jack: My very favorite thing to start the Halloween season with would be the original Night of the Living Dead and then follow them all through. There's someone's going to survive, maybe, there's that chase. Yeah, that's me. 
[00:59:57] Scott Culpepper: It's worth mentioning, I just heard about this summer, the papers of George Romero are now at the University of Pittsburgh, and they're developing a whole wing of their academic library devoted to the study of horror. We're gonna see some good things hopefully come from that, the study of the horror genre.
[01:00:14] Sarah Jack: That's great.
[01:00:16] Josh Hutchinson: Yeah, I like that. Yeah, there seem to be more academic conferences. We see things on the artist formerly known as Twitter that, different academics posting conferences about folklore in pop culture and horror in pop culture, doing, starting to do studies around that.
[01:00:40] Scott Culpepper: It's funny, connected to what Sarah said about the way that pop culture both reflects and shapes what's going on the ground. It's funny to me, some of the strident Catholic opposition to movies like The Exorcist and The Conjuring series, because the Catholic Church never looked better. You do have that whole conflict of light versus darkness, and nine times out of ten in those stories, a Catholic priest is the one who's coming to save the day. And so it's funny the discomfort that some Catholics feel with those films because there's never been a better sort of vehicle to make Catholic leaders look more heroic and Catholic ritual look like a symbol of light and hope.
[01:01:23] Josh Hutchinson: Yeah, I'm thinking based on what you and Sarah have said, I'm getting, horror as it's this safe outlet where you can watch what is your worst fear, and then somebody's overcoming that fear, and that's rewarding.
[01:01:41] Scott Culpepper: Yeah, I really love the ability of horror to make such profound social commentary. Just like a Night of the Living Dead, or Psycho, or you name it, there's so many horror films that are so much deeper than just the surface level story, that really make some profound social commentary about the human condition, or current political trends, and you really see that reflected when you go watch some of these films and then you put 'em in their historical context or books or whatever. I really appreciate that fact that you create these fantasy worlds where you do have these horrors that people are facing and they end up saying something about real life as well, that whole concept that J R R Tolkien talked about of escaping to reality, escaping to a fantasy that teaches you something about real life.
[01:02:32] Josh Hutchinson: You've mentioned a number of books during this conversation. Do you have any others that you recommend our listeners read to learn more about Halloween?
[01:02:43] Scott Culpepper: I think there's some really great ones out there. One of the best. It's published by Oxford Press, and it's one that I actually looked at a little bit for our conversation. It's by Nicholas Rogers, and it's called Halloween: From Pagan Observance to Party Night, which is a fantastic title, and it's an Oxford title, so those are usually very high quality scholarship. And there are a lot of others that you can find, as well, that are written at a more popular level, but get at the story behind the story, as well.
[01:03:17] Josh Hutchinson: I've been reading that book, and it's very fascinating insights into the origins of Halloween and how we got all the traditions. 
[01:03:27] Scott Culpepper: Someone else who's really good at almost all the holidays is a scholar named Stephen Nissenbaum, and he's written extensively on Christmas, on Halloween, and he's written some of Witch Trials as well, so the audience would really enjoy his work.
[01:03:43] Sarah Jack: That's a really good suggestion. And when you start to use the lens that we're using today to look at Halloween, just across all the types of observances and seeing the influences and the individuals that were influencing and what was influencing them, that's so important, and that carries over to looking at the witch trials and the documents, how those were formed, what was informing those people. It's all really important to start dissecting and looking, what was shifting through these times and impacting the beliefs and the fears and.
[01:04:25] Scott Culpepper: It really is a neat form of detective work. I mean, you're sort of like a historical detective reading all these different layers of tradition and folklore, historical record, and then trying to discern the reality of what was happening and not just the reality of what actually transpired, but the reality of what people thought about what was transpiring as well and how that affected their actions.
And I think Thou Shalt Not Suffer is a great vehicle for Thank you. Putting people in contact with those primary and secondary sources, as historians call them, like giving them the chance to look for themselves. And one of the great things about the world that we're in right now is that so much of it is being digitized. So it is really awesome to go to an archive, there's nothing quite like it, and actually touch a document that historical figures touch. So I would definitely recommend that if anybody ever has the opportunity, but also if you can't do that, so much of it is at our fingertips, and even more so every day. So it's an exciting time to be interested in any form of historical study. And in this field especially, because it's just taking off right now, the study of the past of witch trials and coming to grips with that history. It's a really good time to explore the facets of that history.
[01:05:44] Josh Hutchinson: Yeah, we had the opportunity this last spring in May to go to Connecticut to what was known as the Connecticut Historical Society at the time, I think it's now the Connecticut Museum of Culture and History but we were able to see Reverend Samuel Parris sermon book the original book with his handwriting in it, and that was so amazing, and we saw a couple other documents from Connecticut Witch Trials, the originals, and yeah, there's nothing like that experience.
[01:06:19] Scott Culpepper: That tactile contact with the past is just incredible. That I touch something that these people touch that you've been reading about. Just, yes, it's just a great experience. I'm glad you had a chance to do that.
[01:06:33] Josh Hutchinson: It was so exciting. Just, I was stunned when I saw what they had out displayed for us because we met, it was basically a delegation of us and Dr. Leo Igwe went there to get some information on the Connecticut Witch Trials. And the people there had put all these things out on display just for us. And it was, when I saw Samuel Parris's notebook and they told me what it was, I about fainted.
[01:07:04] Scott Culpepper: Wow. That's amazing.
[01:07:07] Josh Hutchinson: Yeah, it was so cool, but I like you talked about how these things are also available digitally so anybody from anywhere can access, say the records from the Salem Witch Trials. There's a lot from Connecticut Witch Trials online also. So I encourage readers definitely read the primary sources, and if you want to know how to find a primary source, just get in contact with us and we'll let you know.
[01:07:37] Scott Culpepper: That's great.
[01:07:39] Josh Hutchinson: Yeah. Next, I'd like to talk to you about what you're working on right now and what's next for Scott Culpepper, beginning with what are some of the courses that you're teaching this year?
[01:07:55] Scott Culpepper: I teach a wide variety, because my institution's a fairly small college, so you do a lot across the spectrum, but this fall, I'm teaching our basic introductory civilization course, and then I'm teaching a course on Latin America. Next spring, I'm teaching the second part of Civilization, and I'm teaching a course that used to be called Renaissance and Reformation, but I got my hands on it, and I've changed the title to Witch Hunts, Wars, and Reformations, and so that one will be very heavy on witch trials. We'll do a witch trial simulation and be looking into that history, so I'll be teaching that one.
And another one that is really going to be fun. I've done it one time before, but we're going to make some tweaks to it. It's like an immersive simulation course where we do three historical simulations. There's a consortium, a group of people that works out of Columbia University and Barnard College in New York called Reacting to the Past. And they create these large scale historical simulations that play out over the course of about three weeks. And I'm going to do that class. I haven't decided what three simulations we're going to do. I know one of them is going to be India on the eve of independence in the 1940s. Last time we did something on the Wanli emperor succession crisis in China and something on Rwanda during the period of the genocide. So that was a really good class for just immersing people in the history. We may do it a little bit different. It may not be just international topics. So I'm looking forward to that one as well. That's what I'm going to do over the course of the next year, as far as teaching.
[01:09:29] Sarah Jack: That's exciting, powerful stuff.
[01:09:32] Scott Culpepper: It's a lot of fun. I enjoy exploring it, and students are great. They really get engaged with it. As far as writing and research goes, I'm still working on the Satanic Panic book, and I am talking with and working with an editor at a publisher. I shouldn't announce yet who it is, because everything hasn't been signed and sealed yet, but hopefully I'll know something for certain about that soon. And he has been really good to help with that and to open new avenues of exploration. So I'm pretty excited about that. 
And I'm interviewing a lot of people connected to that, both historians and scholars of religion who have worked on the topic before, and also people who are actually involved in it. That's really getting underway. I'm doing more of those in connection with the work. 
So at some point, I'd like to take those and package those in either a podcast form or some other outlet. Podcast is what I'm thinking. Maybe do some of these interviews and cut them and put them out there for public consumption. Because like we were saying earlier, so much has already been done that people are not aware of. So it would be great to put some of this information in a forum that was accessible to people if they have an interest in exploring this stuff, that's something I'm thinking about as well. 
[01:10:47] Josh Hutchinson: That sounds like a really interesting and informative program.
[01:10:53] Sarah Jack: I can hear from what you're saying how you had a vision of what you wanted to be able to review, research and give, and you're seeing how there's these other layers and bigger ways to get it out there. That's exciting. Absolutely
[01:11:09] Scott Culpepper: It's opened up a lot of worlds that I didn't even know were there. And one thing I want to try to do, I've been trying to be more conscious of this as I've been working the last month or so, is to document the process as well. Like you were saying, it's really fun, and it's really interesting how this comes together, and I don't know that a lot of people really know much about that process from conception to your finished idea. You just see these books spring forth fully grown. So one thing I'd like to do as part of the road to publishing this is release videos or audio connected with the process and maybe write some blog articles as well about how I did this and what I thought about it in the beginning and then, like you were saying, the ways in which that was reshaped and changed as I got deeper into the research. So hopefully it can do that. I've started putting aside those tidbits so that anybody who's interested can see the ingredients that went into the mix, as well.
[01:12:07] Sarah Jack: It'll really maximize the outcome and the influence of the work. That's great.
[01:12:12] Scott Culpepper: Hopefully so, definitely.
[01:12:15] Josh Hutchinson: Yeah, definitely be listening and watching whenever you put anything online, especially if you're interviewing people that have been involved in the Satanic Panic, that just really, intrigues me.
[01:12:30] Scott Culpepper: Yeah, the people that you can get to talk have got really interesting stories to share. And there are some people you have to let it go because they will never speak, but it's surprising who will. And it's fun to get some of those insights.
[01:12:45] Josh Hutchinson: Thank you for listening to Thou Shalt Not Suffer: The Witch Trial Podcast.
[01:12:49] Sarah Jack: Join us next week if you dare.
[01:12:52] Josh Hutchinson: Subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.
[01:12:55] Sarah Jack: Visit thoushaltnotsuffer.com.
[01:12:58] Josh Hutchinson: Remember to tell your friends and family and trick-or-treaters about the show.
[01:13:04] Sarah Jack: Support our efforts to end with Hunts. Visit endwitchhunts.org to learn more.
[01:13:09] Josh Hutchinson: Have a great today and a beautiful tomorrow.

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