BANNATYNE - HALLOWEEN AUTHOR
Lesley Pratt Bannatyne is an American author who writes
extensively on the subject of Halloween, especially its history,
literature, and contemporary celebration.
As one of the nation's foremost authorities on
Halloween, Lesley Bannatyne has shared her vast
knowledge of the holiday by contributing to the World
Book Encyclopedia entry for Halloween, has appeared in
numerous television specials including the 1997 History Channel (A&E) documentary
“The Haunted History of Halloween” and will be featured
in the update, “The (new) Haunted History of Halloween”.
latest book, "Halloween Nation. Behind the Scenes of America’s Fright
Night", was published in 2011 and is available at
We had a
chance to chat with Lesley about her love of Halloween.
A genuinely warm person who loves Halloween as much as
we do, here's what she had to say:
How did you become so interested in Halloween?
Lesley: I've always
been a bit of a Halloween nerd and I've never lost the
thrill of anticipation that comes around mid-October
when the night comes early and the temperature drops.
But my research didn't really start until I was looking
for material on Halloween for a party and I discovered
that you couldn't find the whole Halloween story in any
one place (this would be the late 80s; there were other
history books - like the Linton's and Edna Kelly's, and
more modern research by folklorist Jack Santino and
sociologists Joel Best and Sylvia Grider - but no
straight beginning-to-end story of American Halloween
for a general public). As luck would have it the NY
Publishing House Facts on File was looking for holiday
books. They had Election Day and Halloween available. I
wrote a proposal, sold the book, and spent the next
three years researching and writing it (Halloween. An
American Holiday, An American History).
Then I dropped down the rabbit hole. Like any subject,
the more you learn about something the more interesting
it gets. I suppose it could have been rocket science or
tree-ring dating, but it was Halloween for me. I wrote a
Halloween How-To (2001), an anthology of Halloween
literature called A Halloween Reader (2004) and then a
children's book, Witches' Night Before Halloween (2007).
Last spring I finished Halloween Nation. Behind the
Scenes of America's Fright Night, which will be out in
What kind of Halloween celebrating did you do as a
Lesley: I trick or
treated of course, and with my friends out alone at
night (very, very fun). And there may be a few houses in
suburban Connecticut still digging the toilet paper out
of their trees.
What kind of Halloween celebrating do you do today?
Lesley: I start in
my yard around October 1st. First come the legs sticking
out of the ground, then the
dummies up on the roof, the spiders in the garden, the
crime scene tape around the fence. On Halloween night
the chandelier and ghosts comes out, the soundtrack
kicks on, and I release the fog. Oh, and I give out
full-size candy bars. When I can't be home, I visit
Halloween destinations, like the N.Y. Village Halloween
parade, where I marched between 30 Richard Simmonses and
a flat bed truck full of witches in bikinis two years
Halloween Online: How
did you become a Halloween folklorist/historian?
Folklore and theater have always been passions of mine
and much of my journalism involved those fields (I see a
lot of theater in Halloween!). For the past 23 years,
I've collected everything and anything I can,
research-wise, on the holiday and related areas: Celtic
literature, witchcraft studies, ghosts, Day of the Dead,
etc.). I've also had three great inspirations to help
me: the libraries I have access to are beyond amazing;
the people I've talked with and interviewed (that is,
Halloween people) are the nicest, most interesting, and
most generous souls I know; and there are other authors
work is inspiring, for example the books of British
historian Ronald Hutton (and many others!).
You can visit her web site here
Halloween: An American Holiday, An American History.
The fastest-growing holiday in America may now
claim its very own definitive history. Discover
the fascinating and diverse origins of the
traditions, celebrations, and superstitions
surrounding All Hallow's Eve in the only book
that tells the whole story.
Halloween, which began more than 2,000 years ago
in ancient Druidic and pagan celebrations, has
drawn from the traditions of various American
ethnic groups to evolve into its modern
Young readers and adults alike will
enjoy learning the odd facts about pumpkins,
witches, and ghosts.
This is a truly great read for anyone who loves
Halloween and wants not only the facts but all
the interesting history that goes along with the
creepiest, scariest, most entertaining night of
Halloween How-To: Costumes, Parties, Decorations and
In this entertaining romp, Ms. Bannatyne discusses
Halloween trends past and present, dissecting
such fun topics as costumes, recipes, movies,
parties, myths and expeditions (Salem or bust!).
She even closes with an up-to-the-minute chapter
on "what's next" in Halloween observance.
(According to the author, disguising yourself as
a pillowcase ghost is so very last year, but you
can't go wrong with classic monsters such as
vampires and witches.)
Bannatyne also addresses
some of the myths surrounding Halloween.
Ms. Bannatyne claims, for example, that the
razor-blades-in-apples-scare is merely an urban
legend with no basis in fact, which is a fact
that Halloween Online tracked down years ago.
You can believe what you read in
Halloween Reader. An Anthology of Poems, Stories and
Spooky writing for a literary celebration.
This anthology contains the works of writers
from the sixteenth to the early twentieth
centuries who evoke the night to set a scene,
twist a plot, or explain something inexplicable,
like madness or time travel.
Here is Halloween as it was imagined: a joyous
time for games and storytelling, a portentous
time to make amends and wishes, a solemn time to
remember the dead.
Included are the works of
Robert Burns, H. P. Lovecraft, William Butler
Yeats, James Joyce, and many more. Great for
reading alone on a dark and stormy night or
around a Halloween campfire to scare the
Witches’ Night before Halloween.
A group of witches prepares the nearby town for
the visit of their offspring on Halloween. They
decorate the buildings with cobwebs and dribble
green slime down "every porch stair." Of course,
lots of black bats, newts and spiders figure
into their plans.
With visions of moist, creeping things in their
heads" their parents happily call on ghosties,
skeletons, zombies, and banshees to help with
the preparations. They even take rather
strikingly-depicted photographs of their antics
before they head home to rouse the sleeping
witchlings, who are exhorted to fly off "toward
the just-risen moon." Of course, the story ends
with the young witches' exhortation: "Happy
Halloween to all and to all a good fright!"