It’s that time of year when all the ghosts, ghouls withches warlocks and things that go “Bump in the Night” are out and about, perhaps along with a few monsters, bats and spiders thrown into the mix to frighten the neighbours and play Trick Or Treat.
Trick or Treat is a relative new comer to the British customs which surround Halloween. Or more correctly the evening before All Hallows Day. Growing up in the north of England in the shadow of Pendle Hill, I was very familiar with the true story of the Lancashire Witches. Their story has been written about by authors including Harrison Ainsworth and Jeanette Winterton to name just two. A group of predominantly poor women (described as old crones) and men were accused, tortured and tried before being hung at Lancaster Castle. One was tried at York. What was unusual is that a more middle-class woman was also accused and suffered the same fate. It is a truly horrific story which occurred at the time people were very scared of the idea of witchcraft and plots to assassinate the King. No doubt some of it was connected to the threat felt by the ruling classes about the risk of Catholicism once again becoming the official religion. Lancashire was something of a hot bed of recusants.
You can read more about the Lancashire Witches here: http://www.historic-uk.com/CultureUK/The-Pendle-Witches/ Dr Jessica Nelson from The National Archives also writes about the Pendle Witches in this news story from the BBC website http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-41742847
As children we would dress up, making our own costumes and have parties, where we would bob for apples but no tricking or treating. Of course, Halloween comes a few days before November 5th which is celebrated in the UK by bonfires and fireworks. I expect many of those watching firework displays will have forgotten the roots of “Bonfire Night”, which of course, commemorated the failure of the plot by the Catholics to blow up Parliament. In the north, the 5th of November was the night when at least some folk got up to no good, playing practical jokes on the night which was called Mischief Night.
So in keeping with the thoughts of Halloween traditions, I thought I would have a look to see how many Ghosts, Ghouls, Witches, Warlocks, Bats, Spiders and Monsters surnames I could find in some of the on line genealogical websites, and there are quite a few to be found on the sites I checked out: Family Search, Ancestry, FindMyPast and ScotlandsPeople. I even found several Frankensteins. So go and have a look at the genealogical connection of things that “Go Bump in the Night” 😉