Jack-o-lanterns, tombstones and vampires, oh my


OBSERVER Staff Writer

It’s the most wicked time of the year. Break out the decorations and dust off the pumpkin-carving tools. Don’t forget to dress up, too.

Pop culture has once again dictated the outfits we will be seeing this Halloween.

According to Tom Bemis, assistant managing editor for Wall Street Journal’s Money Watch, Halloween costume makers expect to rake in 2.6 billion dollars in sales this year. The most popular costume searches, Bemis said, are Miley Cyrus, characters from “Duck Dynasty,” Walter White of “Breaking Bad,” fox costumes inspired by the YouTube hit “What does the fox say?” and lastly, a fun idea for all ages: minions from “Despicable Me.”

Bemis said, “Redneck chic is in.”

Of the minions, he claims, “lots of slapstick and incomprehensible gutteral sounds make these guys the leaders heading into the Halloween homestretch.”

On a different note, Dunkirk happens to be in one of the top six pumpkin producing states in the country, according to the U. S. Census Bureau. Between Illinois, California, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and New York, the value of pumpkins harvested was $113 million in 2011.

According to History.com, pumpkins are native to Central America and Mexico, but now grow on six continents. There is an average of 500 seeds within each pumpkin. U.S. growers produce over 1.5 billion pounds of pumpkins per year. That’s more than twice the weight of the Empire State Building.

But why is carving pumpkins such a Halloween ritual in the U.S.?

According to History.com, the practice originated from an Irish myth about a man nicknamed “Stingy Jack” who tricked the devil several times and was banned from both heaven and hell. He was then “sent into the night with only a burning coal to light his way.” Jack then put the coal into a carved-out turnip.

The Irish began to refer to him as “Jack of the Lantern,” and then, simply “Jack O’Lantern.” In order to protect their homes and shield them from Stingy Jack and other evil spirits, people in Ireland and Scotland carved scary images into turnips and potatoes and placed them in windows and doorways. Immigrants brought the tradition with them to America where they found that pumpkins made perfect jack-o’-lanterns.

As for other Halloween fun, various sources claim 50-65 percent of Americans decorate their homes for the holiday. Locally the percentage seems much less than that, which makes the decorated houses all the more intriguing.

Readers have been calling and emailing in the addresses of well-decorated houses.

Todd and Jennifer Ellman’s home at 3705 New Road in Dunkirk, brings a unique twist to decorations. The display is complete with lights and music synchronized to match through radio station 100.1. It’s a great show that plays from 7 to 10 p.m. daily. There is no charge. Cars can simply pull up near the house to watch.

Ellman’s friend Tim Peterson sold him the equipment when he planned to move away. Peterson and his dad Bob rigged up a Halloween house with music for the last three years and did a Christmas display for six years.

“People are most familiar with it being on 131 Willowbrook Ave.,” Peterson said. “We kind of made this natural progression.”

Ellman and his son Andrew also plan on putting together a massive Christmas display, again following in the footsteps of Peterson father and son. The Petersons will still be involved in the planning and execution of the light show.

Moving on to candy, let’s see what tops the list this Halloween season.

Always a classic, Reese’s peanut butter cups are the number one favorite Halloween candy for 2013 according to market research firm Information Resources Inc. In a recent post on Yahoo.com, IRI said Reese’s (owned by Hershey and introduced in 1928) beat M&M’s (owned by Mars and introduced in 1941) this year as the best-selling chocolate candy.

Still, both companies tied each other as far as their chocolate standings in the Top 10 list put together by IRI. After Reese’s and M&M’s, Snickers came in third place, followed respectively by Hershey’s milk chocolate, Kit Kat, Twix, 3 Musketeers, Hershey’s Cookies ‘N’ Creme, Milky Way and finally, Almond Joy.

Whether you’re going door-to-door, heading out to a costume party or having a quiet night handing out candy, we at the OBSERVER hope you have a sweet Halloween.