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Trick or Treat

A History of Halloween

Every year, children and adults alike take to the streets dressed as witches, demons, animals, celebrities, and more. They carve pumpkins and play pranks, and the braver ones watch scary movies and go on ghost tours. There are parades, fireworks displays, cornfield mazes, and haunted houses—and, most important, copious amounts of bite-sized candy. The popularity of Halloween has spread around the globe to places as diverse as Russia, China, and Japan, but its association with death and the supernatural and its inevitable commercialization has made it one of our most misunderstood holidays. How did it become what it is today?
In Trick or Treat, Halloween aficionado Lisa Morton provides a thorough history of this spooky day. She begins by looking at how holidays like the Celtic Samhain, a Gaelic harvest festival, have blended with the British Guy Fawkes Day and the Catholic All Souls’ Day to produce the modern Halloween, and she explains how the holiday was reborn in America, where costumes and trick-or-treat rituals have become new customs. Morton takes into account the influence of related but independent holidays, especially the Mexican Day of the Dead, as well as the explosion in popularity of haunted attractions and the impact of such events as 9/11 and the economic recession on the celebration today. Trick or Treat also examines the effect Halloween has had on popular culture through the literary works of Washington Irving and Ray Bradbury, films like Halloween and The Nightmare Before Christmas, and television shows such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The Simpsons.
Considering the holiday in the context of its worldwide popularity for the first time, this book will be a treat for any Halloween lover.

232 pages | 20 color plates, 20 halftones | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 | © 2012

History: General History

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Trick or Treat covers the history of Halloween from its ancient Celtic roots to its stunning growth in global popularity in the 21st century. Morton is an accomplished horror short story writer, and her ability to draw readers in quickly and keep them turning the pages shines through in her nonfiction as well. Lavishly illustrated, this solidly researched and concise work is fun to read and a great choice for readers who want to know why we seek out the scary each October.” 

Library Journal

 “If you want to know anything at all about the subject, you ought to find it in Trick or Treat. . . . Morton’s interesting account of Hallowe’en is at its best when it comes up to date and there are many entertaining illustrations.”

Susan Hill | Times

“[Morton] playfully sets the record straight on the origins of Halloween. . . . This book is an excellent example of the scholarship on holidays as a means of accessing many facets of history. Highly recommended.”


“From an authority on Hallowe’en lore comes all you need to know about this ‘misunderstood’ festival. . . . Well written and illustrated, informative and entertaining.”

Fortean Times

"Morton’s excellent history explores Halloween’s origins and traditions as well as its place in popular culture."

PD Smith | Guardian

"Numerous black and white illustrations, references, bibliography, and an index supplement Morton's engaging and solidly researched text. Trick or Treat documents lots of historical tricks and is a wonderful treat for anyone looking beyond the commercial surface of Halloween."

Colin Steele | Canberra Times

 “Full of historical nuggets and strange folklore, Lisa Morton’s Trick or Treat: A History of Halloween is the perfect bible for all devoted disciples of the holiday.”

Michael Dougherty, Writer & Director, "Trick 'r Treat"

 “With Trick or Treat Lisa Morton gives us a charming, creepy, insightful and thoroughly fascinating history of Halloween. It’s a delicious blend of cultural history and pop-culture savvy that is a true delight to read!”

Jonathan Maberry, author of "Flesh and Bone" and "Assassin’s Code"

 “This is an excellent survey of the Halloween scene, informative and accessible, far more treat than trick.”

Kim Newman, author of "Nightmare Movies" and "Anno Dracula"

 “In a modern world, increasingly filled with pop culture fads and gimmicks, Lisa Morton reveals much of the underbelly history and unknown facts regarding the biggest pop culture event in history—Halloween. Her sheer delight and well-researched enthusiasm in tackling many of the unrecognized aspects of this monstrous topic makes one wonder what we don’t know about everything else that should be as commonplace to our psyche as a bag of candy.”

Del Howison, editor of "Dark Delicacies" and "Book of Lists: Horror"

Table of Contents


1. Halloween: The Misunderstood Festival
2. Snap-apple Night and November Eve: Halloween in the British Isles
3. Trick or Treat in the New World
4. La Toussaint, Allerheiligen and Tutti i Santi: The Global Celebration
5. Dias de los Muertos
6. From Burns to Burton: Halloween and Popular Culture

Photo Acknowledgements

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