These awesome jack-o’-lanterns were made by a marvelous crew of carvers from Passion for Pumpkins at Roger Williams Park Zoo in Providence, Rhode Island. That’s where the acclaimed Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular takes place. From October 3rd to November 3rd, 5,000 jack-o’-lanterns will be lit in a truly spectacular display of spooky Halloween spirit.

“The crew from Passion for Pumpkins, led by John Reckner, consists of full-time artists and many part-timers who use ballpoint pens, oil-based markers and paring knives to create spectacular pumpkin art. Instead of cutting through the pumpkin, the crew shaves it with a paring knife, which allows them to remove some of the skin. Then, the bottom is cut out and the inside is cleaned, leaving the skin about a quarter of an inch thick. This allows the light bulb to illuminate the image on the outside.”

This year’s theme is “Pumpkinville USA,” so we’re looking forward to photos of pumpkins decorated with all sorts of regional, cultural, and historic American images.

These photos show pumpkins carved during last year’s event, for which the theme was “All the World’s a Stage.” There were scores of stunning jack-o’-lanterns decorated with iconic characters and scenes from movies, TV, and Broadway shows. It probably goes without saying that the Dread Cthulhu pumpkin is our favourite.

Visit My Modern Metropolis to view even more amazing pumpkins from the 2012 Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular.

Cthulhu fthagn.

This awesomely terrifying monstrosity is one of the world’s oldest surviving jack-o’-lanterns. It was carved from a turnip during the 19th century, but we think it looks like something that could’ve been created by Edmund Blackadder’s faithful Baldrick, known for his love of turnips. It’s currently on display at the Museum of Country Life in County Mayo, Ireland.

According to IrishCentral, Irish folklore claims the custom of carving jack-o’-lanterns at Halloween originated in Ireland, where turnips, mangelwurzel or beets were supposedly used before pumpkins came into play:

As the tale goes, a man called Stingy Jack invited the devil for a drink and convinced him to shape-shift into a coin to pay with. When the devil obliged, Jack decided he wanted the coin for other purposes, and kept it in his pocket beside a small, silver cross to prevent it from turning back into the devil.

Jack eventually freed the devil under the condition that he wouldn’t bother Jack for one year, and wouldn’t claim Jack’s soul once he died. The next year, Jack tricked the devil once more by convincing him to climb up a tree to fetch a piece of fruit. When he was up in the tree, Jack carved a cross into the trunk so the devil couldn’t come down until he swore he wouldn’t bother Stingy Jack for another ten years.

When Jack died, God wouldn’t allow him into heaven and the devil wouldn’t allow him into hell. He was instead sent into the eternal night, with a burning coal inside a carved-out turnip to light his way. He’s been roaming the earth ever since. The Irish began to refer to this spooky figure as “Jack of the Lantern,” which then became “Jack O’Lantern.”

Head over to IrishCentral to learn more about this spooky piece of Halloween history.

[via io9]