Lisa Morton's Halloween Books

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Trick or Treat?: A History of Halloween, published by Reaktion Books in October 2012.

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. Includes both color and black and white illustrations, references, bibliography, and index.

  • Winner of the 2012 Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in Non-fiction.
  • Winner of the Halloween Book Festival's 2012 Grand Prize.
  • "Simply the best book about Halloween I have ever read and if you are a fan of the holiday like I am, this is a must add to your library!" - Tim Janson,
  • "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, October 2014
  • "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." - Becky Spratford, Library Journal
  • "Like a candy bag 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
  • "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, Bram Stoker Award-winning editor of Dark Delicacies and Book of Lists: Horror
  • "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, New York Times best-selling author of Flesh & Bone and Assassin's Code
  • "This is an excellent survey of the Hallowe'en scene, informative and accessible, far more treat than trick." - Kim Newman, author of Nightmare Movies and Anno Dracula

Click on the cover above for a high-resolution version

Click here to read an excerpt from Chapter One of Trick or Treat?: A History of Halloween

Click here to read an excerpt from the section on jack-o'-lanterns in Trick or Treat?: A History of Halloween


The Halloween Encyclopedia, 2nd Edition, published by McFarland in Spring 2011.

Now updated to 2010, this second edition includes more than 50 new entries, covering subjects ranging from Folk Art to African American legends. Many existing entries have been expanded and revised, with new entries ("Chronology of Halloween" and "Halloween in Literature and the Arts") in both appendices. Also featured are more than a dozen new illustrations, and an expanded bibliography.

  • "This updated edition of The Halloween Encyclopedia convincingly succeeds the earlier version of Morton's work. While libraries holding the first edition are ably served by its contents, Morton impressively expands the scope of her work to make the second edition the preferred version to have on the shelves." - Greg Matthews, Reference Reviews, January 2013 (Volume 26.5)
  • " impressive number of primary sources...notable for its inclusion of lesser-known historical festivals and celebrations from which many modern-day Halloween traditions have been derived...A well-written resource that will appeal to both students and adults curious about this autumnal celebration." - Jennifer Michaelson, Library Journal, April 15, 2011 (Volume 136, Number 7)
  • "An updated reference source by horror maven Morton, the second edition of this text contains 50 new entries...a good choice for public and school libraries." - Mary Ellen Snodgrass, Booklist Online, October 28, 2011
  • "Thoroughly researched and including scores of illustrations and photographs, this volume is the most complete reference to the holiday available." - Reference & Research Book News, October 2011
  • "Lisa Morton's fun and informative Halloween Encyclopedia moves into its 2nd edition with (almost) everything you wanted to know about the holiday...detailed and well-researched...There is a wealth of information on customs from around the world as well as dozens of photos of vintage Halloween decor, postcards, costumes, masks, and more." - Book Buzz, October 2011
  • "...a valuable addition to most public and school libraries." - American Reference Books Annual, p. 9-10, Vol. 43


The Halloween Encyclopedia, published by McFarland in Fall 2003.

The concept of Halloween as a holiday and cultural phenomenon worthy of serious study is only a few decades old, and only since the mid-1980s have scholars started to accept that Halloween's place in modern society (especially in American society) goes beyond horror fiction and children's books. The first book devoted solely to Halloween was published just over a century ago, and now Halloween has its own encyclopedia.

Major entries include Samhain, the Celtic ancestor of Halloween; witches, a major Christian addition to the mythology of Halloween and one that still generates interest and controversy; skeletons, a universally recognized symbol of death; the Day of the Dead, the Mexican holiday that is often compared to Halloween; the jack-o'-lantern, which has its roots in folktales starring the rascally Jack who always manages somehow to beat the Devil; and trick-or-treating, the most loved and misunderstood American Halloween ritual. Hundreds of small entries cover Halloween history and mythology, fortune-telling lore, harvest legends, and 20th century additions to the holiday's rituals.

  • "...Morton's research extends to Wiccan lore, Celtic observances, and Christian mythology...she writes enthusiastically about folk customs and is sensitive to the controversies surrounding horror literature, witchcraft, and demonism. Without undue pedantry, she explains the house-to-house souling pilgrimage, the incorporation of cabbages in Scottish holidays, the source of the boogeyman in bogs, and the lengthy training of Druid priests...this generously illustrated and indexed overview is a worthy addition to public and school libraries as well as the reference shelves of journalists and leaders of community events."Booklist Reference Books Bulletin Volume 100, Number 14, March 15, 2004)
  • "...Lisa Morton's tome is chock full of interesting facts...adroitly written and impressively researched, the encyclopedia draws on a myriad of works - folklore collections, Catholic and Irish histories, scholarly studies of paganism and witchcraft, newspaper accounts - to cover an impressive range of subjects..."Brutarian Quarterly Number 42, Summer, 2004
  • "Lisa Morton has captured the 'spirit' of this 'hallowed' holiday in her new book. Herein, she's covered every angle (cultural, pop-cultural, historical, spiritual, and traditional 'harvest') of Halloween...Read this book to become an expert on the topic of Halloween!...This isn't just another stale piece of candy. Monster lovers like me, who love Halloween, will find this is one well worthwhile ." - Allen A. Debus, Scary Monsters Magazine Fall 2003
  • "...wonderful images of Halloween...Appendices also add an important and useful element...a well-researched and well-developed work. Not only covering the popular culture's impact on the current holiday, but also exploring how folk traditions from various cultures have woven together to become the holiday we celebrate today...a must have for public libraries." - Tim Daniels, Emerald Reference Reviews Vol. 18, No.2, March 2008

Click here to read excerpts from The Halloween Encyclopedia


A Hallowe'en Anthology: Literary and Historical Writings Over the Centuries, published by McFarland in Spring 2008.

This unique anthology gathers together some of the most intriguing and useful works on the history of Halloween. Ranging from pre-Christian Celtic myths to early 20th century articles, the book's 27 entries include poems, short stories, sections from 19th and 20th century folklore books, a one-act play, Irish and Scottish folk tales, and the first book on the holiday ever published.

Noted works contained in the anthology include William Wells Newell's 1904 study of the history of Jack-o'-lantern legends in "The Ignis Fatuus" and Alexander Montgomerie's oft-quoted 1584 poem "Flyting Against Polwart." Organized chronologically, most works are presented in their entirety and many include extensive annotations designed to make the original source materials more meaningful for modern readers. The book also includes 34 vintage photographs and illustrations.

  • Winner of the 2008 Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in Nonfiction, presented by the Horror Writers Association.
  • Nominated for the 2008 Black Quill Award for "BEST DARK GENRE BOOK OF NON-FICTION", presented by Dark Scribe Magazine.
  • "Wikipedia is awesome, but we still need books...[collects] as complete an anthology as can be found of original mterial related to our favorite fest...for deeper understanding of the folklore, customs and literature related to October 31, this anthology is a must-have all year round." - Liisa Ladouceur, Rue Morgue Magazine Number 83, October 2008
  • "...Morton takes us on a fantastic journey through the evolution of Halloween. The book's twenty-seven entries are an exquisite, thoughtfully selected arrangement...A Hallowe'en Anthology is not simply for adults, but could easily be shared with children of any age, reigniting the tradition of storytelling so lacking in today's modern home...For anyone who enjoys Halloween, I highly recommend selecting this book as part of your holiday reading..." - Gabrielle Faust,, October 30th, 2008
  • "...presents a wealth of Halloween background and lore that includes astonishingly beautiful photo reproductions of Halloween artwork...This Halloween compendium is a magnificent achievement..." - J. L. Comeau, Creature Feature Tomb of Horror

Click here to read excerpts from A Hallowe'en Anthology