It’s almost Halloween, which means pumpkins are gracing the stoops and steps of many suburban homes. While some just like having random gourds around the house to get them into a fall mood, others carve pumpkins into ghoulish Jack-o'-lanterns, whose bright orange face has a strangely sinister glow. Since Halloween instills many with a unique sense of terror, it’s not a surprise that several characters throughout fiction have jack-o'-lanterns for heads. After all, what’s scarier than a dude with a hollowed out pumpkin for a head?
Try to keep your head as you read this list of five of our favorite pumpkin headed villains:
The Green Goblin “line” of villains all used a Halloween theme to some extent, but one villain, Jack O'Lantern, took the costume motif to an entirely different level. Jack O'Lantern had an actual flaming pumpkin for a head, courtesy of a specially designed helmet. The Green Goblin knockoff also used pumpkin bombs, in order to really sell the whole “scary pumpkin” theme. Shockingly, more than one person has used the Jack O'Lantern persona, most of whom have either died of ended up hideously disfigured. Hobgoblin murdered the first Jack O'Lantern, the Punisher blew off another Jack O'Lantern’s head off during Civil War and the most recent Jack O'Lantern lost most of his jaw during a fight with Agent Venom.
What if jack-o'-lanterns were scary (but not too scary)? That was the basic premise of Attack of the Jack-O'-Lanterns, a Goosebumps tale of revenge and the alien consumption of fat people. Looking for retribution for previous Halloweens gone horribly wrong, a young girl and her friends kidnap two local children with the help of the Pumpkinheads, strange humanoid creatures with pumpkins for heads. After kidnapping the bullies during the neighborhood’s Trick or Treat, the Pumpkinheads plan to trap the kids in a vicious cycle of eating candy and trick or treating. When the bullies escape, the Pumpkinheads casually reveal themselves as ACTUAL FLESH EATING HUMANS, who have a taste for the overweight and obese. RL Stine, you are a sick, sick bastard.
While the Scarecrow and Tin Man are more popular characters, Jack Pumpkinhead is another manmade... man who lives in the Wonderful World of Oz. Jack was a rickety wooden man with a pumpkin head who first appeared in The Marvelous Land of Oz, the second book in the OZ series. An orphan named Tip created Jack to scare his guardian, a witch named Mombi. However, Mombi decided to use the wooden man as a test subject for “the Powder of Life”, a powder that brought inanimate objects to life. Like most creatures with a vegetable for a head, Jack wasn’t particularly bright, as his intelligence varied by the number of pumpkin seeds in his head. He also didn’t have very many practical skills, save for building houses out of giant vegetables. Despite all that, he still served as a loyal companion in 13 different OZ book and even starred in one book, fittingly titled Jack Pumpkinhead of Oz. Jack inspired an even more popular pumpkin themed character, Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King from Nightmare Before Christmas.
The Headless Horseman
The original man with a pumpkin head, the Headless Horseman has haunted children’s nightmares since 1820, when he appeared in “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”, one of America’s first popular ghost stories. The ghostly equestrian was supposedly a decapitated Hessian soldier, doomed to carry his decapitated head in his arms as he galloped across the countryside. Schoolteacher Ichabod Crane had a fateful encounter with the Headless Horseman after returning from a party in which the lovely Katrina Van Tassel rejected him in favor of Brom Bones. The ghastly ghost chased Crane out of town, tossing his decapitated head at Crane as he crossed the river to alleged safety. Although Crane’s fate wasn’t revealed, the story heavily implied that Bones was the Headless Horseman and used a pumpkin to replicate the soldier’s missing head. Later depictions of the story actually showed the Headless Horseman with a pumpkin on his head, because that visual is a thousand times more scarier than some random Revolutionary War soldier putzing around on a horse. It’s pretty clear what message Washington Irving was trying to teach children while writing “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”: don’t mess with a dude named Brom Bones. He will murder you with a gourd and then blame your disappearance on a ghost.
The Ultraverse was a 1990s line of superhero comics published by Malibu Comics as a rival to Marvel, DC and other superhero universes. Among their….unique cast of characters was Lord Pumpkin, an evil extradimensional character with a pumpkin for a head. Lord Pumpkin was originally a magical creature created as the toy for a sadistic prince, but rebelled after the prince tortured him one too many times. After conquering his realm, Lord Pumpkin eventually made his way to Earth, where he became a recurring foe for the Ultraforce, the main group of heroes in the Ultraverse. Like every EXTREME 90’s character, Lord Pumpkin had plenty of dark/extreme powers. He could shoot fire out of his mouth, use dark magic and reconstitute his body using pumpkin seeds, making him practically immortal. Lord Pumpkin is killed during the Godwheel crossover series after killing the superhero Flygirl.