According to the legend, Stingy Jack was a miserly, drunken and thoroughly unpleasant old man who lived in Ireland long ago. Jack is said to have met and gotten the better of the Devil twice during his lifetime. On the first occasion he made the Devil promise to leave him alone for seven years. On the second occasion Jack made the Devil promise never to take his soul.
When Jack eventually died he was not allowed into Heaven because of his wickedness. Desperate for somewhere to stay, Jack went down to Hell. However, the Devil reminded Jack of his promise never to take his soul, telling Jack to go back where he came from, effectively to become a wandering ghost.
Jack protested that it was night time on Earth and he would not be able to see where he was going. The Devil tossed him a lump of coal from the fires of Hell. Jack put it into a turnip that he had been eating, making the world's first jack-o-lantern. Ever since that day, Jack's spirit has been traveling the world, using his jack-o-lantern to light his way, always looking for a place to stay but never finding one.
Some versions of the story say that Stingy Jack's ghost finds a place to stay on one night each year, Halloween night. On that night Jack's spirit takes up residence inside a jack-o-lantern somewhere in the world. So, be careful! Stingy Jack's ghost might be inside that pumpkin in your home!
- In the episode of the animated series The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy Billy and Mandy's Jacked Up Halloween, Jack was a prankster who went too far, resulting in his execution. He then bargained for immortality from the Grim Reaper by stealing Grim's scythe, and refusing to give it back until his demands were met. Grim granted Jack immortality, and then cut off Jack's head as punishment for tricking him. Jack put a pumpkin head on, and because of his appearance, was only able to come out and play tricks on Halloween. The rest of the special involves him seeking revenge for his blight. This version of the story credits him with the creation of the trick part of trick-or-treating .
- Stingy Jack makes an appearance in the Ghostbusters comics.