Halloween is just around the corner! Usually, we associate this time of year with costumes, haunted houses, and trick-or-treating, but there are other sources of spook! Since Halloween comes just before All Saints’ Day, let’s get to know a little more about five saints with stories that contain a bit of faith and a bit of fright.
1. Saint Christina the Astonishing
It’s probably safe to say that you’ve never had a travel experience anything quite like Saint Christina. She died at age 21 after a fatal seizure. At her own funeral, she levitated out of her coffin and condemned the people for their sinful ways. As she put it, an angel carried her away to Hell and Purgatory so that she could see what awaited the sinners on Earth. God gave her a choice: either remain in Heaven or return to Earth to live a life of simplicity and charity. Christina chose the latter, but even with her explanation, people still thought that she was a crazy woman.
Christina would pray high above the trees, pray in the cold river during the winter time, and she would even set herself on fire during fits of agony. Yet she remained unharmed by all the stunts she pulled because of her faith. Truly astonishing.
2. Saint Barbara
The daughter of a rich pagan named Dioscorus, Barbara spent most of her life locked in a tower by her overprotective father. In protest, Barbara secretly converted to Christianity. Enraged by her choice, Dioscorus decided to let his sword do the talking. But before he could kill her, Barbara was saved by a prayer for salvation and a magical portal that transported her out of the tower.
But Dioscorus caught up with her, and Barbara was captured and tortured. Because of her faith, her wounds would miraculously disappear. Dioscorus eventually had enough of her trickery. Barbara was beheaded. Dioscorus thought that he had the last laugh, but he was struck by lightning and consumed by flames. This legend led to Barbara becoming the patron saint of fire and explosives.
3. Saint Denis
Saint Denis was the Bishop of Paris in the third century and tasked with converting people throughout the region. Denis was exceptionally good at his job, which annoyed the local pagans who saw him as a threat. They called for the arrest (and the heads) of Denis and his missionaries.
Beheadings tend to put an end to most people’s ambitions (See Saint Barbara), yet like any good workaholic knows, there is always more work to be done. After being decapitated, Denis reportedly picked up his own head and walked six miles, delivering a sermon the entire way. Ironically, Saint Denis is now known as the patron saint of headaches.
4. Saint Sebastian
Is there such a thing as a zombie saint? Consider the case of Saint Sebastian, a Roman Christian in the third century with an impressive record of converting almost anyone who encountered him — from a mute woman who regained her ability to talk after she became a Christian to a young man named Tiburtius who would later become a saint himself.
But not everyone was impressed with Sebastian, and he was sentenced to death by firing squad. After archers left Sebastian for dead, one of his followers went to find his body and discovered that he was still alive. When he recovered, Sebastian appeared before the emperor and condemned him for his treatment of Christians. Sebastian was then beaten to death by the emperor’s guards and thrown into the sewer. Afterward, one of Sebastian’s followers had a vision of Sebastian telling her the location of his body. Talk about a ghost story.
5. Saint Scholastica
We’ve all had those great conversations with people that we just didn’t want to end. Saint Scholastica took it to the next level. She enjoyed having long talks about sacred texts with her twin brother, Saint Benedict. One day, they had supper together and when Benedict was ready to leave, Scholastica asked him to stay so they could continue to talk. Benedict refused, insisting that he needed to go. At that point, Scholastica closed her hands in prayer, and out of nowhere, a wild storm occurred outside of the house. Benedict asked, “What have you done?” to which she replied, “I asked you and you would not listen; so I asked my God and he did listen. So now go off, if you can, leave me and return to your monastery.” Benedict was out of luck that evening and had no choice but to stay with his sister. Better luck next time, Benedict.
These spooky stories are strange enough to give Stephen King a run for his money, so be sure to add them to your list of essential Halloween tales.
Originally published October 30, 2019.