The yearly Halloween tradition of carving pumpkins into Jack-o-lanterns was originally an Irish ritual, but instead of pumpkins, the folks across the pond took their knives to root vegetables such as the turnip. The friendly grin we see on carved pumpkins today looked far more sinister on the long face of the turnip. The Museum of Country Life in Castlebar, Co Mayo, has one ghoulish example on display. “People do recoil when they see it in the flesh,” Tony Candon, the manager keeper of the museum, tells Irish Times. “There’s a fascination with it – it sends a shiver down the spine. It’s quite small but it’s very powerful.”
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A plaster cast of a carved turnip from Donegal, Ireland. Photo: National Museum of Ireland