Block of the Week: Jack o'Lantern

Pump it up!

Hallowe’en is almost upon us! The spookiest holiday of the year lets us celebrate zombies, spiders, witches, skeletons, and – of course – the most terrifying block that Minecraft has to offer. It’s the Jack o’Lantern. Read on, if you dare...

Now teeeeeeechnically speaking we wrote a bit about the Jack o’Lantern when we covered pumpkin blocks waaaaay back in 2017. But we didn’t actually talk much in that article about the role that Jack o’Lanterns play in Minecraft, so let’s fix that today!

Jack o’Lanterns were added to Minecraft in the Halloween Update, way back in October 2010, making them a little under ten years old. Happy birthday, Jack! They were added alongside a handful of other scary things. Like... er... the entirety of the Nether dimension. And sunrises. And fish.

They’re pretty easy to make. Find a pumpkin – either out in the world, or in a shipwreck, or from a trader, or by growing on yourself from seeds – then use shears on it to carve a spooky face into the front. Finally, stick a candle inside in a crafting grid to light it up.

Alternatively, you can go hunting. You’ll occasionally find a pre-made Jack o’Lantern in the piles of pumpkins which generate in taiga and snowy taiga villages. They’re most easily found at night because Jack o’Lanterns will glow brightly – even under water – and melt snow and ice around them.

As well as lighting, Jack o’Lanterns are used to make golems – of both the snow and iron varieties. Once you’ve stacked up the requisite number of blocks of snow or iron in the right configuration, pop a Jack o’Lantern on top and wait for spooky magic to animate your creation. Pro tip: screaming “It’s alive... IT’S ALLIIIIVEEE” may speed up the process.

My erstwhile colleague Alex explained the creepy story of why Jack o’Lanterns are called Jack o’Lanterns back in 2017, so I won’t repeat that. But I will tell you that back in the early 2000s Nasa’s Spitzer Space Telescope discovered a nebula that looks uncannily like a Jack o’Lantern, including a star at the centre lighting it all up. 

The star, which is huge – about 15 to 20 times more massive than the Sun – is probably responsible for sculpting this cosmic terror, spewing out radiation and particles which cut through the surrounding gas and dust. Studying the baby stars living in the Jack o’Lantern nebula is helping astrophysicists figure out whether stars nearer the middle of the galaxy grow faster or not.

Back in Minecraft, you don’t need to worry about that. But you do need to worry about zombies approaching your home at night. So do yourself a favour and light a Jack o’Lantern and put it outside your door. That way you’ll at least see them coming...

Duncan Geere
Written By
Duncan Geere
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