Jack and the Devil
A Spooky Maryland Story
Jack was a nasty fellow who beat his wife and kids and was an all around bad chap. So the Devil came and hauled the poor fellow away with him. On their way to hell, Jack asked the Devil if he was thirsty, and ol' Lucifer said he was. So Jack somehow persuaded the Devil to turn himself into a coin so Jack could buy them both a drink from a handy tavern. Only Jack stuck the Devil into his coin-purse which had a cross on it, and wouldn't let the Devil out until he agreed to give Jack another 12 months of living. The Devil didn't have much choice in the matter unless he wanted to live forever in a coin purse, so he agreed and Jack let him out.
Jack went back to his wicked ways, figuring he'd repent and get religion during the second half of his stolen year, and that would be good enough to keep the Devil away. Only Jack kept putting off the time when he'd change his ways until one day he opened the door and found the Devil on his threshold. Away went Jack and the Devil, going down to hell. When they passed a great big tree full of apples, Jack asked the Devil if they could get some of the fruit for a snack to eat on their way to perdition. The Devil agreed; so Jack gave the Devil a lift into the branches so he could pick them some fruit. Once the Devil was up the tree, Jack whipped out his jack-knife and carved a cross in the bark so that he couldn't come down.
"Lemme down," shouted the Devil, but Jack wouldn't let him down until the Devil promised to never come after him no more. Then Jack rubbed out the cross carved into the bark until you couldn't see it, and the Devil was free. The Devil stomped off without another word, and Jack could do as he pleased from then on.
Well, Jack got worse and worse as the years rolled by. But all good things come to an end, and Jack's body got so wore out that he died. Jack's spirit went straight to the pearly gates, but Saint Peter refused to let such a wretched fellow into heaven, so Jack was forced to go down to hell. But the Devil barred the door as soon as he saw Jack coming and wouldn't let him into hell either. "Go away and don't come back," the Devil told Jack. "Go back where you came from."
"How am I supposed to get back in the dark?" Jack grumbled. "Give me a lantern."
The Devil threw a chunk of molten fire out to Jack, who took it for his lantern and went back to earth, where he wanders forever through the swamp and marshlands of Earth, a bitter spirit whose only delight is in luring the unwary to their doom with his light.
You can read more Maryland folktales and ghost stories in Spooky Maryland by S.E. Schlosser.