Carved pumpkin lanterns are often seen around Shadgard and other hamlets and villages around the month of Octum. While most see this is a quaint yearly tradition of fun, carving various images into the pumpkin lanterns to impress others, few seem to recall the darker origins of the tradition.
Of course, tales vary regarding the origins of the pumpkin lanterns tradition, but most of the common themes can be cobbled together into a fairly cohesive whole. There are two primary entities involved: The Pumpkin King and a mysterious, powerful wraith who seems to have as many names as there are tales about it. For this telling, we'll just refer to it as simply "the Wraith."
From what can be put together, the Wraith is an ancient, powerful entity. What it ultimately wants can't be pinned down based on the tales - some say it wants to drown the world in nether and turn it into some sort of sinister shadow world. Others say it wishes to feed off the thoughts and memories, or the fears, of mortals, or even their very souls (which leads some to believe the wraith may be one and the same with Malfant or Aranas, or even some sort of combination of both). Whatever its ultimate goal, the Wraith seems to be able to come into power once a year - primarily near the end of the month of Octum - and appears to have a power over lingering souls and shades.
According to the tales, the Wraith nearly succeeded at its nefarious scheme (varying from tale to tale) in ancient times, but was ultimately thwarted by another powerful entity known as the Pumpkin King. This strange creature is described a lordly individual, but with a carved pumpkin for a head, and is often believed to be the master of lost souls that are bound in some way to the mortal world. Naturally, this puts the Pumpkin King and the Wraith at odds, as both seem to lay claim to lost souls.
How it was managed also varies from tale to tale, but the Pumpkin King summarily defeated the Wraith and drove it away, instilling in the Wraith a great fear of the Pumpkin King in the process. Because of this, pumpkin lanterns carved in the King's visage are effective tools in warding off the Wraith and its band of enslaved shades and spirits.
Another individual often associated with all of this is the Headless Lord - a lordly individual with no head that rides a terrifying nightmare steed. Some believe this entity to be the Pumpkin King himself, but most think of it as a different person. Legends tell of an ancient lord who was tasked with delivering vital information to his King regarding an invading army. He rode furiously across the land, desparate to deliver the information in time so that preparations could be made. However, an ambush was set along one of the roads the Lord was riding along, and an attacker leapt out and beheaded the Lord in one swing of a heavy sword. However, the Lord's steed continued galloping, carrying the beheaded Lord along with it, and so determined was the Lord to deliver his message that he continued some semblance of life even beyond death. Unfortunately, without a head, he was unable to guide his steed, and the Headless Lord never reached his King and their kingdom was taken by surprise and destroyed.
The Headless Lord continues searching for his King to this day - and in order to find him, he would certainly benefit from having a head! He seems to have attempted to fashion his own head out of a pumpkin, which he carries with him in one hand, though he seems to have an interest in a real head, and is often reported to attack travelers he passes on the roads, attempting to behead them with his cutlass so he can take their head for his own.
Many associate the Headless Lord with the Pumpkin King, likely due to the similarity of using a carved pumpkin in place of a real head. Some think the Lord is actually the Pumpkin King himself, while others believe the Lord has over the years become a servant of the Pumpkin King in exchange for his carved pumpkin head. Of course, there are various other speculations as well, but these two are the most prominent.