Torches, pitchforks optional

They are a staple of movies – torches. Whether you’re storming the castle where the mad doctor has been conducting his experiments, or crawling around in caverns and catacombs, you’ve got to have your trusty torch.

My question is this; was there ever a period in history when a torch was ever used in a ultilitarian way? Did folks ever keep a few handy in their abode for nocturnal ventures like we keep a flashlight handy for emergencies? Or would a candle, or just a burning limb from the fire have served for the quick trip outside in the darkness to see what went bump?

I’m guessing a torch would be hard to make (make that a good torch that shed any real light for more than like a minute), perhaps a little dangerous to have lying around, and dangerous to use due to little drippy flaming bits.


A torch is more useful than a candle if you intend to burn down the mad doctor’s castle.

I don’t think they are all that hard to improvise. Wrap a rag around a stick, dip it in pitch and set fire to it. Just common building materials that would likely be fairly easily available.

An interesting website on the construction and use of torches.

Torches were a common method of lighting. Back in the 18th century (and earlier), there was a profession of linkman, whose job was to provide light for people who wanted to travel at night. They might hang around taverns at closing time and charge a fee to guide the patrons home.

Such torches were first introduced, as far as I can tell, in the 1931 Universal version of frankenstein. They were pretty heavily used in other Universal horror flicks afterwards. But in the earlier German film Metropolis, your technology-destroying angry mob didn’t have torches. (Of course, it would’ve seemed out of place in a techno culture, rather than a bucolic one, but there were Japanese lanterns shown in Yoshiwara’s, and people can improvise)

Now that’s an interesting site.

I always figured the peasants stopped to storm the castle on their way home from a* Fackeltanz* (torch dance.)