Let’s start with one thing: I am a Nathan Fielder fan. I watch Nathan For You continuously, always returning to my favorite episodes, my favorite clips. Naturally, his new show The Rehearsal is completely up my alley (even if I did find the finale to be, well, a little too weird.)
But this is not a review of The Rehearsal. Instead, this is a look at one recurring theme in the third episode of the first season of this new Nathan Fielder series. Some fleeting moments focused on one idea: the Satanic origins of Halloween and, more specifically, what one might learn by googling that concept.
Not only did I google this concept after watching the episode, but several friends texted me in advance of my watching it to let me know there I knew going into it that there would be some specific SEO element contained in it. Even if the concept “search engine optimization” wasn’t said out loud at any point during the episode, this was very much an example of SEO in pop culture.
And then, once I watched it, I knew I would have to write about it.
But before I go discuss my take on this as someone who practices search engine optimization in my career while also writing about movies and television—and, on certain occasions, finds ways to write about both movies and SEO at the same time—let’s talk about the specific moments in the episode involving search engine optimization.
How Nathan Fielder (And, Thus, Me) Learned About Halloween’s Satanic Origins
The Halloween conversation occurs throughout the third episode of The Rehearsal, called “Gold Digger”. The episode begins relatively wholesome. Nathan and a child actor pretending to be his son (that’s the most reductive way to put it) jump out to show Angela (the woman pretending to be the child actor’s mother) their Halloween costumes.
She then tells Nathan that she doesn’t celebrate Halloween, explaining: “Because it’s the highest Satanic holiday of the year.”
She follows it up with: “You should google the origins.”
Here’s a YouTube video I put together of all the Satan & Halloween & Google moments:
Later, at the end of the episode, Nathan confronts Angela (the character and real life human being who doesn’t celebrate Halloween) to tell her that he googled Halloween and, well, it’s Celtic. Her response is to simultaneously recommend that he try a “keyword search” of google satanic origins while also reminding him that, well, he’s going to have to dig deep, because Google itself is controlled by the Devil and they don’t want people to find the truth.
Angela does hold to the idea that Google will eventually let you find the truth, but they just want it, you know, to be a little difficult, like, I guess, not a number one ranking for a broad search term.
Naturally, I did what (I thought) anyone would do. I googled “halloween satanic origins.” Then I tried to find any more data I could about this mysterious concept.
Google and the Reality of Halloween’s Secret Origins
One thing I learned is that while halloween origin is searched an average of 8,100 times per month, halloween satanic origins is, according to various search tools at least, searched around 90 times a month.
I was also surprised to learn two things. Somehow, despite this episode of The Rehearsal prominently featuring talk about googling halloween’s satanic origins and, as far as I was concerned, inviting watchers to google this concept:
- The search volume for “halloween origins” was only moderately affected by this episode, and
- Over the weeks since the episode aired, no new articles have been written to re-investigate this concept. (Aside from the standard episode recaps regurgitated by all the websites that traffic in that sort of thing.)
Above is a look at how, on August 1, there was a spike, according to Google Trends. Unclear as of now, in the real data, how much this change means. Plus, Google Trends has the spike registering as just one day, dropping back down quickly.
Note that, if one takes a view of halloween origin in Google Trends for an entire year, there is a big spike every year in Google searches for Halloween’s Satanic Origins… right around Halloween.
Meanwhile, why has the spike in halloween origin dropped off so suddenly? And why aren’t there a ton of articles being written or updated about this? I guess I greatly overestimate either the power of Nathan Fielder or that very few other people care as much as I do. I could end this article right now if I so chose.
But I won’t.
Instead, I kept playing around with keywords related to halloween origin and Satan. I looked at all the relevant the People Also Ask questions (something you can pull using the tool AlsoAsked, which I highly recommend.) And other relevant search terms.
Some things like:
- is halloween satanic (480 searches per month)
- is halloween a satanic holiday (210 searches per month)
- halloween is satanic (170 searches per month)
- what is the origin of halloween (3,600 searches per month)
- where did halloween originate (2,400 searches per month)
But I’m left wondering something else. The accusation Angela brings up at the end of the episode: is Google suppressing information about the true origins of Halloween? And is it because Google is affiliated with Satan?
Is Google Lying About Halloween’s Satanic Origins?
I will now compare and contrast the overall search results for three specific terms:
- halloween origin
- is halloween satanic
- halloween satanic origins
By comparing these, we can get an understanding of the relationship between these three search terms and how Google is deciding what results are shown—to better understand whether Google is indeed suppressing results because of the Devil’s involvement in Halloween.
For this part of the investigation, I’d like to consider a few factors:
- Are ads being shown?
- Is there a featured snippet?
- What People Also Ask questions are appearing?
- Is there a Knowledge Graph panel appearing?
- What other advanced SERP features are in play?
- What other info can I dig up?
To do this next part of the investigation, I decided to test out my own searches in Google Incognito mode, while also using Moz’s SERP Analysis Tool (something you should play around with, if you already don’t), play around with AlsoAsked results, and anything else I can figure out.
What the Satanic Halloween SERPs look like
First, let’s look at the top result of each of these search terms, based on my own (incognito) Google search:
Results for halloween origin
This is by far the most robust of the SERPs we’re going to look at. It’s a lot to try to take it all in, but in this screenshot we have:
- A complicated knowledge panel wrapping around the conventional serps
- A featured snippet above the PAAs
- 2 PAAs
- Then we get into the conventional “blue links”, with history dot com and Wikipedia at the top
It appears this entire Knowledge Panel results from the sub-panel “Origin” for Halloween.
But we aren’t done yet. I can’t just look at my own incognito search and take it as gospel.
Here’s the Moz SERP Analysis for the top half of the halloween origins SERP:
This is showing Moz’s weakness when it comes to fully capturing a SERP as complicated as halloween origin, but we do see mostly the same thing. Featured snippet, 2 PAAs, and in the top 3 blue links we see Wikipedia, History dot com, and Wikipedia.
Here’s the thing to note: nowhere on this result are we seeing anything about Satan. But why? Is it because Google is a liar? Using the logic of Angela, the only next recourse here is to keep Googling.
Results for is halloween satanic
The results for is halloween satanic look entirely different than those of halloween origin.
There is no featured snippet, no knowledge graph, and not even any People Also Ask questions. That, and the results are across the board. Some say “yes, definitely” to Halloween being Satanic while others literally say “Hell, no.”
Moz shows us something similar:
But none of that is enough. I still needed to google the exact Google search that Angela told Nathan he needs to do: halloween satanic origins
Results for halloween satanic origins
This SERP is not as robust as the one for halloween origin, but still contains a lot more than is halloween satanic.
This time, we have:
- A featured snippet
- One conventional “blue link” result
- Four People Also Ask questions (two more than halloween origin)
- And another blue link, this one from Business Insider, promising the “dark history behind Halloween.”
And what does Moz show us?
Something fairly similar, although Moz is not showing the PAAs as being integrated into the conventional results.
In this search for halloween satanic origins, we also see no references directly to Satan or the Devil in any of the title tags or meta descriptions or URLs, but we do see plenty of references to “darkness” and other relevant ideas.
So, what have we learned so far about Halloween’s Satanic Origins?
The one thing I know for sure: there is a ton of stuff on the internet about the origins of Halloween, and there doesn’t seem to be a consensus across websites. The concepts “pagan” and “Celtic” both appear a few times, but so does references to Christianity and Catholicism.
The only thing for me to do now is to look deeper at who is ranking, and why, and what exactly their websites claim.
At this point, I have to focus up. I can’t read every website in every one of these SERPs, so I decided to only choose the top result for each of these search terms. I’m comfortable taking this approach, as Angela herself said that if you google “halloween satanic origins” you’ll find what you’re looking for. So let’s start with the top result for each of these and see where that takes us—and then look at what else we have to investigate.
The top of the halloween origin SERP:
Aside from the knowledge graph info wrapped around this featured snippet, History dot com owns the top position for halloween origin. If you click through to the article, you’ll see this specific excerpt highlighted on the page:
The article itself, intriguingly, has the H1 “Halloween 2022,” which I found surprising, both because it’s History dot com and because this means that they are regularly updating this page. But they’re making no secrets in this being an evergreen page. The URL slug is /topics/halloween/history-of-halloween (no mention of 2022) and the page has existed, ever evolving, since 2009:
As mentioned by Nathan in The Rehearsal—presuming he found his way to this page when he tried to investigate Angela’s claims—this page has no mention of Halloween having satanic origins. It does not mention Satan once, but it does mention “devils” in the context of things people dress up as. Sacrifice and Bohemian Grove also go unmentioned.
The title tag, meanwhile, is: Halloween: Origins, Meaning & Traditions – HISTORY. Yep, right there in the title tag. Halloween: Origins. (And no, they aren’t referring to a Michael Myers film, although I can’t stop thinking about that now.)
So let’s recap on what a few of these key ranking factors are in this article, and add a few more:
- Title Tag: Halloween: Origins, Meaning & Traditions – HISTORY
- H1: Halloween 2022
- URL: topics/halloween/history-of-halloween
- Word Count: 2,941
- Domain Authority: 91
- Number of Backlinks to the Domain: 30 million
- Mentions of Halloween: 86
- Mentions of Origin(s): 11
- Does This Article Claim Halloween’s Origins Are Satanic: No
- Does This Article Give a Clear, Concise Explanation of Halloween’s Origins: Yes.
- Date First Published: November 18, 2009
- Also, yes, History dot com has good page speed, crawlability, indexability, all that.
At this point, I’m not surprised to see History dot com is holding the top position for halloween origin.
But we’re not finished. Angela specifically wanted us to do what she called keyword searches. She wants us to dig deeper. So let’s take a look at the top result for is halloween satanic.
The top of the Is halloween satanic SERP:
You’ll recall that this is the keyword search has does not have a single advanced SERP feature. Nothing but blue links. No ads, no PAAs, nothin’.
Here’s what we see at the top:
Okay, let’s start with the elephant in the room. That excerpt—which is definitely not the meta description for the page—is about Jewish parents rejecting Halloween. And the entire fifth episode of The Rehearsal is about Jewish and Christian parents not seeing eye to eye on holidays. But wait, that’s not what we’re here to discuss. We’re trying to figure out if Halloween is satanic.
Well, this is interesting. Halloween isn’t mentioned in the H1—but guess who is? Satan.
But don’t let this fool you. Reading through the article, it’s a fairly balanced look at Halloween at the center of a culture war. While the article doesn’t say “Halloween is Satanic”, it does pull in anecdotes about a lot of people who do think it’s Satanic, and some pretty choice quotes. Urban legends are mentioned, a rise in Wiccan practices, and even this paragraph:
“To the dismay of evangelical Christians, many gay communities adopted Halloween as a special night for celebration, sponsoring parades and parties before gay pride events became more common, Rogers said. The nation’s largest Halloween parade, in New York City’s Greenwich Village, is expected to attract 2 million attendees this year.“
Huh, okay. I guess this article really was written in 2003.
But note the early paragraph that does provide an origin of Halloween, and doesn’t give the credit to the devil:
“Halloween’s roots go back millenniums and stem from both pagan and Christian traditions. The Celtic festival Samhain was an ancient tradition commemorating the dead. In the eighth century, the Christian Feast of All Saints was moved to Nov. 1, making Oct. 31 ‘All Hallows Eve,’ or ‘Halloween.‘”
So why is this ranking #1 for is halloween satanic? Let’s consider the factors.
- Title Tag: Oct. 31: Satan’s Day or Just Plain Fun? – ABC News
- H1: Oct. 31: Satan’s Day or Just Plain Fun?
- URL: /US/story?id=90178&page=1
- Word Count: 1,348
- Domain Authority: 93
- Number of Backlinks to the Domain: 103 million
- Mentions of Halloween: 35
- Mentions of Origin(s): 2
- Does This Article Claim Halloween’s Origins Are Satanic: No, but it does say a lot of people perceive them as being so
- Does This Article Give a Clear, Concise Explanation of Halloween’s Origins: Yes, but not as good as the History dot com one
- Date First Published: October 31, 2003
And while ABC News isn’t as good of a website overall in terms of structure and crawlability, it’s not awful.
But wait. Angela didn’t want us to google is halloween satanic. She had one very specific keyword search she wanted Nathan to perform.
The top of the halloween satanic origins SERP:
Okay, so this is something I have to address right away. I’ve been working on this article for about a week, and the SERP has changed for halloween satanic origins.
Here’s my (incognito) screenshot from a week ago:
And here’s the one from today:
The featured snippet is gone and the article that was ranking immediately below it has moved to the very top with nothing in its way. I haven’t even clicked into this article yet but I’m scared. “Demonic origins” is right there in the title tag.
Let’s take a look.
Oh boy. This doesn’t look good. Is Angela right? Was the right keyword search the only thing keeping me from the truth all this time? I didn’t recognize www 1 dot cbn dot com in the SERP, but now that I’ve clicked through I know what I’m dealing with: The Christian Perspective.
This is promising! Time to read the article and find out what Halloween’s origin really is.
Right way, it looks like I’m going to get my answer. The first paragraph ends with the question: But where did this dark and creepy holiday begin?
Will the second paragraph answer? Oh, yeah. The whole article is a history of how evil Halloween is, with this being the big nugget:
Halloween is essentially a pagan holiday with some very dark roots, and the modernized version of this celebration of evil is still a cause for concern by many Christians. Some say celebrating it in any form opens your family up to evil influences.
But that’s not enough. The article then links out to this deeper article on the evils of Halloween:
Okay, it’s all coming together now.
But wait, why is Google ranking this #1? Let’s look at what might be playing into this:
- Title Tag: The Demonic Origins of Halloween and How the Church Has Fought to Redeem It
- H1: The Demonic Origins of Halloween and How the Church Has Fought to Redeem It
- URL: /cbnnews/us/2018/october/the-demonic-origins-of-halloween-and-how-the-church-has-fought-to-redeem-it
- Word Count: 987
- Domain Authority: 87
- Number of Backlinks to the Domain: 28 million
- Mentions of Halloween: 11
- Mentions of Origin(s): 1 (but it’s in the title)
- Does This Article Claim Halloween’s Origins Are Satanic: Pretty much.
- Does This Article Give a Clear, Concise Explanation of Halloween’s Origins: It includes the Celtic stuff but then goes pretty big into the demons
- Date First Published: October 30, 2018
Oh, but also this includes a ton of words like demonic, evil, and pagan.
Okay, so what the hell is going on?
I hate to say it, but Angela is right about something here. You google halloween satanic origins and it takes you to an article that says “yes, Halloween is evil” and then that links you to an article that includes lines like:
- Ramirez warns Halloween isn’t just about costumes and candy – there’s a much darker reality.
- Ramirez, now a pastor, knows all about the dark reality of Halloween. He once sacrificed animals as part of satanic rituals and his friends even knew him as “Lucifer’s son.”
- Now as a born again believer, he strongly warns Christians against celebrating Halloween and participating in harvest festivals.
- Anton LaVey, the late founder of the Church of Satan, once said he took joy in believers taking part in the tradition.
Oh, and then that article will take you to one called Paganism and Witchcraft: The Dark Reality of Halloween.
At this point, I’m left with two explanations for what is happening here:
- Angela is confused by why things rank in Google where they do. History dot com has done a better job at ranking for halloween origin by creating a better piece of content for this broader concept and covering all other ranking factors effectively—while Christian Broadcast News has created better content for halloween satanic origins and has effectively covered the ranking factors for that search, or
- Angela is right. Google is controlled by the devil BUT with the right keyword searches you can still find your way to Christian Broadcast News, who will reveal the full truth.
Either way, I think Nathan trusts Google more than he should. But then I have to remember something. Nathan never said he trusted Google. He only used it to google halloween origins because he was following orders: googling what Angela told him to google to find out the secret truth of Halloween.
And there’s only one way to figure which of these two is the truth. We have to google it.
Is Google Controlled by the Devil?
Remember what Angela told Nathan: [Google is] controlled by the devil. There’s only one way to get the answer to this. It worked for halloween satanic origins. I could crack this case too.
I started to type in is google controlled by and immediately learned that there are a lot of other theories about who might control Google.
But I didn’t allow myself to get distracted by all these other things that might control Google. I had to figure out if Google is controlled by the devil.
Here’s the top half of the SERP when I typed in is google controlled by the devil
Let’s break these down:
- Result #1: a somewhat tongue-in-cheek 2004 article looking at the results of Google ranking for “more evil than satan” from CNET, a website that writes about tech and reviews stuff. Mentions the battle between Microsoft and Google.
- Result #2: A Newsweek article about Christian and conservative outrage over a guy whose Google voice assistant didn’t give a satisfactory answer to “Who is Jesus Christ?” Alex Jones is mentioned; the article ultimately lands on the answer that voice search isn’t very accurate. (The article is from 2018.)
- Result #3: Another look at the battle between Google and Microsoft. No mention of Google being literally controlled by the devil.
- Result #4: A thoughtful article with the alarming name “Is Google the Devil?” that ultimately encourages people to think about whether they trust Google or not and what it’s doing with all its info.
This fourth result ended up revealing an argument for why Google could be the devil—but coming at it from a different angle than Angela. While Angela argues Google is suppressing information because of Satan pulling the strings, this article says Google’s clean UX and useful interfaces and wide range of information is what could make it, arguably, evil, in the eyes of some:
“Some would argue that that in and of itself is proof that Google is the devil — or some other nefarious figure of evil. ‘That’s how they get ya,’ they’ll say. And they’ll follow with commentary on the insidious nature of evil.“
From here, I kept digging and found:
- is google evil – 720 searches per month
- google is evil – 1,300 searches per month
- google is the devil – 90 searches per month
- ok google deviled eggs – 40 searches per month
- hey google can I speak to the devil – 30 searches per month
So yeah, people google things related to Google and the devil a lot. And other stuff too. But evil and Satanic and the devil don’t necessarily go hand in hand. People can perceive something as being evil without it being satanic, and vice versa.
One thing I do know is that I haven’t been able to find any clear results, via Google, that prove Google is controlled by the devil. Which means that either my original theory is right and Angela is mistaking search engine algorithms for the devil’s handiwork—or that my inability to find proof that Google is controlled by the devil via Google is evidence of Google being controlled by the devil.
Wanna read more like this? Check out D. F. Lovett’s article Does Jonathan Franzen Know What SEO Is? or Why Doesn’t Google Know About The Hobbit 2: The Desolation of Smaug?
Or if you want more stuff about Halloween, I encourage you to read Understanding Sequels Through the Lens of Halloween.