It’s the end of October…which means monsters are running wild through the streets. Halloween monsters make very popular costumes, films, and books. But, what are the origins of the most popular monsters that haunt us at Halloween?
The term lycanthropy, the ability to turn into a wolf, comes from Ancient Greek. 6 Ancient Greeks and Romans wrote stories about men turning to wolves, including an entire tribe north-east of Scythia that changes into wolves for a few days once a year, and a man who watched his friend transform into a wolf that howled to the moon and ran into the forest. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Werewolf
Frankenstein’s monster doesn’t come from mythology like the other monsters on this list. He comes from a fictional book written in 1818 by Mary Shelley. After getting into a writing competition with Percy Shelley and Lord Byron to see who could write the best horror story, she had a dream about a scientist who created life and was horrified by what he had made. Frankenstein is the name of the scientist and not the monster he creates. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frankenstein
The idea of vampirism has existed in many cultures including Ancient Greeks, Romans, Mesopotamians and Hebrews. Over the Millennia there have been many tales of creatures and demons that consume the blood or flesh of the living. Vampire myths became rampant in the medieval period in Europe. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vampire
Witchcraft has been around since before recorded history and, depending on the culture or time period, they were either revered or vilified. The predominant concept of witchcraft in the Western world comes from the Old Testament laws against witchcraft. The Church pushed the belief from the year 500 to 1750 that witchcraft is evil and associated with the devil. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Witchcraft
We all know that mummies come from Ancient Egypt. During the 19th century, Egyptology became a huge fad in Europe with the discovery of the first tombs and artifacts. Aristocrats would purchase mummies and have unwrapping/observation parties. It was not a surprise when mummies started appearing in horror novels in the 19th century. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mummy
Zombies appear widely in rural Haitian folklore as dead people revived by an act of necromancy of a Voodoo witch. Zombies were featured in George A. Romero’s ‘Night of the Living Dead’ horror film. This is where zombies began to be increasingly linked to consumer culture. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zombie
A Ghost is also known as an apparition, haunt, phantom, poltergeist, shade, specter, spirit, spook, and wraith. It is the soul or spirit of a dead person or animal that can appear to the living. Ghosts have been around since the earliest known civilizations of Sumer, Babylon, Assyria. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghost
The “Clown” character has been around since Ancient Greek and Roman theatre as a “rustic fool”. The clowns we are familiar with are known as circus clowns with painted faces, colourful outfits, and crazy acts. In the 1980’s the “evil clown” archetype was developed in many books, television shows and films featuring an evil clown. Some famous evil clowns include serial killer John Wayne Gacy who was dubbed the Killer Clown, the Joker from “Batman”, and Pennywise from Stephen King’s novel “It”. The concept of evil clowns is associated with the irrational fear of clowns, called coulrophobia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evil_clown
It appears that many of the monsters associated with Halloween originate from ancient times and from many cultures around the world. That is generations of humans hearing folklore and thinking these evil monsters are out to kill us. It’s not shocking that humans have a deep internal fear of things that go bump in the night.
“Behind every tree, there’s a new monster.” – Todd Rundgren