The Hidden Origins of Halloween’s Spookiest Creatures

The Hidden Origins of Halloween's Spookiest Creatures

We love to dress as our favorite scary monsters for Halloween. But where did they came from, anyway? Find out the secret stories of these supernatural beings, from ancient myths to modern incarnations. Get ready to be spooked!

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Halloween design background with , naked trees, and bats and moonkim7/Shutterstock

Long before Edward Cullen and the Twilight vampires, Slavic folklore came up with the idea of the dead drinking the blood of the living in order to explain contagious diseases. If someone in a village died and then someone else became sick, it was blamed on the deceased coming back to harm them. Grisly rituals were then performed on the body to stop them preying on the living, desecrations that were later also done in western Europe and even in America to quell supposed vampirism. But Irish author Bram Stoker and his popular 1897 novel Dracula, inspired by this folklore and allegedly the brutal medieval ruler Vlad the Impaler, brought vampires into the mainstream. Countless Dracula movie adaptations and new blood-sucking characters keep the creatures in our modern midst. Check out these vampire legends that are actually based on truth.


photo of creepy voodoo doll on wooden floorFer Gregory/Shutterstock

Although modern zombies are not very smart and easy to kill, their sheer numbers can overpower and then consume the living. The origin of zombies, while a bit less gory, is just as horrific: Slaves in Haiti, drawing on African religion, developed the idea as a metaphor for the brutal conditions they lived under. This story was incorporated into the voodoo religion of the Caribbean, South America, and the southern United States—and even had some basis in fact. Voodoo practitioners called bokors were said to employ a deadly neurotoxin called tetrodotoxin that can actually inflict a temporary death-like paralysis from which the subject will later awaken. Modern interpretations of the zombie, starting with the 1968 film Night of the Living Dead and continuing with today's The Walking Dead comic books and TV show, use the zombie legend to explore new fears of contagion, nuclear war, a post-apocalyptic future, and even suburban boredom. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has also gotten in on the fun with its "zombie preparedness" website.


EgyptStefano Rulli/Shutterstock

The ancient Egyptians preserved bodies and buried them with all the goods they would need for the afterlife in hidden tombs in the desert. The idea of a mummy's curse, in which misfortune would befall anyone who opened a tomb, gained popularity as the Egyptology craze began in the nineteenth century, after the Rosetta Stone's discovery unlocked the ancient Egyptian language. One 1912 article from The Washington Post even blamed the sinking of the Titanic on a mummy's curse. But it was the discovery of the undisturbed tomb of King Tutankhamun in 1922 that really gave the "curse of the pharaoh" life—especially after expedition financier Lord Carnarvon died from blood poisoning a year after the tomb was opened. Hollywood capitalized on this mummy hysteria a decade later with 1932's The Mummy starring Boris Karloff, and the tale lives on as an example of the perils of human hubris.

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