Facts About Classic Halloween Creatures That Make Us Say, 'Oooooh!'
Vote up the most unexpected origins of these classic Halloween monsters.
Ghosts, vampires, mummies, witches - the classic line-up for a good ol' Halloween bash. We've grown up loving (and fearing) these creatures, but do we know where their stories really came from?
How did witches become associated with brooms? And black cats? How long have ghosts haunted people? Was the Headless Horseman based on a real person? Were mummies neighbors of the living? (That one might freak you out a little.)
So, if you're a Halloween lover, read on - and be sure to share your favorite spooky fun fact at your yearly costume party.
- Photo: Sleepy Hollow / Paramount Pictures1243 VOTES
The Scottish 'Headless Horseman' Originated From A Battle On The Isle Of Mull In 1538
"The Headless Horseman" is a fabled creature that has long scared children every October. The unlucky bloke who inspired the story was one Eoghan a’Chinn Bhig, or Ewen of the Little Head. Ewen's wife repeatedly pushed him to ask for more land from his father, and each time he requested more land, his father refused.
This back and forth reached a tipping point when his father had finally had enough - and back then, that meant an armored confrontation to figure out clan disputes.
The day before the battle, Ewen was riding on his horse when he came upon a fairy, who could see the future. She told Ewen that the next morning, if butter was placed before him at the breakfast table, he would prevail. If he had to ask for butter, he would lose.
The next day, Ewen forgot all about her words - until he had to ask for butter. Now, going onto the battlefield he was worried - but he charged ahead anyway.
This was his downfall - when charging into the thick of the fight, Ewen was left vulnerable - and an opposing clansman swung his sword and chopped his head clean off.
Ewen's horse was so startled by the ordeal that he kept running with Ewen's headless body for miles - creating the basis for the spooky tale.
- Photo: Philip Burne-Jones / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain2207 VOTES
Our Image Of The Female Vampire May Originate With The Hindu Goddess Kali
When we think of a vampire, one of their most pronounced features is their large, sharp fangs. How else would they be able to get access to the blood they so crave?
While there have been multiple sources for our modern picture of vampires, one influence was from descriptions of Kali, the Hindu goddess of death and destruction. Kali was said to have bloodstained fangs, a skirt or girdle of human arms, and a necklace of decapitated heads.
One of the most famous stories of Kali was when she was fighting a demon, Raktabija (or “blood-seed”). Every time Raktabija's blood touched the ground, another demon would spring up to life. So, Kali had the brilliant idea to jump upon the beast and drink every drop of blood from its body. When she was done, he could no longer reanimate, and Kali was victorious.
- Photo: John Dickson Batten / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain3150 VOTES
The Oldest Mythological Creature In North America is the Pukwudgie, A 3-Foot Goblin
Every region has its own monster: the Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot, the Yeti.
In North America, the earliest detailed monster is the Pukwudgie, a short, human-like creature with a dog-like nose. Some accounts say they look half-porcupine, and that they can have smooth gray skin that can glow.
The stories of the Pukwudgie originated with the Wampanoag, Mohican, and Algonquin people. However, they don't all believe the same thing when it comes to the mischievous little creatures. The Great Lake tribes believe that they can be troublesome, but are overall harmless. The Northeast Algonquian people, on the other hand, believe the Pukwudgies will become violent if provoked, but will leave you alone if you leave them alone.
Many sightings of the Pukwudgie come from Massachusetts, where this is an actual Pukwudgie crossing sign that was been put up in an area with particularly high sightings.
- Photo: R. Prowse / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain4171 VOTES
Banshees Could Be Both Guardian-Type Creatures As Well As Harbingers Of Death
In Irish folklore, a banshee was a woman of some kind - young, old, beautiful, haggard - who often had long hair and would scream bloody murder. (Quite literally, in fact.)
Yes, the banshee's scream was only heard before an impending death within a family. Oftentimes, it was believed that only the person about to die could hear the banshee's cries.
Many of us have heard of a banshee being bad or evil; these were women who hated their families in their lifetime, and could now haunt them with great delight. However, there could also be kind banshees, whose songs were filled with sorrow and love for the soon-to-be departed loved one.
It seems the banshee legend may have spurned from the 8th century, when women would be paid to sing tribute to a lost loved one. Some of these women accepted alcohol as payment; and because of this “unsavory” exchange, the women were looked down on, and eventually became inspiration for the screaming creatures of death.
- Photo: Frankenstein / Universal Pictures5186 VOTES
Mary Shelley's 'Frankenstein' And Polidori's 'The Vampyre' Were Inspired On The Same Holiday Vacation
The year of 1816 was known as “the year without a summer.” Mount Tambora had erupted in Indonesia the year prior, and its volcanic ash had cooled the entire planet's temperature.
So, what would have normally been a warm holiday to Lake Geneva turned out to be a dark and cold endeavor. With this weather as the backdrop, Mary Shelley, her future husband Percy Bysshe Shelley, Lord Byron, and Dr. John Polidori all needed some other way to spend their time on their vacation.
Lord Byron suggested a ghost story competition, and Shelley's Frankenstein was born. Yet, during this writing session, Polidori also got this inspiration for his short prose work The Vampyre.
The Vampyre was a source of inspiration for Bram Stoker while writing Dracula, which was released almost 80 years after Polidori's work.
- Photo: British Museum / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA 3.06173 VOTES
The South American Chinchorro People Were Making Mummies 2,000 Years Before The Egyptians Did (And May Have Openly Lived Among The Bodies)
The Chinchorro people lived in modern-day Peru and Chile over 7,000 years ago. Around 5,000 BCE, it seems that their climate started becoming less harsh - allowing the population to flourish. But more people meant more dead bodies - and in the desert-like conditions of their environment, these bodies didn't decompose.
It's been theorized that this lack of decomposition is what led the Chinchorro people to start mummifying their dead. Since the bodies were around a long time (and the Chinchorro people dug shallow graves) it's believed that the community may have lived their daily lives amongst the dead as they resurfaced to the Earth.
Because of this, they wanted to make sure their dead looked good.
This involved an extensive process of removing the organs, packing the body with clay, sewing the skin back up, painting the body black, and placing wigs on the bodies. This process was extended to all people who died - no matter the class or age.