Have you ever wondered how everybody seems to know all of the famous horror monsters? Why all over the world, the same ghoulies and ghosties seem to plague our nightmares and make us afraid to go out at night? Turns out, some of them have some pretty interesting reasons...
Possibly the most famous supernatural creature of all time, vampires have gotten where they are in our culture thanks to having stories of them that go back thousands of years. Cultures like the Mesopotamians, Norsemen, Hebrews, Ancient Greeks, and Romans all had stories of demonic creatures that come back from the dead. These were often blamed for famine and disease spreading across the land.
The myths we know the best about them originate in medieval times, with accounts coming out of "revenants," undead creatures that came back to drain the life of the living. Superstitions about these creatures spread around the world for the next several hundred years, most notably in the Slavic territories in the east.
Two historical figures that are often linked with vampirism include Count Vlad Tepes, the prince of Wallachia best known as "Vlad The Impaler," who was the inspiration for Bram Stoker's influential novel Dracula, and Countess Elizabeth Bathory of Hungary, a serial killer of young women who was rumored to bathe in the blood of virgins to preserve her youth.
The idea of wolves disguised as men goes back quite a long way! Ancient Germanic tribes believe that the greatest warriors were the wolves of the gods, who could assume human form and smite the tribe's enemies.
As Christianity took over, werewolves became the subject of folk tales. Funnily enough, more than a few accusations of it were probably just a form of Hypertrichosis, a rare condition that causes people to grow massive amounts of hair across their entire bodies.
Classically shown as another way that the dead can come back to life and stalk the living (I'm sure vampires are jealous), the real-life origins of zombies are a lot weirder than you might think.
The term "zombie" (or "zombi" as it was first spelled) is a combination of the Kongo words "nzambi" (god) and "zumbi" (fetish). The legend of dead bodies animated by magic soon moved to Haiti, where supposedly practitioners of black magic called "bokor" would enslave the dead to do their bidding.
While zombies appeared occasionally in the fiction of horror writers like H.P. Lovecraft and Richard Matheson, it wasn't until George Romero's Night of the Living Dead that we got our more modern idea of them.
The rest of these creatures have some fascinating origins too...
Now we know what you're thinking; robots come from humans, right? Well, technically you're right. However, if we break the concept down, the idea of an artificial creature brought to life to carry out its master's will actually has some fascinating historical origins.
The concept of animated beings can be tracked back to characters like Talos, a giant statue brought to life to protect the island of Crete in Greek mythology, or the Golem, a creature in Jewish folklore that's animated from mud and clay. Both are created to serve mankind, but also used by their owners to perform labor and hurt others, predating our conversations about machines and artificial intelligence by centuries.
Of course, the mummies we know best come from Egypt, since we've excavated hundreds of burial sites in the sand over the years. However, there have been mummies found worldwide, with some of the oldest in the world actually being found in Chile!
The Age of Exploration, which led to us finding these ancient tombs, came along with plenty of superstition, as the people who entombed these mummies were often thought to place curses upon the burial sites to ward off anyone who might intrude upon them.
Before we had modern science to explain many of the world's phenomena, a lot of things like disease and famine were often attributed to the works of black magic, creating the first instances of people being accused of being a witch or sorcerer.
Nearly every culture has their version of witches somewhere in their history, whether it's the Baba Yaga of Slavic myth, the Tagati of African myth, the skin-walkers of the Navajo, Kitsunesuki in Japan, or even the Volvas of Norse culture.
With the rise of Christianity, witches were often viewed as having communed with Satan in order to obtain their powers, when in reality many practicing "witches" either worshiped nature and the Earth itself, or were simply women guilty of having knowledge they were forbidden from having. Most infamously, the Salem Witch Trials yielded the deaths of over 60 people.