So, yeah, I vanished without a trace…..or at least not much of one!
But, like some of the dead, I am back!
And in time for ghosts and witches and vampires and other scary characters!!
Are you ready for some frights of truth?!?!?
We are going to explore some of the real stories and legends that have given rise to some of the scariest thrills shared year after year, sure to keep you sleeping with the lights on and double checking all your doors and windows at night!
From dark forests and remote villages across Europe and into America, we are set to find out the truth about tales that haunt our nightmares and delight our desire to scare each other.
Are there more to some ghost stories than just our eyes playing tricks on us? And what made witches so scary in our past? Do the dead really come back to ‘life’?
In addition to telling the tales with expected monsters of legend and lore, we are going to also share with you some scarier characters from the pages of history, that will make you question whom the real monsters are!
Gather your courage and pack up your wit as we set out to find the facts that scare us the most! Be scared of the shadows of the night, but be even more afraid of the ones in the day!
It seems that the night is full of things that we do not see in the light. And it is those things, that it seems, we have been taught to fear, through the ages. All those bumps and thumps, all those shadows and whispers, even the creaks and moans of the night send shivers down our spines. Why is it that we fear the creatures of the night?
Even older than the tells of vampires and ghouls are the legends of were-creatures or shape-shifters. Creatures that by choice, design or fated curse have the power and or ability to change the form of their appearance. For those that were always shape-shifters the power to change their outward appearance is something they do at will. It seems that they usually take the form of an animal, bird or even sea creature, as suits their needs, at the moment. Those shape-shifters that seem to be merciful and or helpful seem to not take forms that would scare us. Yet, it has been known that others are not so kind.
There are creatures that have been cursed, usually by an encounter with a were-creature, that sentences them to a life of torture and solitude. According to some of the lore, one becomes a were-creature by being bitten or scratched by a were-creature. This of course raises the question of where the first were-creature came from, if you must be bitten or scratched by one to become one.
The most famous were-creature is the werewolf or lycanthrope. There are many legends from the Fox tribe of the Americas to the Epic of Gilgamesh that contain references to wolf-man or man-wolf creatures. In addition, Ovid and the Icelandic Sagas contain the werewolf within their lines. In some stories, such as the Fox tribe lore, the ability of man to become wolf was a gift; however, in other lore, such as with Ovid, it was punishment from the gods for bad behavior.
There are many accounts of persons be tried for being a werewolf. Some of these cases we can now more intelligently reassess as serial killers, which steals Jack the Ripper’s fame as the first. And some of these cases were simply the over zealous furor of the witch hunters!
We may never know the true origin of the story, but it seems that if it were merely a tale that it would have lost its appeal by now. So what is the truth that keeps this legend alive? For, I believe there must be some truth, more than just the lure of a good tale, by the fire, in the dead of night, that keeps us looking up at a full moon and peering into the darkness, searching the shadows, for those things that go bump, in the night…..
One of the most prolific scares of the dark is that of encountering the undead! The most famous of the undead is the vampire, but, they are not the only undead that lurk in our shadows and imagination. Several happenings caused the vampire to become widespread in history; not the least of which was the fact that people were accidentally burying the living. The methods for pronouncing a person dead were not accurate or reliable….matter of fact, so common was the misdiagnosis, especially, during cholera outbreaks, that a string was tied around the finger or foot of a newly buried corpse and attached to a bell above ground, so that if the person awoke and panicked they could be heard and hopefully dug up in time, giving birth to the phrases “Saved By The Bell” and “Graveyard Shift”.
Of the other undead roaming in the dark are ghouls and zombies, which seem not to mind the sun, unlike other undead. Ghouls are some of the scariest of the undead, maybe cause they are not as well known as their more famous counterparts. They are also reminiscent of vultures. The ghoul is an ugly creature, who’s appearance represents his true nature. They have long dirty, claw like nails. Their bodies more resemble those of a dog than a human. Most accounts have them with distorted gaits, attributed to all the time they spend in tunnels and other low ceiling dwellings of the dead. However, in a gory way, the ghoul has a specific and sometimes much needed niche in the cycle of death. The ghoul scavenges the dead, he feeds on the flesh of the departed. Want to know more? Mr. Robert Lamb has written a very informative article on Ghoulology 101 that I certainly cannot improve upon and is very worth the read if one finds one’s self in need of ghoul knowledge.
The next of the undead are the zombies. These poor hapless creatures are humans that either through virus or contact or curse were transformed into mindless masses that seek out healthy living humans and attack them. Thus, zombies play on the taboo of cannibalism. Ironically, many ancient cultures believed in the consumption of your enemy. Consuming his blood and or heart as a means to take his strength into your own body. The blood was considered sacred as the source of life or one’s life force. And long before the compilation of Grey’s Anatomy the heart was considered the house of the soul. Even today those things of emotions and more are attributed to the heart, even though medicine tells us it is merely a muscle.
The rock star of the undead world is the lord of the night, the beguiler of innocents, the predator extraordinaire….commonly known as Vampire! (Although I am pretty fond of Frankenstein)
While modern day lore seems to give most credit of the myth of the vampire to Bram Stroker, there have been legends and myths and tells of demons or predators or creatures that are more powerful, faster, and more cunning than regular men. Creatures that seem to never age and appear to be immortal, whom survive by feasting on the blood of living creatures, namely man. But where did these legends originate? And what makes a creature a vampire?
In today’s mythology of Hollywood, the vampire is etherally attractive and charming, is wealthy and powerful, heals extremely quickly and is very hard to kill. Some consider the vampire an undead while others consider them demons. As one strolls through the stories of the ancient past one can see where vampires have always existed. From Shezmu of Egypt, to demons of Greece and Rome, right into the nightmares of Victorian times.
It is that time of year again! The air is crisp and the leaves are turning colors. The harvest is ready and the feasts are being prepared!
Do you have your pumpkins ready for carving? Are your treats handy to prevent the tricks? Are your offerings for the spirits and your ancestors your best?
I hope so!
Have you ever truly wondered why we do the things that we do during this time of year? Our rituals, practices, and stories and where they all come from?
I do. So, I thought being the season, that we might look at how our ancients saw this time of year and how that still lingers in our current society and rituals.
Why do we tell ghost stories?
What did the ancients think of ghosts?
What did ancients do with their dead?
Why they did the things they did?
What did ancients think about death?
What about what happens after death?
As for this time of year…. What did our ancestors think about the cycle of the seasons? What did the ancients think of the coming darkness and cold? What did they think about the coming winter? What did having long periods of darkness through fall and winter mean to them? How did shorter days impact their daily lives during autumn and winter?
When thinking about the ‘holidays’ of this time of year what was the purpose? Why did the ancients celebrate the harvest? Why did our ancestors honor and celebrate their ancestors? Were they guided from loyalty and love or was it fear that moved them?
Speaking of fear…..Who told the first ghost story? When and why was it told? How long have we believed in ghosts? When and where did we create demons? Who was the first ghost? Who was the first demon? Why do we seem to like being scared? Why do we believe in ghouls and goblins and other spectres? Have we always been afraid of the dark?
Do you know…..Why we ‘Trick-or-Treat’? What is a Jack-O-Lantern? What happens on All Hallow’s Eve? Why are bonfires so popular this time of year? What about bobbing for apples? Why do we wear costumes and take to the streets for treats and parties? Is the Boogie Man more active this time of year?
I think it will be fun, if maybe a little scary, to study the spooks and haunts and bumps in the night over the next few weeks so that we might be better in the spirit of the season…….least the spirits be not pleased with us!!!