Creepy Creatures: History of the 5 Most Common Ones

Halloween is coming, which means… We are finally going to walk down the dark autumn streets waiting for foggy weather to create this special spooky atmosphere, search for pictures of autumn aesthetics and for pumpkin recipes. But the most crucial thing is the horror films we are going to watch.

The horror movie is a pretty popular genre, so it has already spread into many subgenres according to films' plot and characters. Especially the latters: depending on creatures that the story features, you can define it differently. That's quite an important criterion. So, what are the most popular creatures?

by Maria Mamontova


1. Ghosts
Ghost stories are probably the most popular among horrors. They first appeared in mythology of various cultures: Ancient Greek, Roman, Egyptian, and then in the lore of many different people. Death as a phenomenon was always popular because of its obscurity. Such issues as afterlife and spiritual connection brought up many myths, and ghost stories are among them. People always believed that those who have something to hold on to on Earth get stuck between dimensions. As they cannot enter Heaven or Underworld, they exist as ghosts.

However, those are not the ghosts we are used to seeing in horror movies. The prototypes of the modern ones appeared in the nineteenth century when spiritualism and gothic literature gained popularity. Famous sééances are the example of rise of the interest towards paranormal. Later, in the age of silent cinema, first ghost movies were made — a British film A Christmas Carol and a French one The House of Ghosts (1908, both). Mysticism, invisible creatures and oppressiveness recall the atmosphere of classic gothic films, dark and creepy.

Through time, different clichés of what ghosts are and what they look like appeared. They are typically pale half-transparent people in old clothes that were cruelly killed or committed suicide. Modern ghosts, nonetheless, can look like actual people in creepy costumes, so you won't be able to tell the difference before they attack. This is the result of evolution: such characters cause a sense of suspense, which is an important part of horror movies.
2. Vampires
Doppelganger is a creature from German folklore that became popular during the nineteenth century, as spiritualism spreaded. It is a shadow of a person, a fantom that reflects all the traits that its prototype doesn't have, no matter whether those are the positive or the negative ones.

In general, a doppelganger shows people their dark sides or aims they haven't reached. It can also take one's place as, basically, it's identical to the real person. However, a doppelganger is not a human being: it has neither feelings, nor morality. This scares people the most, as a human-looking creature yet not humanic at all causes a dissonance in the human brain. Doppelgangers, just like ghosts and vampires, appeared in silent films. For instance, The Miracle (1912) depicts a nun whose place has been taken by a statue of Saint Mary. A wraith there is a positive character, though the concept is rather dark.
This mainstream character's origins traces back to European lower mythology. However, the vampire is an archetype common for almost every ancient culture. Feeding on the blood or "vital essence" was always considered as something demonic, so the devil was associated with a vampire in folklore of different nations. Though its appearance has changed through times and became much more romanticized, generally a vampire is a pale, human-looking creature with sharp teeth and fangs.
3. Doppelganger
Vampires started to gain popularity during medieval times along with witches. The term, however, was popularized during the 18th century and appeared in gothic literature of the 19th century. For instance, the famous Drakula was first shown in Bram Stoker's 1897 novel. The history of vampire movies is obscure and surrounded by many myths. We consider Nosferato (1922) to be the first vampire movie, but many people claim that Le Manoir du Diable (The Manor of the Devil, 1896) is the first one. Nonetheless, the origin of the creature shown in The Manor is questionable: it is either a vampire or the Devil himself.
4. Zombies
Zombies, or undead, are a classic cliche. Alongside with ghosts, they appear in most ancient myths and legends of various cultures. There are even references to zombies in the Bible, depicting the apocalyptic resurrection of the dead.
5. Mummies
However, the zombie relates mostly to voodoo culture — Haitian folklore. The term has an African origin and appears in the early years of the 19th century. First mention of zombies referred to 1819 when the English poet Robert Southey had written «History of Brazil», where those creatures were described as snake deities. Although that was not the common definition of a carnivorous zombie featured in horror movies, some traits were similar.

Modern zombies appeared on the screens in 1932, when White Zombie was released. The film depicts a transformation of a young woman that became a victim of a voodoo master who experimented with resurrection. Later, in the second half of the twentieth century, zombies were popularized. These creatures gained so much fame that a subgenre of horror movies was created — zombie films. Nowadays they are one of the most popular among horror movies' types
Mummies are Egyptian creatures which are, in fact, the reviving corpses of people who were embalmed and put into sarcophaguses. Mummies appeared in Ancient Egypt mythology as an attempt of explaining mysteries connected to death. Generally they have no folklore prototype which highlights their fictional origin.

In the end of the nineteenth — the beginning of the twentieth century mummies were popularized: Robbing Cleopatra's Tomb (1899) is believed to be the first mummy film. It depicts the resurrected mummy of Cleopatra who was cut to pieces by a robber. After that, with Bram Stoker's novel «The Jewel of Seven Stars» (1903) and the film The Mummy (1932), the creatures became extremely popular. Aesthetics of ancient people mysteriously resurrected along with their exotic appearance drew people's attention, having made mummies a classic.
As you see, the history of various horror creatures is quite complex — in many cases their origins are found in ancient myths and legends. Actually, common fears don't change much throughout history, therefore some characters will always be popular. So, watch horror movies, both old and new, featuring these famous creatures and choose your fighter!
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