The monsters of our ancestors still remain along with their legends except for the dynamics which have changed. Like how mankind once feared giants: man-eating Cyclopes, Sea Beasts, and Radioactive Dinosaurs which are now starting to turn more and more towards the friendly side. Other monsters have evolved while still many others remain the same. Here’s a rundown of the best.
The Witch in drama circles is a psychological monster created by the hysteria of paranoid Christians; while in horror, the witch has a tendency to lean towards magic and Satan worship. This stereotype has always plagued the witch from Shakespeare’s Macbeth to Arthur Miller’s The Crucible.
But the Witch has evolved to include Satanists, Templars, Gnostics; and any other cults and alternative religions persecuted. In horror, this includes stories involving human sacrifice and ritualistic murder.
The Mad Scientist & his Monster
The mad scientist is one of the oldest of villains that dates back probably to the time of wizards and alchemists. It has taken on many different forms and still exists today not as much in modern horror but in thrillers and action films that deal with elements of computer hacking whose monster is the computer virus. The exception to this rule in modern horror deals with the Zombies and the creation of a Zombie Virus.
One of the oldest mad scientist stories is the German folktale of Faust, the Scientist who sold his soul to the devil. The problem with Faust is that it played on the mystical side of the Mad Scientist (Mad Wizard). This would change with Mary Shelly’s Novel Frankenstein whose monster shifted away from the mystical and more towards modern science.
Zombies are relatively new in horror. The folklore surrounding zombies comes from Haitian Voodoo magic in the form of a tonic that turns its victims into mindless slaves. This is far different than the modern day zombie, however, the fear of being enslaved was all too real back in those days.
The modern day zombie myth often deals with a mad scientist or laboratory creating a virus or cell mutation that leads to an all-out outbreak and collapse of society. Rabies has also been used as a substitute for the zombie virus. But the idea of a disease turning humans into mindless cannibals shows our continuing fear of a global plague.
Werewolf legends are found all over the world including in Native American Folk-Lore like that found in the Twilight series. Like the mad scientist, they’ve always been around and like the Mad Scientist, are flexible. Dr. Jackle and Mr. Hyde is a great example that fuses both man and the beast within. Playing off our fear of our animal instincts out of control.
But werewolves have been replaced by aliens in recent years who use humans as hosts or take on different forms like that found in the terminator movies. The fear of our animal instincts replaced by forces at work far greater we then we can understand has come to dominate this traditional monster.
Cursed items especially dolls but also paintings, old texts and other objects will always capture our imagination. The cursed ring of Sigfreud in Germanic mythology or the Ouji Board will always play off our primal fear of trying to manipulate forces we don’t understand.
The Cursed Item is unique because it can itself be powerful and even intelligent, or it can be haunted like the Genies lamp or the puzzle from Clive Barker’s Hellbound Heart. The magical aspects of the cursed item are boundless because it is a magic item, a common characteristic found in heroic mythology.
However, the cursed item as pure magic hasn’t slowed down its evolution. The cursed items of today are robots found in stories like 2001: A Space Odyssey and I, Robot; and computer software in movies like the Terminator.
Ghost stories are common the world over from every time period imaginable. This is probably the reason why we have such an obsession with ghosts. We want to believe them, but don’t have the scientific evidence which makes it that much more mysterious.
Ghosts are one of the most common monsters in fiction and also it’s most flexible. Ghosts show up in any genre. Their role in horror even varies. The ghost can be the hero, a villain, an obstacle or even an object. The ghost is universal.
Supernatural Differences between the Ghost Family.
Ghosts are non-physical entities that affect our physical senses. Haunted are places and objects controlled by ghosts. Demons are powerful ghosts capable of physical harm.
Haunted Places, Haunted Houses, and Ghostships being the most common, are like cursed items you visit instead of put in your pocket. Cursed items also don’t have to be haunted, unlike haunted places.
Haunted places were a common belief in ancient times where palaces were built for kings in the afterlife.
Haunted places include castles, houses, Ghostships like the Flying Dutchman and even Battlegrounds like Gettysburg.
Neglected buildings with super technology gone awry or spaceships unmanned by a heartless death machine would count as the Science Fiction extension of this.
Demons and Devils
The deepest one dares to tread in the realms of dark fantasy and supernatural terror is the world where magic and reality merge into psychological chaos. The most dangerous are the ancient evils whose names we dare not speak. This includes demons, Satan, etc.
These powerful entities of evil can be found in the magical texts of many religions and cultures. The middle ages saw a growth of these texts, and grimoires or dark books of magic were common by the late Renaissance.
They show up in fiction later in stories such as Faust. H P Lovecraft was one of the great horror writers of this type of Demonology and created the Cthulhu Mythos and the famous Grimoires The Necronomicon.
Serial Killers have probably existed for a long time but don’t really show up until modern literature with the success of Novels like Psycho, Silence of the Lambs, and American Psycho. Yet, the serial killer hits close to home because it’s a real life monster.
The most popular monster of all time is probably the vampire. The story of the vampire farther back than Bram Stoker. One of the first Vampire stories was written during a stormy night to entertain the Shelly’s. It was the same night Mary recited her first draft of what would later become the novel, Frankenstein.
Bram Stoker would immortalize the vampire legend with his famous Dracula novel. However, vampires have sustained a mainstream following ever since and have spawned novels such as Interview with a Vampire and movies like Let the Right One In.
This endless success in all areas of fiction from literature to movies to comics books and art for the past two hundred years makes vampires histories greatest monster who prey not on your fears but on your desires