A standout among freaks and monsters, the nutritious pumpkin may be Halloween's most famous symbol. The practice of carving and lighting the gourd is a Celtic custom brought to America by Irish immigrants, who used the more-plentiful turnip back home. Glowing, frightening faces emanating from the pumpkins were meant to frighten off the evil spirits thought to roam the streets on Oct. 31, the Celtic New Year's Eve.
They're blind, they hang out in caves and they inspire masked crusaders. But how did bats become associated with Halloween? The winged mammals
can thank vampires for that. Like their Draculian counterparts, a small number
of bat species actually subsist on animal blood - vampire bats have been known
to attack humans on occasion - using sharp teeth to cut into the sleeping
victim. Their nocturnal ways and connection to Ozzy Osbourne probably don't help either.
Forget the pointy black hat and warty nose. Those popular associations are relatively recent compared with the long and often tragic history of witches across the globe. In the past, witches were
thought to possess magical powers connected with the natural world. Like all pagans, they were demonized as heretics by the Christian church, a hunt that reached its apex in medieval Europe and 17th-century America. Good luck picking them out of a crowd today: witch costumes frequently top the list at Halloween.
Kings of the b-movie industry, zombies are individuals who've either had their souls sucked from their bodies or been
revived from the dead through black magic. Zombie culture stems from the voodoo religion of Haiti, where it is still believed that people can fall into mindless trances just like the walking dead we've seen on film (minus the missing limbs and snacking on human flesh). An ethnobotanist investigating the claims in Haiti found a toxic drug that could actually induce a zombie-style catatonic state.
Becoming a real ghost is a bit complicated. First you have to die, maybe tragically, then leave part of your
soul hanging around earth to spook relatives and haunt houses. Of course I would suggest cutting two holes in a sheet for Halloween. From a supposedly scientific angle, parapsychologists argue that energy - including what's in the body - can never be completely destroyed. Society seems to agree: various studies peg belief in ghosts at about 50 percent
They vantto suck your blood, and have for quite some time. Vampires have
popped up in cultural folklore for thousands of years, though the
fanged-and-coiffed version we know comes from the 18th and 19th-century myths of Eastern Europe. There, it was believed that someone who was born with deformities or died an irregular death could, after burial, rise again to
terrorize the living. Vampires were considered "undead" and needed to feast on human blood to remain so
One of those all-encompassing terms for an "evil spirit," a demon can represent anything from a malevolent ghost or fallen angel to a puppet of Satan. Like the notion of evil itself, they have ancient origins and appear in folklore and literature across the world. The demon that possessed Linda Blair in "The Exorcist" is probably pop culture's most famous and most talented, with levitation capability, rotating head and amazing, life-like spewing action!