Vampires, Werewolves & Zombies, Oh My.
Autumn is one of my favorite time of the year. I love the colors of the leaves,pumpkins, mums and cool weather. I also love what Fall bring to us every year other then natures beauty, Halloween. For me it's the scariest and creative time of the year. A time to think about costumes, candy, parties and watch horror movies. We owe this exciting time to the myths of evil spirits and monsters who created the foundation of Halloween. Myths are very interesting but what about the science of how monsters were created. We finally have some science to explain where vampires, werewolves and zombies started in the real world. It's scary thinking about that there might be some truth to monsters but that's what Halloween is all about. Personally I feel it's a mixture of both science and myths that created what Halloween is today. Stories some people believe in and the science explaining where those myths came from.
A Brief History Of Halloween
Halloween originally known as All Hallow's Evening and as Hallowe'en or All Hallows' Eve. From what I've read it originated in the ancient Celtic festival known as Samhain. In Gaelic culture, the festival of Samhain is a celebration of the end of the harvest season. Samhain was a time used to stock of supplies for the winter. For the ancient Gaels believed that on October 31, the worlds of the living and the dead overlapped and the deceased would come back to life and cause destruction such as damaged crops, illnesses and death. Scary.
In these festival bonfires were involved because they believed the fires attracted insects who in return attracted bats to the area. Wearing masks and costumes were in attempts to mimic the evil spirits and appease them.
"Traditional activities include trick-or-treating, bonfires, costume parties, visiting "haunted houses" and carving jack-o-lanterns. Irish and Scottish immigrants carried versions of the tradition to North America in the nineteenth century. Other western countries embraced the holiday in the late twentieth century including Ireland, the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico and the United Kingdom as well as of Australia and New Zealand."~History of Halloween
Halloween history evolved throughout the years which I'm very grateful for, because it's all about fun now, instead of pleasing evil spirits.
A lot of information about the history of Halloween but what about the monsters. Do vampires, werewolves, and zombies really exist? Maybe they do, but not like we were taught to believe. Maybe not like the way the movies and myths have pictured it for us. These stories started some where. There's always a little truth in stories. Maybe some scientific explanation.
Vampires are the most known monsters in Halloween. They've made movies such as Twilight and Buffy the Vampire Slayer popular. Vampires are known to be dead, strong, blood suckers, who only come out at night. They were bitten by another vampire and died but came back to life as a vampire. They don't die naturally, they're actually immortal, unless they're killed by exposure to sunlight, garlic, holy water or direct penetration through the heart with a wooden stake. The question is how did vampires come to life, besides the traits of being dangerous, dark yet fascinating alluring creatures. They also have sharp teeth, pale skin and are sensitive to light.
The scientific culprit for these symptoms is a condition called porphyria which creates vampire traits and behaviors. According to an Articles in Scientific America, "porphyria is actually a term for several diseases which are all caused by irregularities in production of heme, a chemical in blood. Some forms of this condition, such as cutaneous erythropoietic porphyria (CEP), lead to deposition of toxins in the skin. Sufferers are often sensitive to light, since light activates these toxins. When active, toxins eat away at the skin causing disfigurement, including erosion of the lips and gums. These factors could have led to the corpse-like, fanged appearance that we associate with vampires and their dislike of sunlight. Interestingly, people who suffer from porphyria also have an intolerance to foods that have a high sulphur content such as garlic".
So vampires aren't really dangerous creatures who hunt for blood in the night. In the real world it's a medical condition which makes people who are affected very sensitive. However throw in the myths and it changes everything into what we know today, blood sucking vampires.
Werewolves are popular in Halloween but secondary to Vampires. However with movie such as Twilights and An American Werewolf in London, werewolves will always be known as one of the tops scariest monsters of all times. They’re many myths about werewolves, folklorist who wrote "Giants, Monsters, and Dragons,Carol Rose notes that "In ancient Greece it was believed that a person could be transformed by eating the meat of a wolf that had been mixed with that of a human and that the condition was irreversible." Also myths about being cursed and being conceived under a full moon and what only kills a werewolf are silver bullets (just mentioning a few) were some of the legends people believed at one point or another about werewolves.
There are the psychological and imaginary perceptions of werewolves in connection with the full moon. The full moon is believed by some to create crazier times. Especially for people in the health profession and police officers claim those full moon nights are there busiest and most dangerous. Personally, when I was little I was told by my family members that when there was a full moon that’s when the crazy people come out which made me nervous. I can see how werewolves and the full moon connect when it comes to myths. However there are no known facts that the moon makes some people crazy, only people’s imaginations creating stories, such as what I was told when I was little.
There are medical conditions that are associated with the werewolf , one is known as hypertrichosis “wolf syndrome” which creates large amount of long hair and growth on face, and body. Also another condition called lycanthropy which is a when a person believes to be an animal, in rare cases werewolves.
There’s a true story that support the lycanthropy theory which took place in Bedburg, Germany in the late 16th century where a man by the name of Peter Stubbe created chaos by slaughtering cattle, snatching women, children and mutilating them. Peter confessed in his trial that the devil gave him a magic belt of wolf fur at the age of 12. Peter stated "the likeness of a greedy, devouring wolf, strong and mighty, with eyes great and large, which in the night sparkled like brands of fire; a mouth great and wide, with most sharp and cruel teeth; a huge body and mighty paws." Also when he removed the belt he would return to his normal state. He was known as The Werewolf of Bedburg, who was responsible for the deaths of 13 children, two pregnant women and numerous livestock. He was decapitated on Halloween 1589. Considering his confession Stubbe was mentally ill and delusional. Lycanthropy was seen as a curse and seen as evil. Werewolves were believed to be created by witches in these times which put them in the same category. Therefore accused witches and werewolves were placed in the same horrifying and sadistic deaths.
A mental illness created these deaths, Peter Stubbe didn't really turn into a wolf. He was known as a serial killer who believed he turned into a wolf by this magic belt of wolf given by the devil. However, myths of magic being involved still keeps werewolves interesting, mysterious and popular for years to come.
Zombie are very popular during the Halloween season, movies such as Dawn of the Dead and one of my favorites television series, The Walking Dead have made them even more infamous. However, to some people especially in Haiti, zombies are very real, through witchcraft and spells. In Haiti, zombies were people who were brought back to life by bokors also known as voodoo priest as punishment to continue slavery and abuse even at death. Zombies were said to be used as slave in sugar plantations. However, decades westerns didn't consider zombies to be real, only monsters made up for movies and out of people’s imaginations. That changed when a scientist named Wade Davis found out about a powder the made people zombie like, this provided a scientific source for all those zombies stories and myths. Davis didn't believe in voodoo magic but he did believe that this powder poisoned & put victims into a zombie condition. This powder was a powerful neurotoxin called tetrodotoxin. In an article written by Benjamin Radford he stated “He claimed to have infiltrated secret societies of bokors and obtained several samples of the zombie-making powder, which were later chemically analyzed.” Davis did his researched based on his finding on the poison & voodoo priest. He wrote books about his learning but later was challenged on this theory by other scientist claiming his samples weren't sufficient evidence and the amount of tetrodotoxin weren’t enough to put a person into a zombie state and too much would kill a person. After all the speculations Davis still believes in his findings, leaving many people still believing in zombies.
This scientific explanation still keeps people wondering if Zombies exist whether it's magic or a powerful powder causing people to zone out and have zombie behaviors. This really keeps us interested especially in Halloween when anything is possible.
Benjamin Radford, Live Science Contributor http://www.livescience.com/