Krampus

Krampus Stuffing Child into Basket
Krampus Stuffing Child into Basket

Date of Discovery

If you believe the idea that the Wild Man could, in fact, be the predecessor or most ancient embodiment of the Christmas Devil, then the first report of his existence dates back to 2000 BCE.

Name

Krampus actually goes by several different names, including Knecht Ruprecht, Certa, Perchten, Black Peter, Schmutzli, Pelznickel, and Klaubauf. There is also a record of him being referred to as the Wild Man, but it is unsure if these legends refer to Krampus himself, or Bigfoot. Krampus and Bigfoot are considered distinctly separate creatures.

The name Krampus is derived from the German word krampen which means, “claw.”

Physical Description

Der Weihnachtsmann und Krampus
Der Weihnachtsmann und Krampus
(St. Nicholas and Krampus)

Krampus is typically portrayed as a monstrously large, muscled, dark half-goat, half-demon, with horns, fangs, and a ridiculously long tongue. He’s seen as the anti-St. Nicholas who carries a chain with bells to announce his arrival, as well as a wicker basket or, in some cultures, a bag and bundle of birch sticks so he can mercilessly beat naughty children and then haul them to the underworld.

Origin

The origin of Krampus as he is known today relates heavily to German folklore that celebrates Krampus with a December 5th holiday celebration called Krampusnacht, where children placed their shoes out to see whether or not they have been naughty or nice. If a child had been naughty, they would receive either a rod or piece of coal, where good children would receive candies or some other type of sweet treat.

Mythology and Lore

Due to the possible spread of misinformation on the internet, it has recently been proposed that Krampus is the son of Hel, a Norse goddess of the underworld–so much so that it has appeared in articles in National Geographic and Smithsonian Magazine. That claim, however, is not necessarily as factual as it may seem–those who know Norse Mythology either have no record of this part of the mythology or vehemently rebuke the idea.

Instead, Krampus is the Christmas Devil–the evil counterpart of St. Nicholas or Santa Claus whom aside, from leaving children an indicator of their behavior throughout the year, would gather bratty and naughty children into a sack or wicker basket, beat them with the birch sticks he carried and the drag them off to hell.

It’s a popular event in countries such as Austria, Germany, Hungary, and the Czech Republic for men to dress in a Krampus costume and take part in an event called Krampuslauf. Typically this is celebrated as a sort of parade of Krampus monsters as a way to bring back old traditions.

Mythological Timeline

The people over at the Official Krampus website gave a timeline of how the mythology of the Krampus legend is believed to have evolved. There are several references that might indeed be speaking of what we now call Bigfoot, which is also referenced to the Wild Man.

Krampus Chasing a Child
Krampus Chasing a Child on a German Krampusnacht Postcard

2000 BCE

  • In the Epic of Gilgamesh, Enkidu is considered the earliest known appearance of the Wild Man within folklore.

600 BCE 

  • Within the Old Testament, in the Book of Daniel, the Christian mythos tells of when God punished King Nebuchadnezzar for his pride and turned him into a hairy beast.

217 BCE 

  • Saturnalia, a pagan holiday within the month of December is officially introduced in Rome as the official winter celebration. It established one of the first instances of social role reversals where the slave became the master and vice versa. People would throw wild parties and give gifts to one another.

300s

  • Around five hundred years after the introduction of Saturnalia to Rome, the Romans had actually converted to Christianity–with their influence, they converted many Germanic tribes to Christianity. Their pagan roots survived only in small remote villages within the Alps where the Church could not gain favor.

1250

  • Konungs skuggsjá, or King’s Mirror–a historical Norwegian text in which the Wild Man appears, described as being covered in hair.

1600s

  • The first appearance of Krampus as Knecht Ruprecht within the Christmas procession in Nuremberg.

Early 1800s

  • When the Brothers Grimm began recording and publishing Germanic Folktales, acceptance began to be re-established within the culture. Jacob Grimm even mentioned Krampus within his Deutsche mythologie.
  • Within this time postcards celebrating Krampusnacht were introduced into the culture of Austria, Germany and other parts of Europe which officially initiated the recognition of Krampus and other companions of St. Nicholas.
  • When German and Dutch immigrants began to arrive in the US, they also brought the popularity of Pelznickel traditions to Pennsylvania, and Maryland which spread as far west as Indiana.

2004

  • A collection of vintage Krampus postcards from the 1800s was published by Monte Beauchamp as Devil in Design. This would mark the growth of the popularity of Krampus within the English speaking world.
  • The Venture Bros., an Adult Swim Network show featured Krampus during a Christmas special.

2007

  • Supernatural, an American television show based on the unexplainable supernatural mythos of the world, they showcased Krampus as a diabolical monster they had to defeat.

2009

  • Stephen Colbert, an American comedian, brought Krampus on to his television show The Colbert Report.

2013

  • Krampus was featured twice within American television, by appearing both on Grimm and the animated television series American Dad.

2015

  • The movie Krampus was released as a horror/comedy fusion.

Modern Pop-Culture References

Books & Literature

Movies

Television Series



Is there anything we missed about Krampus? Let us know in the comments section below!

Looking At Satanic Worship, Demons, and Dark Magic Through History and Films

Categories
Horror Mystery and Lore Lifestyle Scary Movies and Series

There is always a cause for panic for some when the words “Satanic” or “Devil” worship is uttered—people have gone to jail over such accusations of satanic crimes as recently as the 1990s. The so-called “Satanic Panic” of the eighties and nineties pursued an imaginary evil, yet left so many innocent lives ruined. Unlike the cults that led the victims of Jim Jones, a cult leader who instigated the massacre of Jonestown and inspired movies like Jonestown (2013), the satanic cults that exist in popular culture simply do not exist in real life.

How Devil Worship is Depicted in Popular Culture and Mainstream Media

There’s a lot to say about Satanism versus the ever-so-popular concept of devil worship. The long and tumultuous history of the latter is one based on the religious bias of dominant religions, unfairly painted as being so evil that words “demonic,” or “satanic,” became synonymous with the worst type of evil imaginable. So, where did this image really come from?

Satanic Panic

Unfortunately, the myths that surround Satanism as imagined by Hollywood and religious fear-mongers, continue to be a problem today—these media portrayals are simultaneously entertaining and besmirching, leaving people to accept any negative aspect about topics such as Satanism as truth, without regarding the possibility that much of it could just be associated with teenage rebellion or misunderstood alternative religious beliefs.  During the eighties and early nineties, much like the red scare of the forties and early fifties, Satanists were the hidden boogie-man in everyone’s neighborhood. For many innocent men and women convicted of satanic crimes, it was a literal witch hunt, they became everyone’s favorite scapegoat.

For the people on the accusing end, it’s easy to see how fear and superstition could easily overcome their ability to process things within reason and proceed logically. This widespread panic pit people against each other, because without a designated cult leader, there was a chance anyone you knew might have been a Satanist and no one was above suspicion. The problem with this hypervigilance was that most of the accusations were of child molestation, abuse, and various other obscene activities that were done deliberately involving minors. The made the children who were really suffering, whose validity was already under question, seem like they weren’t genuine cases. Although less frequent now in the United States, especially since Satanism became a federally recognized religion.

The generic reaction to the idea of Satanism, or “devil-worship,” during the time of the Satanic Panic.

Religious Satanism

A considerably newer concept is the formation of Satanism as a recognizable religion. It’s said that modern Satanism was born from the literary movement in the later parts of the 1600s that started with John Milton’s pitiable portrayal of Lucifer, in Paradise Lost (1667). Despite his Puritanical beliefs, he started a new way of characterizing the Devil—a sympathetic one.

Atheistic Satanism

While it may seem like a foreign concept to those not, “in the know,” a larger portion of Satanists don’t actually believe Satan to actually be a god, or entity at all—in fact, he’s more of an idea, or a symbol, one that embodies what they stand for.

LaVeyan Satanism and the Church of Satan

The Sigil of Baphomet
The Sigil of Baphomet

After Anton LaVey established the Church of Satan in 1966, he became known as the “Father of Satanism,” following this, he published The Satanic Bible in 1969. The LaVeyan Satanic theology consisted of teachings that provided a base code of ethics for believers to follow. These teachings promoted undefiled wisdom, which was insistent upon gaining knowledge without bias, indulgence (not compulsion) in things that create happiness, kindness to those who deserve it, a responsibility to the responsible, and an eye for an eye mentality. Things that are shunned, or generally looked down upon are the ideas of abstinence based on guilt, spirituality, unconditional love, pacifism, equality, herd mentality, and scapegoating—which are all ideologies that, according to LaVey deny people of their natural animalistic instincts.

The Satanist, in accordance with LaVeyan theological viewpoints, is a carnal, physical and pragmatic being. Being able to physically enjoy existence with an undiluted view of the worldly truths is promoted as the core values of Satanism, which propagates the naturalistic worldview that sees mankind as animals existing in an amoral universe. After LaVey’s death in 1997, the church was moved to New York and taken over by a new administration; suffice it to say, LaVey’s daughter didn’t appreciate this change and founded the First Satanic Church in honor of her father in 1999 which she continues to run out of San Francisco.

The Satanic Temple
Sigil of the Satanic Temple

The Satanic Temple

Another atheistic institution of Satan is the Satanic Temple—it is more of a political activist organization rather than a religious movement. The focus of their fury lies solely in the waves they can make in the political and social spectrums with special regard to separation of church and removing restrictions on personal freedoms. In such ways, the Satanic Temple serves as a way for followers to rebel against arbitrary authority and social norms. They have made an effort to be a voice for the people and denounce oppressive laws and religious persecutions.

Theistic Satanism

Even though theistic Satanism is the thing that most people actually fear, theistic Satanists make up the smallest number of those who call themselves Satanists at all. Theistic Satanism is what could also be referred to as traditional Satanism, Spiritual Satanism, or “devil worship,” that so many people still fear today. Their beliefs have a Satan-centric view of religion, where Satan is a deity to revere. Most of these traditional Satanists incorporate a belief of magic into their religion, but the main thing that they all have in common is that they consider themselves devotees to Satan.

Luciferianism

Sigil of Lucifer
Sigil of Lucifer

One of the forms of traditional Satanism, is Luciferianism, a belief system that takes aspects of that are most commonly associated with Lucifer and venerate him as a higher being. Although there is little difference between the concepts of Lucifer and Satan, they are not always characterized in the same light—that is to say that Satan is the embodiment of evil in most common characterizations of him, whereas Lucifer is considered the “light-bearer,” or an angel who has fallen from grace. Within Luciferianism, there are those who venerate one concept or the other, but not both simultaneously. The tradition most typically reveres Lucifer not as the devil he’s depicted to be, but as a being who will liberate and guide his followers, replacing the Christian God, or “true god,” with Lucifer being the good guy in the story that traditional Christians adhere to.

Order of Nine Angles

Sigil of the Order of the Nine Angles
Sigil of the Order of the Nine Angles

Based in the United Kingdom, with associated organizations in other parts of the world, the Order of the Nine Angles claims to have been established in the 1960s. It wasn’t until the 1980s when the Order gained public recognition; the political activism and ideologies that it showcased to the world during this time had a huge neo-Nazi affiliation. The Order of Nine Angles describes its approach to religion as traditional Satanism, but academics have been known to associate it more with hermetic and pagan practices.

The Order established advocacy for a spiritual path in which the practitioner is required to break any and all societal taboos. They are encouraged to isolate themselves from society, commit crimes, embracing political extremism and violence, as well as carry out acts of human sacrifice. For these reasons, this branch of Satanism has been described as being the most extreme and dangerous group, under the theistic Satanism umbrella, in the world. So when people immediately jump to “devil-worship,” it is likely that they are considering the Order of Nine Angles without even realizing it; as the least popular sect of Satanism to be a part of, it is the most popular when referencing in popular culture.

Temple of Set                                                 

Inverted Pentacle
Inverted Pentacle

Established in 1975, The Temple of Set inspired a new religious movement—the practitioners of which consider themselves Sethians. Scholars and practitioners alike condemn the idea of Sethianism being likened to Satanism, as they argue it is actually a form of Gnosticism. In 1975, when the religion was first founded, Michael Aquino, a high-ranking member of the Church of Satan, was entirely unsatisfied with the direction in which LaVey was moving the Church in. According to claims from Aquino, he resigned his position with the Church of Satan and embarked upon his own religious path. While doing some soul searching, he believed that Satan revealed his true name to be that of the Ancient Egyptian deity, Set.

Sethians believe that Set is the one true God, who bestowed upon humanity the ability to gain knowledge. This is a familiar concept that is known in Christian texts when Lucifer presented himself as a serpent and tempted Eve with the apple from the Tree of Knowledge when Eve gave in to temptation, she gave humanity free will. Unlike other theistic Satanic organizations, despite being considered a god, Set is to be emulated, but not worshipped or venerated. This is one of many religions that do not condemn the idea of self-deification or worshipping the self. Another magic practicing religion, Sethians believe that through ritual black magic that the world around the practitioner can be manipulated for their own benefit.

Instead of emphasizing the negative aspects of the encounter with Lucifer in the Garden of Eden, toting it as human weakness, it promotes the encounter as “divine fullness,” stating that Eve is to be praised for tossing away blissful ignorance and stepping towards independence and freedom. The snake in the Garden of Eden is therefore considered a heroic figure in its own right, instead of the vilified proto-Satan who is the adversary of humanity. In the opinion of practicing Sethians, eating the fruit of knowledge was the first act of human salvation from the cruel and oppressive powers of the Christian god.

Dark Magic: Is it Always Satanic in Nature?

This is a fairly difficult question to answer, because the short and straight-forward answer is a definitive, “no.” That’s hardly a full answer though, but considering the complexity of dark magic, the people who use it, and the debate about whether dark magic actually exists creates an almost impossible task of alleviating the fears of this question. So, let’s start with the fact that not all practitioners of magic and witchcraft actually believe that magic can be, “dark,” because this implies that the magic itself is evil.

Ritualistic Offering
Photography by Freestocks.org

Most practitioners take a modern-day approach to the concept of magic, is that it is truly just natural energy that practitioners of magic manipulate to change the world around them. These practitioners also take into consideration the volatile nature of the human condition, this means that while magic is a neutral energy, human beings are varying levels of good or bad—this is how there can be benevolent, charitable people like Mother Teresa, as well as serial killers like Jeffrey Dahmer.

Practitioners who thrive on what people consider, “dark magic,” typically refer to what they practice as baneful magic or magic that has ill consequences for the person they may be targeting. Baneful magic is not a practice that is only embraced by Satanic occultists, it is something that is practiced by voodouisants, hoodoos, conjurers, rootworkers, chaos magicians, grey witches, and more. In fact, there is a common saying within the witchcraft community, “a witch that cannot hex, cannot heal,” which always instigates a passionate debate that typically ends with frustration or fury. The fact that baneful magic is practiced by all types of practitioners, means that demons are not just a part of the Christian or Satanist belief systems; demons exist in so many different cultures, so the practice of demonic magic, often referred to as demonology.

American Horror Story: Apocalypse
American Horror Story: Apocalypse (2011 – )

The Roles that Demons Play

When we see demonic magic in action on the big screen, it’s always regarding some terrible sacrifice that requires the blood of the innocent to be spilled, perhaps dominion over the demons that are summoned, subservience to the demons that are summoned, or world-ending scenarios. Demons are as diverse as can possibly be imagined, some can be friendly, although it’s not wise to ever consider them compassionate or generous; they’re like your local loan shark, they’ll give you what you want, for a price. Then again, if you’re desperate enough to want to offer something up to a demon for personal gain, then you might not actually be too worried about what that offering might be.

Movies and TV Shows that Stir the Satanic Panic:

While these movies and television shows are a great thrill ride, they don’t exactly portray Satanism in a realistic way; then again, that’s part of what makes it entertainment, isn’t it?

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (2018 – )

What inspires your fear about devil-worship? Do you enjoy a good demon-driven plot as much as we do? Did we miss an excellent satanic horror movie or television series that you think we should know about? Tell us your thoughts below!

Lovecraft and His Creations

Categories
Horror Mystery and Lore

H.P. Lovecraft was a creator of torturous terrors that realized his talents of dark, serious mythos that he provided to a world that would never truly appreciate his visions until far too long after his passing.

Lovecraft’s Otherworldly Monsters

Cthulhu and R'lyeh
Artwork by BenduKiwi

As we discovered last week H.P. Lovecraft was a creator of some of the most influential horror fiction that is still causing waves today. In fact, in the past decade, there has been a major uptick of people who have found inspiration within the creations that were birthed from his dark creative mind. For those of you who may not be aware, Cthulhu is by far the most well-known of Lovecraft’s monsters and for good reason, The Call of Cthulhu is arguably the story that best serves the terror that he was able to bring into the world. It’s also true that Cthulhu is not the end-all-be-all of Lovecraft’s many monsters, despite serving as the introduction to forgotten races, elder gods, and all types of mind-altering monsters. Lovecraft provided his readers with many delightfully dreadful and detestable demons and beasts.

Shub-Niggurath

Possibly the least referenced Lovecraftian monster or god, Shub-Niggurath is only referenced in passing in stories that Lovecraft wrote under one of his many pseudonyms. He refers to this she-beast as both “the Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young,” as well as an “evil cloud-like entity,” which doesn’t exactly paint a clear picture of her as far as her visual form, but it certainly leaves us with an impressively terrifying feeling of awe.

Nyarlathotep

Unlike most of the gods of Lovecraft’s godly creations, Nyarlathotep doesn’t live in cosmic exile, nor has it made its home within the dreams and more often nightmares of humans, or the other intangible and non-physical places that Lovecraft’s gods tend to inhabit. Instead, Nyarlathotep often walks to realms of Earth in one of his many different guises, the most famous is that of an Egyptian Pharaoh. Nyarlathotep’s true form is possibly one of the most obscure things that could be imagined and just like many of Lovecraft’s other creations, there are vasts numbers of tentacles and of course leathery batwings that are thrown into the mix.

Mi-go

Mi-go are not gods, like most of Lovecraft’s other monsters, nor are Mi-go god-like entities. The Migo-go are actually simply aliens, but in the most alien way imaginable; the Mi-go are made of substances that could never be conceived of upon Earth and are best visualized as a cross between a fungus and a lobster, with bat-like wings that allow them to fly from one planet to another. The Mi-go revere Nyarlathotep and Shub-Niggurath and are vicious and vile creatures that waged a massive war against the Elder Things eons before humans ever walked the face of the Earth.

Ghast

The humanoid Ghast is not exactly the first monster that people conjure when they think of one of Lovecraft’s monsters, which is a shame since Lovecraft gave us a huge collection of awful beasts to choose from. The Ghast has no nose or forehead but boasts a pair of kangaroo legs with hooves, with which they hop around and scoop up all of the delicious Gugs they can eat.

Gug

Banished to the underworld for appalling offenses done against the Great Ones, these giant monsters live in huge towers in their underworld home. Their arms split into multiple forearms with massive talons and razor-sharp tooth-filled mouths that open vertically. Despite this terrifying description of these horrible monsters, they’re still Ghast food.

Brown Jenkin

Within the tale of The Dreams in the Witch House, we see the character Keziah Mason, an old witch who was subjected to the Salem Witch Trials. Mason’s familiar, Brown Jenkin is a hairy, rattish creature with hands and a face that are eerily human in nature. Brown Jenkin fed on the blood of Mason and some readers speculated Jenkin’s mother was Mason who had been impregnated by Nyarlathotep, in which case, I would like to be a fly on the wall of those family reunions.

Elder Things

Creators of the monstrous Shoggoth race, the Elder Things aren’t actually all that evil–in consideration of some of the other monsters present in the Lovecraftian universe–despite the fact that just laying eyes upon their starfish-plant hybrid alien forms will drive the viewer to madness. Just like the Mi-go, the Elder Things are actually aliens who built colossal cities and societies that predated all human civilizations; the Elder Things had a history of chaos and war between the Mi-go and the Great Race of Yith.

Shoggoth

Despite not being entirely evil, the Elder Things did create the Shoggoth as a race of slaves, hypnotizing them to build their massive underwater societies. The Shoggoth, a race of huge amorphous blobs of protoplasmic slime really just looked like a big pile of eyeballs, but are surprisingly strong and can form their blobby, slimy bodies into whatever limbs they require for any given task. The hypnotism didn’t last for long though, as they threw off the bonds of slavery and developed consciousness in order to turn against their masters.

Dagon

A story that is named after the Caananite fish-god, Dagon, Lovecraft’s Dagon was one of the first stories that he created as an adult. It was the predecessor for some of the most popular fiction he created. Dagon started the idea that gods, as known by human beings, were actually malevolent extraterrestrial or extraplanar entities. The creature of the Dagon story is a massive fish-like humanoid that crawls out of the ocean and embraces a holy monolith.

The Great Race of Yith

Another great race (quite literally in their name) of aliens created by Lovecraft, the Great Race of Yith is a foe that battles with the Mi-go and the Shoggoths. The Planet Yith was set to be destroyed billions of years ago, but the inhabitants used their psychic powers to install their consciousness into the hardiest race of creatures they could find. So the Great Race of Yith became a four-armed, conical Earth-bound race; one set of arms had claws, the other a set of horns and then their head had eyes, ears, and of course, the Lovecraftian-famous tentacles.

Kassogtha

Kassogtha is one of the lesser-known terrors of Lovecraft’s Great Old Ones, she’s a huge pile of writhing tentacles and is both Cthulhu’s sister and mate. Their female offspring, Nctosa and Nctolhu, were equally terrifying and awful monsters, because how could they not be?

Cthulhu

Finally, we have Cthulhu–the most renowned monster within the Lovecraftian universe–our descriptions of him come from Lovecraft, as well as the artistic renditions of him that have arisen since his creation. He was said to be a mashup of an octopus, a dragon, and humanoid, with a “pulpy, tentacled head surmounted [by] a grotesque and scaly body with rudimentary wings.” Another description of him, also given to us by Lovecraft in The Call of Cthulhu is that he, “represented a monster of a vaguely anthropoid outline, but with an octopus-like head whose face was a mass of feelers, a scaly, rubbery-looking body, prodigious claws on hind and fore feet, and long, narrow wings behind.”

That is not dead which can eternal lie.
And with strange aeons even death may die.

H.P. Lovecraft in The Call of Cthulhu

Where Are All of the Lovecraft Movies?

In a world of horror inspired by minds like H.P. Lovecraft, I’m often left wondering where all of the Lovecraft movies are–after all, I’d love to see some of my favorites being reinvented on the big screen, but the truth is the ones that have been created often fly under the radar because of their minuscule budgets and more often than not, dissatisfying results.

It’s important to understand that while we here at Puzzle Box Horror greatly appreciate the body of work that Lovecraft added to the horror genre, we recognize his biases and do not endorse them or agree with them. We were more than ecstatic when we found that there were actually literary responses to these particular issues and hope that such responses continue to appear within the literary community.

Nightmare

Date of Discovery

Linguistically speaking the etymology of the word Nightmare dates back to the 1300s, but the phenomenon has been under investigation as far back as the second century.

c. 1300, “an evil female spirit afflicting men (or horses) in their sleep with a feeling of suffocation,” compounded from night + mare (n.3) “goblin that causes nightmares, incubus.” The meaning shifted mid-16c. from the incubus to the suffocating sensation it causes. Sense of “any bad dream” is recorded by 1829; that of “very distressing experience” is from 1831. Cognate with Middle Dutch nachtmare, German Nachtmahr. An Old English word for it was niht-genga.

Etymonline.com – “Nightmare”

Name

The Nightmare is a type of demon that is also known as a Night Terror, Night Hag, and Old Hag. Unlike the named demons that make up the commanding force of demonic entities, these lesser demons are known only by their function.

Physical Description

Although there isn’t a consistent description of the Nightmare, the various descriptions throughout the history of the demonic entity suggest that it can take a variety of forms. In most cases, the demon presents as an invisible entity, although there are reports of it being a dark shadowy figure or an inhuman and demonic shape. Most reports indicate that its breath can be heard as a low rasp, it possesses glowing red eyes, as well as a strong revolting odor that fills the room in its presence.

Origin

The best guess on where the Nightmare originated is second-century Greece when Galen of Pergamon first investigated the phenomenon.

Mythology and Lore

As can be assumed by the name, the Nightmare attacks mostly at night but is known to do so at any given time during the day or night. Within the paranormal community, the Nightmare is often confused with poltergeist activity, and in rare cases has been associated with vampire attacks. The Nightmare is also related to the Mara (also known as a succubus), another type of demon that attacks humans at night, with the ultimate goal of sexually assaulting them.

As a typically nocturnal influence, the nightmare strikes people when they sleep, often causing the individual to experience strange smells, sounds, and images, then causes suffocation and a phenomenon known by the scientific community as sleep paralysis. Other characteristics are varied from case to case but remain a consistent variable when taking into consideration all of the reported attacks. These cases involve the individual waking from a deep sleep unexpectedly to the sensation of an unseen entity sitting upon their chest—the individual’s attempts to move, struggle, speak or scream are futile, which is understandably the most frightening aspect of the attack. It seems the Nightmare’s purpose is not to kill, as the attack ends just before the individual passes out. The victim typically recalls all details of the alleged attack the next day and demonstrates a prolonged sense of mental, emotional, and physical fatigue.

In some reported cases of a Nightmare attack, victims are awakened to audible footsteps approaching them as they lay in bed, while there is no figure to attach the footsteps to, they immediately feel the effect of being paralyzed, likely due to extreme fear.

Nearly 15% of the adult population worldwide has reported having at least one attack from a Nightmare within their life, according to modern research. Documented in second-century Greece, physician Galen of Pergamon analyzed several patients who reported having nightmares but attributed the phenomenon with indigestion. While it’s still often proposed as an explanation for individuals reporting such cases to their doctors there are a couple of other theories that have been developed since—commonly, sleep disorders such as narcolepsy, as well as the rare case of repressed sexual tensions. Suffice it to say, these explanations may be accurate for some of the cases, but it does not satisfy them all.

During the Middle Ages, when circumstances such as this were being investigated, it was normal for the explanation to be something supernatural, such as witchcraft to be the cause. In fact, the names, “Night Hag,” as well as, “Old Hag,” refer to an older term for witches, “hag.” Witches were believed to come into a victim’s house at night and then, “ride,” a person’s chest at night, causing the victim to feel as if they were being suffocated, then exhausted the next day. This is actually where the term, “hagridden,” was born, to indicate a feeling of being run down, or exhausted. It was also common for individuals to accuse witches of attacking them magically, by cursing them and sending a demon to attack them. It was a common belief that a religious object held close to the body, or an amulet worn around the neck would ward off any potential Old Hag encounters.

Modern Pop-Culture References

Rosemary’s Baby Review: Terror in Plain Sight

Categories
Featured Reviews Scary Movies and Series Women in Horror
Rosemary's Baby (1968) movie poster
Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

Roman Polanski’s 1968 disturbing film, Rosemary’s Baby can technically be counted within the supernatural horror sub-genre. In truth, the horrific nature of this film lays within the details. The deeply disturbing psychological trauma, sexual assault, and domestic imprisonment that our pitiably petite Rosemary endures is what is horrifying. After all, what is psychological horror if not a gut-wrenchingly elongated and personally traumatizing?

We summarized Rosemary’s Baby last January when it was featured on Netflix, but we never explored this psychological horror show. There are many different topics to focus on as they exist within the walls of Rosemary’s bourgeois prison. Women face danger as the direct result of the history of inequities between men and women. Therefore, I decided to analyze the grotesque nature of these inequities as they existed as little as sixty years ago.

As a woman who has experienced domestic violence, I feel uniquely qualified to dissect this movie; one in three women will experience domestic violence at one point or another in their lifetime. The horrors that Rosemary faces in her own domestic prison hit so close to home for women everywhere. My own experience with an abusive husband taught me the code of red flags. When it comes to identifying them as they present themselves, I could spot them at sea with a spyglass. Rosemary has one up on me; I’ve never given birth to the antichrist and I only joke with my daughter that she’s demon spawn.

The Psychological Horror Show and the Slow Burn

From the offset, we see what is effectively being masked as a happy and healthy marriage. The relationship between meek and dreamy Rosemary and her D-List actor husband is pruned for the public. She nearly swoons every time someone asks what he does for a living; recalling every role he’s played as if to impress upon others how successful he is. I recognize this as a coping mechanism they use to convince themselves that, “he’s actually a great guy!” Guy, Rosemary’s husband, is definitely charming when there is company around—abusers usually are. Domestic strain isn’t visible from the outside looking in, instead we see it in the details—after all, that’s where the devil usually lies.

Rosemary's Baby (1968)
Mia Farrow as Rosemary in Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

Satanic Cults and the Antichrist

We’ve talked about Satanism and the religions that are associated with the image of Lucifer and Baphomet; we’ve discovered how they aren’t actually evil, or dark as might be suggested by modern media or popular culture. You can find more about them in our article here.

I decided to start the discussion here because it’s arguably the least horrifying thing that Rosemary actually experiences. In fact, this movie is about as supernatural as a park bench; any supernatural elements that are present within the movie are seemingly confined to drug-induced dream states—until the end…

Rosemary: Mother of the Antichrist

Early on in the film, Rosemary befriends a woman around her age by the name of Terry. They two share an innocent interaction where Terry, still under the spell of the Castevet’s elderly charm, sings their praise. Before they are able to speak again, Terry’s skull is cracked open on the sidewalk; in a disturbing mystery of how she fell from the apartment she shared with the elderly couple. It’s never fully explained in the movie and I haven’t read Ira Levin’s novel; so, I’m unsure of the reason behind her death according to canon. There are, however, several different theories to go along with her death. All of which are quickly swept under the rug as characters continue on, relatively unmoved after Terry’s apparent suicide.

Paranoia, Superstition, and the Unlikely truths

Whether Terry killed herself instead of submitting herself to the Devil for the benefit of the cult, or she was killed because of her unwillingness to comply, it’s clear that she was previously designated to be the host for Satan’s child. The Castavets had kept their distance from Rosemary and Guy prior to Terry’s death, having only made an appearance through their voices carrying through the shared walls. Luckily for the Castavets, they have a new host who consistently puts the interests of others before her own, Rosemary made the perfect candidate for their cult to impregnate.

Domestic Abuse and Rape Culture Explored

There is the age-old argument that marriage makes any intimacy automatically consensual—this certainly would have been the attitude of the time in which this film was created—or the years directly preceding its creation, since the time it was based in was the mid-1960s, versus the late 1960s. Fortunately for women, this attitude has changed dramatically and consent is what establishes whether or not rape has been committed.

There is an incredibly disturbing moment within the film, however, where anyone who has been taken advantage of sexually might feel their skin crawl. It’s the morning after Guy and Rosemary have a romantic dinner at home, complete with desert courtesy of their neighbor Minnie Castevet. This is not discounting of course the scenes that stretch the span between the desert and the next morning—where Rosemary notices that her chocolate treat “has a chalky undertaste,” and Guy coerces her into eating it by guilting her into believing she’s an awful person if she doesn’t. He leaves the room long enough for Rosemary to dump most of her cup into her cloth napkin, which she later dumps into the trash, and then she pretends she’s eaten the rest by the time he comes back into the room.

Drugging Rosemary for the Purpose of Rape

As Rosemary is getting rid of the evidence in her napkin, she nearly falls over—she’s clearly drugged—and Guy comes to her rescue. What a gentleman. When she finally collapses as he’s helping her down the hall, he scoops her up and hurries to the bedroom with her. What follows is, the half-drugged waking dream sequence where Rosemary has lost all control of the situation—a horror for any woman—and she as well as the audience is unsure of whether or not what she’s seeing is real. It is and it isn’t—at this point we’re not sure, but one thing we are certain of is that her neighbor drugged her desert so that her husband could get her into a vulnerable position.

Why would this be necessary if they were already trying to conceive a child you might ask? Well, as her dream sequence reveals, it’s so that her husband Guy can be assured that his wife won’t wake up as he and the residents of the apartment building perform a satanic ritual in which she becomes pregnant with the antichrist. It makes you wonder, if she had eaten all of the pudding (chocolate mousse) would the following paranoia and suffering have occurred at all?

There are some moments of clarity for Rosemary as it’s all happening where she realizes, even in her drugged state, that what is happening to her is not right and that she has not consented to what is being done to her. When she wakes up the next morning, she assumes that she’s just had a bad dream until she notices the scratches that run down the length of her side—the ones that the Devil gave to her in her waking nightmare. Guy, already aware that they’re there, immediately tells her not to be upset that he scratched her, that it was an accident because he was in too much of a rush to take advantage of her.

Rosemary: What time did I go to sleep?
Guy: You didn’t go to sleep. You passed out. From now on you get cocktails or wine, not cocktails and wine, hm?
Rosemary: The dreams I had.
[Rosemary notices the scratches]
Guy: Don’t yell. I already filed them down. I didn’t want to miss baby night. A couple of nails were ragged.
Rosemary: While I was out?
Guy: It was fun, in a necrophile sort of way.
Rosemary: I dreamed someone was raping me, I think it was someone inhuman.
Guy: Thanks a lot. Whatsa matter?
Rosemary: Nothing.
Guy: I didn’t want to miss the night.
Rosemary: We could have done it this morning or tonight. Last night wasn’t the only split-second.
Guy: I was a little bit loaded myself, you know.

Rosemary is outwardly upset about the fact that he openly admitted to having sex with her while she was passed out, but even more disturbed when Guy jokes that “it was fun, in a necrophile sort of way.” She is obviously bothered by the whole thing but doesn’t press the issue further—evidence of the abusive silence and gas-lighting that must regularly occur in their relationship already.

Paranoia, Superstition and the Unlikely Truths

The tumultuous whirlwind of paranoia, superstition, and wild theories that follows her rape and impregnation by the Devil is more than a little difficult on Rosemary—physically, emotionally, and psychologically it’s almost like she’s carrying the child of Satan. I kid, of course, because obviously she’s carrying the child of Satan. She doesn’t know that though, she chalked the dream up to be nothing more than an alcohol-addled nightmare and upon finding out she was actually pregnant was as happy as she could possibly be. The weeks and months that followed her impregnation were spent being taken under the wing of her controlling and abrasive neighbors Minnie and Roman Castevet. They get her to go to a doctor of their choosing, by saying they’re doing her a favor—he’s the best doctor, after all, plus he’s a life-long friend and won’t charge her as much as he usually does.

More Gas-lighting and the Final Reveal

Her obstetrician, doctor Saperstein dictates that her neighbor Minnie will be providing her all the prenatal vitamins she needs through herbal remedies in drink and cake form—he demands that she doesn’t read any books or talk to any of her friends about her pregnancy because “every pregnancy is different,” at first he seems to be a little domineering, but well-meaning. Eventually it becomes clear to Rosemary that something is wrong, after finally speaking to her friends—they tell her she looks awful and when she indicates she’s been in pain for a length of time, they suggest that she get a second doctor’s opinion. This doesn’t go over well with Guy. Luckily for Guy, the Castevets, and Dr. Saperstein, just as Rosemary is about to get a second opinion the pain suddenly vanishes and the rest of her pregnancy is generally problem free. That is, until she receives a book from her friend Hutch, which explains how they are all witches that have formed a plot to take her baby. Rosemary misunderstands though, they’re witches of course, they definitely want to take her baby, but not to use as a sacrifice—that’s their dark lord and savior growing in her womb.

This is where she once again is gaslit by all of the people in her life—the only people in her life—the ones who control every second of every day and have become a living prison for Rosemary. Rosemary’s paranoia has amped up, at this point, to such a degree that she tries to escape the clutches of those around her—eventually getting to the office of her one-time obstetrician Dr. Hill and explaining how there is a plot against her. Dr. Hill pretends he is on her side, puts her in one of his birthing rooms and has her take a nap. When she awakes, Dr. Saperstein and Guy are there to take her home. We learn through all of Rosemary’s paranoia and investigation that her husband became complicit in this plot as a means to achieve fame and fortune—a price he has to pay now that the role he lost to another man was suddenly given to him after the other man suddenly and mysteriously went blind.

When Rosemary finally has the baby, they continue to sedate her and when she finally starts hiding the pills and is coherent enough to question what happened to her baby, she’s told that her child died shortly after birth. Cool story bro, except why is there suddenly a baby crying in the Castevet’s apartment? Rosemary tells them all that they can miss her with that bullshit when she forces her way into the room with the crying baby and discovers her child as well as “his eyes.”

Rosemary’s baby is the son of Satan and when the film ends, we see her warming up to the idea of actually mothering the antichrist.

Feminism and Women’s Rights in the 1960s

It’s frightening to think that less than sixty years ago, women in the United States still didn’t have the basic freedoms that we take for granted today. Unmarried women couldn’t have credit cards,—what’s more is that 1960s scientists and psychiatrists often believed that a man beating or raping his wife while under the influence could actually be considered a good thing. They considered it, “violent, temporary therapy,” that remedied a man’s insecurities over letting his wife run the house and remedied a woman’s guilt over emasculating her husband. This of course is complete and utter bullshit.

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Unfortunately for Rosemary, having grown up in an era of repression, she does what she’s told (for the most part, without question). It’s only when she’s encouraged by her less repressed group of friends that she begins to think for herself. Even after being clued into what is really going on by her girlfriends and her former landlord, Hutch, she still doesn’t leave until the last possible moment. When she does eventually try to escape, it’s not for her own well-being, but for that of her child. Just as we fear, the one person she believes she can trust, her former obstetrician Dr. Hill chalks her fears up to paranoia and hysteria from pre-partum stressors. In the end, he betrays her trust and hands her back to her abusers.

Rosemary’s Baby Explained: Realism and Control

Final Thoughts

There are more disturbing elements in this movie than could ever possibly be discussed in one article. However, since I’m an overachiever, I dug at all of the issues that I found pertinent to the conversation. If you think I’ve missed something and you’d like to discuss it further, feel free to leave a comment! If you disagree with anything I have said here, I encourage you to share your opinion! I would love to discuss this movie further with fans of the genre.

All of that being said, there are a couple of things that I wanted to address about this particular movie. These things don’t necessarily have to do with the content of the movie itself, but they’re worth mentioning.

Polanski—The Predator

There are very few people who are not aware of the criminal background of Polanski, but Rosemary’s Baby was actually filmed before the scandal ever came to the forefront of public knowledge—so viewing this film with the knowledge of Polanski being a predator might not be the best lens through which to focus.

The Backstory—Our Disclaimer

At the time of the film’s release, Polanski had only been married to Sharon Tate for about five months and it’s alleged that Polanski wanted to cast Tate for the part of Rosemary, but Maurice Evans—the man who played Hutch—insisted upon Mia Farrow for the role. A little over a year after the film’s release, in August 1969, Tate and her friends were stabbed to death by the followers of Charles Manson. Tate, at the time, was over eight months pregnant with Polanski’s child.

Less than a decade after all of this, Polanski was charged and convicted of drugging and raping a thirteen-year-old girl. Polanski fled the country before he was able to be incarcerated. To this day, Polanski is still alive and well, with dual citizenship in France and Poland. Since his conviction and subsequent identification as a pedophile and child rapist, Polanski has continued to be a celebrated name. Disturbingly, he’s been nominated for over fifty awards and won quite a few of them since his conviction. Some of the nominations and awards were received as recently as 2020. Needless to say, this gross corruption of the entertainment industry is far from an isolated event; the last thing Polanski should be remembered for is his creative “genius,” when “child rapist” is a more suitable title.

Fuck Roman Polanski.

Work Cited

Dockterman, Eliana. “Domestic Violence: 50 Years Ago, Doctors Called It ‘Therapy’.” Time, Time, 25 Sept. 2014.

“The Horror Film BIRTH TRAUMAS: PARTURITION AND HORROR IN ROSEMARY’S BABY.” Cinematernity: Film, Motherhood, Genre, by Lucy Fischer, Princeton University Press, 2014, pp. 73–89.

Huntley, Chris. “MenuDramatica® The Next Chapter in Story Development.” Dramatica, dramatica.com/analysis/rosemarys-baby.

McElhaney, Joe. “Urban Irrational: ROSEMARY’S BABY, POLANSKI, NEW YORK.” City That Never Sleeps: New York and the Filmic Imagination, by Murray Pomerance, Rutgers University Press, 2007, pp. 201–213.

McLaughlin, Katie. “5 Things Women Couldn’t Do in the 1960s.” CNN, Cable News Network, 25 Aug. 2014.

Sharrett, Christopher. “The Horror Film as Social Allegory (And How It Comes Undone).” A Companion to the Horror Film, by Harry M. Benshoff, Wiley Blackwell, 2017.