The History of Halloween

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September is coming to a close and the heat, brief as it was, is beginning to wane. For some this is a dark time, one foretelling many months of bitter cold, long stretches of darkness and bouts of seasonal affective disorder. Though for others an excitement builds through these darkening months that leads to the spookiest and one of the most beloved traditions in recent history; Halloween. Explore the history of Halloween from ancient Celtic traditions to trick or treating today in the U.S.

History of Halloween Celtic Roots

For many Americans, Halloween will feel as culturally homely as eagles and apple pies, although, (hold awed gasps) the tradition didn’t actually start stateside. The origins of this delectably macabre holiday date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in). The Celts, who occupied the area that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom and northern France over 2,000 years ago, celebrated their new year on November 1.

The date was considered the end of the autumn period and symbolizes the emergence of winter, when herds were returned from pasture and land tenures renewed. Legend told that during the Samhain festival, the souls of the departed would once more return to their homes and those who had died since the last festival would have their souls pass over to the afterlife. Bonfires were lit atop hills to ward off evil spirits, and to give the folk a place to relight their hearth fires over winter. They would wear animal heads and skin masks to the ceremonies to avoid being recognized by those spirits, while sacrificing animals to appease the gods. It was believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between our world and that of the dead became thin, allowing them to communicate with spirits. On the night of October 31 they celebrated Samhain, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth.

According to historical records,the Celts believed that the spiritual communication on Samhain enhanced the premonitory powers of the Celtic druids, allowing them to predict the future in a far more accurate way. 

Bats and Halloween

Bats Flying by a full moon on Halloween

The widespread modern association of bats with Halloween actually has its historical origins too. The Samhain bonfires lit by the Celtic Druids attracted swarms of bugs from the surrounding wilderness which, in turn, drew flocks of bats to enjoy a rather fruitful supper. In later years, various folklore emerged citing bats as harbingers of death or doom. In Nova Scotian mythology, a bat settling in your home foretells that a man in your family will die. If it flaps around the place trying to escape, a woman in the family will pass on instead.

History of Halloween Roman Influence

According to other records, some Halloween traditions are actually rooted in ancient Roman history. By 43 A.D. The Romans had conquered and occupied most of the Celtic’s territory, bringing with them festivals such as Feralia, which took place in October and also commemorated the passing over of the dead to the afterlife. Another holiday, Pomona, was held in honour of the Roman Goddess of fruit and trees, which developed to this day as the reason why we bob for apples on Halloween.

A few Centuries later saw the further development of the festivals that would eventually become Halloween, as several Christian figures attempted to replace the pagan traditions with ones closer to God. By 1000 A.D., All Souls’ Day was announced on November 2 as a time for the living to pray for the souls of the dead. All Saints’ Day, or All Hallows, honored the saints on November 1. That made October 31 All Hallows Eve, which later became Halloween.

Halloween in The United Kingdom

Of course, old habits die hard, and people in England and Ireland mostly continued on as they had done, using the time of year to focus their attention on the wandering dead. They set out gifts of food to feed the peckish spirits, and as time went on and the tradition continued, folk would dress in creepy masks in exchange for treats themselves. The practice was called “mumming,” and was the beginning of a tradition we now know as trick-or-treating.

Trick or Treating in America

Scary Halloween Mask

In America, the southern colonies were the first to adopt the original festivities resembling Halloween, these early renditions of the festivals being called “play parties”. Towns would gather to celebrate the harvest, swap ghost stories and read each other’s fortunes, with far more events and activities being added over the years.

By the 1950s Trick-or-treating had exploded in popularity around the US, and Halloween had become a true national event. Today the holiday is celebrated by over 179 million Americans who spend around $9.1 billion on it per year, according to the National Retail Federation. 

Halloween obviously remains a popular holiday in America and the UK today, but it actually almost didn’t make it across the Atlantic in the first place. Puritans shunned the tradition, disapproving of its Pagan roots, though once Scottish and Irish immigrants began to arrive in America in greater numbers, Halloween made its way back into the zeitgeist. The very first American colonial Halloween celebrations featured large public parties to commemorate the upcoming harvest, tell ghost stories, sing, and dance.

https://www.history.com/topics/halloween/history-of-halloween

https://www.countryliving.com/entertaining/a40250/heres-why-we-really-celebrate-halloween/

https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/holidays/halloween-ideas/g4607/history-of-halloween/

https://www.businessinsider.com/history-of-halloween-2017-10?r=US&IR=T

https://www.britannica.com/topic/Halloween

https://www.historic-uk.com/CultureUK/Halloween/

https://www.worldhistory.org/article/1456/history-of-halloween/

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The History of Psychological Horror

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Best Of Featured Horror Books Scary Movies and Series

What’s scarier: a fabricated boogeyman, or the realistic pressures of paranoia, guilt, fear, and self-doubt gnawing at your very soul? When it comes to horror all scares are good scares, but when it comes to psychological horror the scares tend to hit closer to home. You may not have a den of devil worshipers trying to steal your baby, but as a parent you may fear for the safety of your child and the unknown dangers that could lurk around every corner. Oftentimes it’s the dreaded anticipation of something happening, rather than the actual thing itself, that is more alarming. 

Defining Psychological Horror

Psychological horror centers around the mental and emotional states of its characters, typically replacing actual physical monsters with psychological terrors instead (madness, paranoia, anxiety, guilt, and so on). And even when the story does contain monsters, it tends to keep these creatures shrouded in darkness so the focus is on subliminal rather than overt horror. In fact, the “monster” is often meant to function as a complex metaphor for the flaws of the character or society at large. The overall effect is an unsettling story that uses internal conflict to dig into the darker, underlying fears of the human psyche. 

Psychological Horror Origins and Development

Illustration from Horace Walpole's The Castle of Otranto showing a man and woman in a gothic castle hallway

Early gothic literature features mentally unstable protagonists and terrifying manifestations of guilt and fear, so it’s no surprise that much of the groundwork for today’s psychological horror was laid in the 18th century by popular gothic writers. Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto, Ann Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho, and Matthew Lewis’ The Monk are all shining examples of gothic horror establishing and promoting an emphasis on psychological terror.

In the 19th century American authors such as Ambrose Bierce and Nathaniel Hawthorne were instrumental in continuing the fascination with psychological fear. Henry James is another standout author during the time period, whose 1898 novella The Turn of the Screw effectively blends supernatural frights with mental uncertainty. But perhaps no one did it better than Edgar Allan Poe. Pick a Poe story from a hat – from “The Black Cat” to “The Tell-Tale Heart” and beyond – and you’ll likely wind up with an unreliable narrator suffering through thick layers of paranoia, terror, and even mental disorders.

Psychological Horror Films and Books in the Postmodern Age

Going into the 20th century, psychological horror gained an even larger audience and wider popularity in literature. One notable contributor to the genre during this time is Shirley Jackson, who became a household name with her disconcerting novels of distrust and paranoia such as The Bird’s Nest (1954), The Haunting of Hill House (1959), and We Have Always Lived in the Castle (1962). Then of course there’s Stephen King, who wrote breakout hits in pretty much every horror genre, but whose novels Carrie (1974), Misery (1987), Gerald’s Game (1992), and The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordan (1999) in particular are known for their elements of psychological terror.

Jackson and King really helped propagate the genre, in the stories they wrote but also the numerous adaptations and spinoffs that they inspired. Other fan favorites from the 20th century include William Golding (Lord of the Flies), Robert Block (Psycho and American Gothic), and Thomas Harris (basically anything involving Hannibal Lector). This is also the time period when the “psychological thriller” rose in popularity, blurring the lines and making it more difficult to discern between the two overlapping genres. 

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari poster from 1920's

The 20th century is also when psychological horror was woven into newer forms of media as well, specifically in movies. One of the very first films that fits into this genre is the 1920 German expressionist piece The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, with its unnatural architecture, foreboding mood, and unsettling discomfort. Moving forward in the decades, some standout films in American cinema include Repulsion (1965), Rosemary’s Baby (1968), The Shining (1980), The Silence of the Lambs (1991), Additionally, elements of psychological horror can also be found in the Italian genre of giallo and the Asian genres of “J-Horror” and “K-Horror” (all of which also have their American remakes, of course). 

Recent Examples of Psychological Horror

The 21st century has only seen an increase in popularity for the genre, as many notable creators seek to tell stories that not only disorient and unsettle, but that include relevant social commentary and complex metaphors as well. In the world of film Darren Aronofsky gave us Black Swan (2010) and mother! (2017), David Robert Mitchell made the subliminal hit It Follows (2014), Jordan Peele elevated the genre with Get Out (2017), and Robert Eggers continues to amaze with movies like The Witch (2015) and The Lighthouse (2019). Some newer authors who write in the vein of psychological horror are Josh Malerman, Brian Evenson, V.C. Andrews, Nick Cutter, and Mark Z. Danielewski. And of course there are plenty other examples; indeed far more than there is room for in this article. With these particular standard bearers and more, it is clear that the genre is in good hands.

The Lighthouse psychological horror film poster 2019

In Conclusion

The effectiveness of this horror genre lies in its ability to unnerve and disturb by getting inside your head and messing with your mind, Stories that stand on often shaky narrative ground sound risky, but in actuality this inability to discern fact from fiction (for the character and the audience) is quite effective in its ability to frighten. If you’re looking for a deeply unsettling scare that explores important societal issues while also making you question your very sanity, look no further than psychological horror.

Do you have a favorite book, film, or comic in the psychological horror genre? Let us know in the comments below!

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The History of Slasher Movies

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Slashers are some of the most prominent films in the horror genre, and tend to be some of the most fun, self-aware and unabashedly violent films around. You can credit vintage flicks such as Psycho or Peeping Tom for laying the groundwork for the slasher genre, and 1974’s Black Christmas for first bringing all the elements together into what is undeniably a “slasher movie”. However, horror’s most energetic and mischievous sub-genre has a rich history behind it, which extends much further than a few standout motion pictures.

The Checklist

To begin, slasher films are made up of a few mandatory components:
A killer, usually masked and often on a path of blind revenge for some past tragedy.

The Slasher’s Victims


A group of youngsters, usually hormone driven and stupid, to be stalked by the killer. These can range from a group of schoolmates, to campers and counselors in a woodland retreat, and sometimes even a street-worth of families if Michael Myers gets involved.


One of these youngsters, primarily a girl, who abstains from the sinful behaviour of the rest and ends up being the last alive, sometimes defeating the killer. Slashers have always had a reputation of misogyny, and the idea of frequent ‘final girls’ portrayed and strong female leads is the best argument against this. Friday 13th: part 2 (1981)’s Ginny Field and A Nightmare on Elm Street’s Nancy Thompson are two great examples of women who overcome insurmountable odds to bring the fight straight back to their respective monstrous antagonists.
These particular tropes have become almost ritualistic to slasher movies, and it would be hard to call any film a slasher without the inclusion of all of them.

The Setting

The Cabin in the Woods (2011) Movie Poster
The Cabin in the Woods (2011)


An isolated setting, such as a campsite or cabin in the woods.
Buckets of blood and shock-value violence. While not all slashers are b-movies, and vice versa, a gritty excess in blood and gore can commonly be found in both.

The Mood


A crude, sometimes low-brow sense of humour, particularly in the 80s when the genre began to parody itself and grow exponentially because of it.

The Villain

Michael Meyers in a mask from Halloween Slasher film
Michael Myers masked slasher

The powerful masked villain is the most recognizable trait of the slasher genre, and we have Germany in the late 50s and 60s to thank for that. Based on the works of British novelist Edgar Wallace, Germany’s Krimi films (short for “kriminalfilm,” or “crime film”) focus mainly on these elusive antagonists, considering them important enough to frequently use them as the film’s title. Face of the Frog (1959) and Creature with the Blue Hand (1967) are prime examples of these. The stock cast archetypes found in slashers were also present in these pictures, in their more primitive forms. They usually include female protagonists, a group of victims to be systematically picked off, an officer on the case who is central to the plot and even a comic relief character. With all of these features, and of course the inclusion of some shock violence to spice up the proceedings, krimi films were some of the earliest artistic works laying the foundations for the slasher genre.

One type of early slasher that was directly influenced by krimi pics were Italian giallo films. Giallos often focus on a murder investigation featuring a masked killer, but they dial up the gore and sexuality to obscene degrees, carving themselves a distinct niche in the horror genre.

The Roots of Slasher Films

Blood and Black Lace 1964 Movie Poster from the original slasher film featuring two women and a skeleton hand with a knife in it


For all of its features, Mario Bava’s foundation-laying masterpiece Blood and Black Lace (1964) is as close to the first true slasher as an analysis could find. A mysterious killer in a huge black coat and hat stalks a group of female models while wearing a stocking over their face, creating an unsettling, featureless figure. This immediately iconic image burned an imprint into the giallo genre and its contemporaries.

The 1960s had only just begun when the UK was given two of the most legendary and influential releases in slasher history. For starters, Michael Powell’s controversial Peeping Tom shocked and confused audiences with its lurid sexual content and bizarre plot involving a serial killer documentarian who dispatches women using a knife stuck to his tripod, and films the results. While some see the thoughtfulness and understanding of human impulse and nature in Powell’s flick, others merely write it off as ridiculous proto-slasher voyeurism. Whatever your opinion, this is a chilling look into the psychology of a serial killer, with textured character exploration, heaps of satirical wit and a sense of colour use that still dazzles to this day.

Then came the big one. Psycho’s impact on audiences had Alfred Hitchcock’s storytelling and filmmaking mastery to thank, along with fantastic performances from Anthony Perkins

(Norman Bates) and Janet Leigh (Marion Crane). Perkins is especially unsettling as early-slasher Bates, delivering a performance that has been replicated (or attempted to be) to this day. Psycho is as effective today as it was in 1960, with its infamous shower scene accompanied by dissonant stabbing piano keys being one of the most recognisable images in horror today. Just try and say the word psycho in a crowd of horror fans without someone going “ree! ree! ree!” and stabbing the air.

“The calls are coming from inside the house!” We’ve all heard it before. Hopefully not in real life, though the number of scary stories and urban legends that climax with this unnerving statement are beyond counting. Black Christmas (1974), which was insipidly remade in 2006, boasts a status of being the first on-screen usage of the term. Not only this, it is the proud owner of a number of conventions which have been repeated in slashers to this day. Predating John Carpenter’s legendary Halloween (1978) by four years, it used many elements that Carpenter later employed, such as frequent POV shots from the killer’s perspective. Black Christmas was also integral in solidifying the misunderstood ‘final girl’ trope that has been worshipped by slashers to this day, with Jessica Bradford (Olivia Hussey) as one of the most resourceful and well-realised of them all.

John Carpenters Halloween Slasher Horror movie poster with a pumpkin and a knife

John Carpenter’s Halloween is often considered to be the first “true” slasher in terms of tying all of the components of the slasher checklist together. Black Christmas director Bob Clark was actually telling Carpenter his idea of a sequel when he gave him the idea, inadvertently or not, for a slasher all of his own, one that would secure itself in the annals of horror legend. Clark’s idea was simply this: A psychopath would escape from an asylum around the Halloween holiday and begin terrorising the surrounding area. From this Michael Myers was born, otherwise known as ‘The Shape’, one of the more terrifying and restless of killers. One who kills (mostly) without prejudice, and with great aplomb. Halloween is of course a descendant of Black Christmas, though Carpenter’s flick stands on its own merits, and could be argued as being by far the more well-known of the two (even though a slew of sequels could be to blame for that). Carpenter plays on a very real fear in modern society, one of being attacked in your own home. Without clear motivation for any of his kills, excluding the fact that Michael and Laurie Strode (portrayed by Jamie Lee Curtis, the daughter of Psycho star Janet Leigh) were later made siblings, Michael seems to kill at complete random, which is one of the most universally terrifying concepts when properly considered.

Leather face Texas chainsaw massacre slasher movie scene of a man being sawed in half

It’s sometimes hard to believe The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) even made it to the world of mainstream cinematic horror, as it remains to this day one of the more shockingly brutal, nihilistic and frequently hard-watching of slasher films. Tobe Hooper came along and redefined fright films forever with this monster. Based on the exploits of real-life serial killer and body-part handyman Ed Gein, Texas Chainsaw pushed the idea of a masked killer with a devastating signature weapon to new heights, creating one of the most infamous and universally terrifying killers in fiction, Leatherface. While the sequels made a blundering, almost lovable idiot of the man, the original shows him in all his ignorantly brutal glory. I won’t spoil anything for those who haven’t subjected themselves to Hooper’s masochistic classic, though the chainsaw wielding giant’s first appearance still sends chills down my spine. While Texas Chainsaw was one of the first to use the ‘Final Girl’ trope to such obvious effect, it will always be the relentless ferocity of the brain-damaged hulk Leatherface that defines the timeless greatness of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

While many directors still try to capture the classic slasher feel in their own unique way, many have taken the genre to more comedic and self-referential territory. Wes Craven’s worldwide hit Scream (1996) acted as a meta analysis of all slashers, constantly referencing the classics while being original enough in itself to secure a place alongside them. The Wayans brothers took things a step further with Scary Movie (2000) where they played meta on meta and turned Scream and many other horror movies into a flat out ridiculous comedy. Both of these franchises have dropped dramatically in quality over many, many sequels though the potency of both originals cannot be ignored. Some manage to work laughs in between the blood in different ways, one prime example being Tucker and Dale vs Evil (2010) where two lovable hillbilly brothers are mistaken for killers when a group of camping teens begin dying around them in ridiculous accidents. Happy Death Day (2017) and its direct sequel combine slashers with the consistently growing “groundhog day” subgenre to hilarious effect, while The Cabin in the Woods (2011) tries to create lore to explain literally every other horror movie in existence. As people’s love for slashers grow and expand, so do the ideas contributing towards the genre, though even the rawest, crudest and most ludicrous of these movies will alway hold a place in the hearts of the morbid.






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The Horrific Truth of Folklore in Nazi Germany

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Horror. It’s the balm that helps to relieve the chronically stressed—but we often forget exactly where the concept of horror began. Horror stories are spun from the fabric of the past, present, and future just like all other literary genres. The Holocaust is one such example of historical horror. The Jewish lottery of birth was arguably the greatest cause for fear within this period in history. Antisemitism and the “Big Lie,” that ran rampant within Nazi Germany is where real-life horror began within the twentieth century.

The Holocaust is what most people think of when the topic of World War II arises. That’s not surprising, since most of the war effort focused on ending Hitler’s atrocities and freeing survivors of concentration camps. By contrast, the political environment through which Nazi ideology was spread is not considered as often. Now you may be wondering, what does Word War II, Nazi Propaganda, and folklore have to do with horror? Well, read on friends.

The Horror of Hate Spun from Propaganda

The Nazi Party established Ministry for Propaganda and Public Enlightenment in March of 1933; Joseph Goebbels was then appointed as Minister of Propaganda and he began to execute Hitler’s vision shortly thereafter. German culture was reshaped through the rewriting of folklore and films; one such film, Jud Süss (1940) was rewritten from the British film made in (1934). The original Jud Süss was adapted from the historical novel of the same name. The original story tells of a Jewish man in the 1700s who helped his people by rising to power; inevitably, his enemies destroyed him. Unlike the propaganda film, the original message was pro-acceptance, with narrative on how meaningless racial distinctions actually are.

The British adaptation is of course more true to the original text than the following Nazi propaganda film, wherein Süss is portrayed as a monstrous villain who ends up sexually assaulting a young Aryan woman while torturing her fiance. The original script, which was revised by Goebbels to, “serve the politics of the state,” brought to life the most notorious and vile anti-Semitic film of the entire regime. As a representative of the most foul anti-Semitic propaganda, the German film Jud Süss has been censored from the general public since 1945, only being made available to scholars and historians.

Censorship and the Removal of External Influence

When reshaping the entire body of a culture’s literature, it makes sense to start with the foundation of a culture’s sense of self—that meant starting with the folk tales, the stories that German peasants most closely identified with. The ensuing power struggle came well before the beginning of the attempted extermination of the Jewish people. The National Socialist (Nazi) Party’s recognition of German Folklore as an “excellent means to educate young and old in the spirit of the new Weltanschauung,” that led to the changing of history. The Weltanschauung, or worldview and philosophical view of life, left no room for new culture or ideals that might challenge the progression of a “pure” master race. The new censorship policy affected “every author, artist, composer, publisher, bookseller, librarian, researcher, and teacher, as well as the general public.” New values and policies would obligate them to uphold these devastating principles (Kamenetsky 1977:168).

The National Socialist German Student’s’ Association which gathered together amongst German University students were some of Goebbels’s’ first allies in this censorship program, beginning in the early Nazi movement of the late 1920s. Middle-class, secular student youths were deeply anti-Semitic and ultra-nationalistic, and after the First World War, they became intensely vocal. Their opposition to the Weimar Republic drove them directly into the National Socialist Party, which provided them a safe community of like-minded politically discontent and hostile peers. On April 6, 1933, the Nazi German Student Association’s Office for Press and Propaganda asserted that they would be taking, “action against the un-German Spirit.” Thus, the Weltanschauung brought, “seemingly spontaneous book-burning ceremonies,” to the public in the early 1930s, as well as, “radical cleansing,” throughout all of the country’s libraries of, “undesirable and so-called ‘decadent’ literature,” (Kamenetsky 1977:168).

The Book Burning at The Bebelplatz in Berlin, Germany (May 10, 1933)
The Book Burning at The Bebelplatz in Berlin, Germany (May 10, 1933)

The Book Burning at the Bebelplats

May 10, 1933, sadly marks the most famous book burning in history. In order to have German society mirror Nazi ideologies, they needed to get rid of any “un-German” intellectual influence. Goebbels attempted to instill those influences within the artistic community and culture. Thus the purge of all cultural organizations whether Jewish or otherwise foreign began.

The Voice of the Peasant

During this time of extreme propaganda, there were new editions of Grimm’s Kinder und Hausmärchen printed, and upon their release, they re-emphasized the importance of a return to the ancient cultures and life of the peasant. It is also said that this endorsed the idea of the peasant being the, “pillar of the state,” and Hitler’s public aversion to decadent city lifestyles, despite his private indulgence in such frivolities he wanted to deny the German people as a means of control. Grimm’s tale of Hansel and Gretel comes to mind when considering this conflicting stance—as a tale where a family is stricken with famine, so much so that the evil stepmother is able to coerce the father into leaving their two children in the woods on their own to starve before being able to find their way back home.

The tenacity of these peasant youths is an image that would have been welcome in Hitler’s Germany, one where they overcome the evil witch, which could have been easily replaced with the image of an “evil Jew,” who was there to consume them, albeit not literally. Hitler was even quoted in 1933 saying, “we know from history that our Volk can exist without cities, yet it is impossible to conceive that it could exist without the peasant!” (Kamenetsky 1977:169)

Upon reflection of this kind of statement, as well as the transformation of, “the innocent folktale … into an ideological weapon,” it is clear that, while Hitler’s assertion of the importance of the peasant, he truly intended to drive most of the German people into poverty while the Nazi Party reaped the benefits. Furthermore, he aimed to brainwash his people, starting with the youngest generation through the tales they would be told in their childhood. “A closer examination of the National Socialist guidelines for educators, librarians, and youth leaders, throws light upon the folktale’s role and function in the Party’s indoctrination program for children and young people.” (Kamenetsky 1977:170)

Rewriting an Entire Culture’s Folklore

Re-education was conducted under the guise of bringing the collective mind of the country and to the nostalgic version of their nation’s past. It was a presumed appeal to the best of times, that is to say Hitler’s idealized version of the best of times. Kamenetsky further states that the purity of German Folklore was of utmost importance to the Aryan agenda and that they made tremendous efforts to isolate and aggrandize traditional German Folklore. As a result, it was the Ministry’s attempt to keep these stories from being muddled and decayed by international influence which meant it, “needed a thorough cleansing process to restore it to its original form and meaning,” (Kamenetsky 1977:172). Professor Strobel, a notable figure in Nazi re-education, made an emphasis on removing any “alien,” elements out and can be quoted as having written the following in 1937:

“The aim of folklore is and remains to give an unfalsified representation of that which is true to the Volk. However, a precondition for such a representation is an understanding of the Weltanschauung which is based upon the principle of the blood and on the right faith in distinguishing that which belongs to our race from that which is alien to it.”

Kamenetsky, 1972:226

Strobel believed it was the folklorist’s responsibility to remove any of these foreign elements that somehow sneaked their way into Nordic-Germanic myths, customs, and rituals in order to propagate folklore that would have been as “purely as possible related to ‘the ancestors,’” (Kamenetsky 1972:226). In this respect, not only did the Reich manipulate folklore to suit their needs, but in effect, they also manipulated history to reflect their own Aryan agendas and policies. Truly, they needed to instigate an image of instability for mixed folklore if they didn’t want anything to taint the otherwise noble and superior race they wished to establish. “If we want to walk safely into the future … then [we] will have to walk upon the firm soil of our folklore,” (Kamenetsky 1972:223).

It is true too, however, that the history of Germany was rife with anti-Semitism even before the beginnings of World War II. Martin Luther’s essay, “Von den Juden und ihren Lügen,” is one of the earliest anti-Semitic sentiments in literature, which dates back to the mid-1500s. This essay featured quotes such as, “into the fire, into the fire with the synagogues! Into the stables with the Jews! … let one drive all … Jews to hard labor … No indulgence, no sympathy for the Jews!” So, as you can see anti-Semitism being propagated through folklore was hardly the first instance of literary hatred for the Jewish people and it’s far from the last, but it was possibly the most damaging of all.

And if that’s not truly horrific, then I don’t know what is.

Works Cited

“Big lie.” Brewer’s Dictionary of Modern Phrase and Fable, edited by Adrian Room, and Ebenezer Cobham Brewer, Cassell, 2nd edition, 2009. Credo Reference. Accessed 15 Nov. 2020.

“Fortress Europe.” Brewer’s Dictionary of Modern Phrase and Fable, edited by Adrian Room, and Ebenezer Cobham Brewer, Cassell, 2nd edition, 2009. Credo Reference, http://login.proxy.library.uaf.edu/login?url=https://search.credoreference.com/content/entry/brewermod/fortress_europe/0?institutionId=5478. Accessed 15 Nov. 2020.

“Jew Suss.” Brewer’s Dictionary of Modern Phrase and Fable, edited by Adrian Room, and Ebenezer Cobham Brewer, Cassell, 2nd edition, 2009. Credo Reference, http://login.proxy.library.uaf.edu/login?url=https://search.credoreference.com/content/entry/brewermod/jew_suss/0?institutionId=5478. Accessed 15 Nov. 2020.

Kamenetsky, Christa. “Folktale and Ideology in the Third Reich.” The Journal of American Folklore, vol. 90, no. 356, Apr. 1977, pp. 168–178., DOI:10.2307/539697.

Kamenetsky, Christa. “Folklore as a Political Tool in Nazi Germany.” The Journal of American Folklore, vol. 85, no. 337, July 1972, pp. 221–235., DOI:10.2307/539497.

Mieder, Wolfgang. “Proverbs in Nazi Germany: The Promulgation of Anti-Semitism and Stereotypes Through Folklore.” The Journal of American Folklore, vol. 95, no. 378, Oct. 1982, pp. 435–464., DOI:10.2307/540750.

“Nuremberg Rally.” Brewer’s Dictionary of Modern Phrase and Fable, edited by Adrian Room, and Ebenezer Cobham Brewer, Cassell, 2nd edition, 2009. Credo Reference, http://login.proxy.library.uaf.edu/login?url=https://search.credoreference.com/content/entry/brewermod/nuremberg_rally/0?institutionId=5478. Accessed 15 Nov. 2020

Book Burning. (n.d.). Retrieved January 04, 2021, from https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/book-burning. Accessed 3 Jan. 2021

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What is Lycanthropy and Where Did It Come From?

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Featured Horror Mystery and Lore NA

The official definition of Lycanthropy? “A delusion that one has become a wolf,” or “the assumption of the form and characteristics of a wolf held to be possible by witchcraft or magic.” Basically, it’s the werewolf that’s become a common fixture in not just horror, but cinema in general. There’s something truly terrifying about this half-man, and half-wolf creature that brings bloodshed wherever it goes. Perhaps it’s the fact that this affliction usually happens to a helpless man – in the wrong place at the wrong time as he’s bitten by a mysterious creature and becomes a monster right before his own eyes. Or the fact that lycanthropy dates back to centuries-old folklore, and many believe that the wolfman isn’t just a symbol of cinema… but a real-life terror that walks among us. Here’s what you need to know about the phenomenon of lycanthropy. 

Lycanthropic woodcut  of a village attacked by werewolves by Lucas Cranach der Ältere, 1512

Where did Lycanthropy Originate?

Where does the legend of lycanthropy, or werewolves, originate? It’s complicated. Like many mythical creatures, the werewolf is a widespread concept in European folklore… was a critical part of stories told throughout the Medieval Period. However, the witch hunt (literally) for werewolves began during the Late Middle Ages and the Early Modern period alongside the witchcraft trials. According to Wikipedia, “the trial of supposed werewolves emerged in what is now Switzerland in the early 15th century and spread throughout Europe in the 16th, peaking in the 17th and subsiding by the 18th century.”

Being accused of witchcraft is one thing, but accusations of lycanthropy were quite literally a whole other beast. While many believed that you could become a werewolf by being bitten by one, others believed that lyncathropy took place by sleeping under the full moon or eating the wrong type of meat. In her book “Giants, Monsters, and Dragons,” folklorist 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.” Yikes. 

Accusations of Lycanthropy

While the accusations are featured in less textbooks and movies than those of witchcraft, they were very much alive for centuries. One of the best known cases is that of Peter Stumpp, who was accused of werewolfery, witchcraft, and cannibalism in the 16th century. Known as “the Werewolf of Bedburg,” he had a violent and brutal history of torture, murder, and eating everything from goats and lambs to human children. After a grotesque execution where he had flesh torn from his body, limbs broken in multiple places, and was beheaded before being burned… his lyncathropy story became one of the most famous in history.

That being said, Peter Stumpp was a special case. And like the Salem Witch Trials, it’s safe to say that most accused of lycanthropy were not actually werewolves. Or were they? Many genuinely believed that werewolves walked among us centuries ago… and they remain a common presence in the gothic fiction and horror genres. We all love a good werewolf movie, but it becomes a bit darker after learning the fascinating history of lycanthropy.

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