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8 of Halloween's Most Hair-Raising Folk Legends

October 31, 2018 in History

By History.com Editors

From witches to zombies to creepy clowns, the season’s scary legends all formed from decades—to centuries—of lore.

Images of witches have appeared in various forms throughout history, from evil, wart-nosed women huddling over a cauldron of boiling liquid to hag-faced, cackling beings riding through the sky on brooms wearing pointy hats. But the real history of witches is dark and dates back to as far as about 900 B.C. , the history of vampires began long before Stoker was born. Vampires harken back to Ancient Greek mythology and embody a superstition that thrived during the Middle Ages.

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Werewolves are, according to some legends, people who morph into vicious, powerful wolves. Others are a mutant combination of human and wolf. All are bloodthirsty beasts. Descriptions of werewolves date back as early as Greek mythology and early Nordic folklore.

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The zombie, often portrayed as an undead, flesh-eating, decaying corpse, has seen a popularity surge in recent years thanks to music videos and TV shows. Unlike many other monsters—which are mostly a product of superstition and fear—zombies have a basis in fact. Several credible reports in medical journals describe people using certain compounds to first induce paralysis in people, and then revive them. In Haitian voodoo culture, folklore featuring undead beings has been around for centuries.

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A mummy is a person or animal, whose body has been dried or otherwise preserved after death. When people think of a mummy, they often think of Ancient Egyptians, who have been making mummies as early as 3700 B.C. Mummies may not literally rise from their ancient tombs and attack with their arms outstretched—like the Hollywood-era versions. But they’re quite real and have a fascinating history.

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American Ghost Stories

As in many cultures, tales of spooky visitors from the grave abound throughout American history. Some anecdotes relate the sightings of dead shipmen, another famous tale involves the portrait of a forgotten beauty. And many of the enduring ghost stories describe famous men and women who have passed through the White House.

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The Devil

The Devil, also referred to as Satan, is known as the nemesis of good people everywhere. Although the Devil is present in some form in many religions, and can be compared …read more


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