A History of Classic Monsters

Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus

By Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

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The original story will leave you asking the question, which is the monster-- the creature or its creator?

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A History of Classic Monsters: Zombies

Although zombies have a long history of appearances in religion and folklore, interest in them as villains in horror films is largely confined to the second half of the 20th century. The explosion in zombie popularity is based on a characterization established by a single film and the fact that the original characterization of the zombi in African folklore and religion as well as in earlier films is dramatically different from that of the popular characterization from the 1960s onward. To understand zombies in both their original context and in the role they have come to take in popular culture requires an understanding of two divergent traditions.

A History of Classic Monsters: Frankenstein’s Creature

Frankenstein’s Creature has many differences from other popular monsters associated with Halloween.  Rather than being based off an ancient legend, religious concept, or historical figure, his origin is solely literary in nature, being confined to one book.  Despite this, public perception of the Creature has changed greatly since the publication of the original novel, leading to wildly divergent styles and plotlines in its various film adaptations.

A History of Classic Monsters: The Wolf Man

The image of a cursed soul doomed to become a werewolf at the rising of a full moon is one of the most iconic concepts in horror. Unlike Dracula or the Mummy, the notion of a “wolf man” or “werewolf” was not cemented by one single actor, author, book, or horror series. It is instead a truly ancient concept dating back to the pre-literate sagas and legends told by Europeans centuries ago. 

A History of Classic Monsters: Mummies

There are many monsters associated with Halloween. Besides Dracula and his kind, mummies are among the most fascinating of these. The mummies appearing in horror films and literature have many differences, but some things remain constant: they are cursed to remain alive forever. They also have a doomed romantic attraction to at least one mortal woman and a burning hatred of all other mortals that has endured for centuries.

A History of Classic Monsters: Dracula

Many people find one of the most enjoyable aspects of Halloween to be the myriad creatures associated with it. Legendary villains like Dracula, the Wolf Man, Frankenstein, and zombies of all stripes emerge on or about October 31st in the forms of costumes, films, and books.  America’s tendency to associate such creatures with Halloween is so embedded in our culture that we frequently forget that most of these creatures--or at least the versions of them we best remember--are relatively recent creations that are often less than two centuries old.