“Man fears the darkness, and so he scrapes away at the edges of it with fire…”


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Designation: The First Child
Pilot of: Evangelion Unit 00
Hybrid Clone of:
Yui Ikari and Lilith the 2nd Angel
Voiced By:
Megumi Hayashibara (Japanese) Amanda Winn Lee (English)

I’ll admit, I had a harder time choosing my favorite character in Evangelion than I thought I would. Much as I like Shinji and Asuka as a pairing, the two of them as individuals… Well, as I’ve made the comparison once before I’ll do so again, Shinji is too much like Charlie Brown in terms of wishy-washy spineless-ness with enough emotional baggage to make a psychiatrist’s head spin. Asuka is the Lucy to his Charlie with a fiery temper and carrying equal amounts of emotional and mental trauma as Shinji himself and is constantly the instigator of many attempts of wooing Shinji, which ultimately fly straight over the naïve boy’s head.

Rei Ayanami… is not much better than the other two Children but as far as how her story goes and progresses throughout the series and her ultimate fate in the finale film… It was ultimately much more exciting and, at times, frightening to watch.

Much as Evangelion created something of a renaissance in anime, specifically the mecha genre, Rei also spurred a new degree of character archetype in anime. As diverse and unique as several anime series can be, one can easily handpick several characters from entire different series and put them side by side as brothers, or sisters, due to their personalities, abilities, and/or general appearances.

Using the top mainstream characters as an example take Goku Son from Dragon Ball Z, Luffy D. Monkey from One Piece, and Naruto Uzumaki from Naruto and voila! You now have three people whom can not only eat several times their weight in food in a single meal but whose fights often results in the revising of several maps.

Rei is the originator of what most fans call the bakeneko archetype of female characters in anime. Named after the cat spirits whom are said to conjure ghostly flames, walk about on their hind legs, and capable of impersonating humans, this type of character is often ascribed to those whom, like Rei, appear for all intents and purposes to be nigh emotionless dolls yet possessing a distinctly unearthly quality to themselves in some manner. In Rei’s case, it is not just her distinct albinism but in how she moves with a feline grace and, as is often joked about with fans, she has a stare the likes of which could put any cat to shame.

Rei’s appearance is due strictly to the fact that she is a hybrid clone of Yui Ikari and the 2nd Angel, Lilith, making her into a being that is loosely described as a Nephilim, a hybrid of Angel and Lilim otherwise known as the human species. Bearing a Fruit of Life, more scientifically known as an S² Engine, Rei can and has demonstrated capabilities exceeding that of a standard human even showing that she can create an Absolute Terror Field, or AT Field for short, later on.

As to Rei’s personality, ah now here’s an entirely separate kettle of fish… See, the Rei Ayanami that is shown throughout the majority of the anime series is in fact the second clone, commonly known as Rei II. Doctor Naoko Akagi killed the first clone, known simply as Rei I, when she was a small child no older than five or six. This clone displayed a very distinctive personality compared to her successor when she outright told Naoko that Gendo considered her an old hag. Combined with the strong resemblance Rei bore to Yui and Gendo’s increasing interest in the child and growing distance, caused Naoko to snap and she murdered Rei I before committing suicide herself.

It is since been heavily implied that the soul within Evangelion Unit 00 is a portion of Rei’s own soul, or rather that of Lilith whom Rei had housed since her initial creation. Though it’s no question that Rei’s soul was originally Lilith’s the state of her soul and that of the one housed within Unit 00 has been a subject for debate amongst fans for years. Whether or not Rei’s soul is indeed broken, there can be no doubt that her personality had been drastically affected by her treatment at the hands of Gendo Ikari.

It was Asuka whom coined the nickname of Doll to Rei and it is scarily on target with how Rei perceives herself. Her living conditions are barer than should be and she rarely if ever reacts properly in certain situations. Case in point, when Shinji entered her apartment and saw her naked, Rei was more upset by the fact that he was holding the broken glasses that had belonged to Gendo that she had, the one and only thing that could be even remotely claimed as a memento of any kind.

Heck, she even outright slaps him later when Shinji states his dislike and distrust of his father but is later completely and utterly confused when she sees him weeping in joy at finding her alive following the battle against the 5th Angel Ramiel. Utterly befuddled by Shinji’s reaction, Rei confessed to him that she did not know the correct way to react in this situation. The lad suggested but one simple thing; that should she smile and much to his surprise, she did.

One of a more telling point of Rei’s growing emotional state though occurs when Shinji noticed the way that Rei was squeezing a washcloth free of water and commented to her that the motions reminded him of how his mother did it. He laughed, which in itself is a miraculous feat, and confessed that he thought that Rei would make a great mother herself someday and Rei, much to many a fans’ shock I’m sure, was outright blushing and her usual monotone was distinctly embarrassed as she said such to Shinji.

As the series progresses, Rei grows more and more out of the shell of being a doll and slowly starts to consciously make her own. These choices are small and quite easy to miss but they’re there. Some examples of this include her making a point that she does not eat meat, that she likes the lack of electricity in Tokyo-3, finding it aesthetically more beautiful.

She even goes so far self-destruct her Evangelion, with her still inside, to save the world and her friends. Even during Third Impact, the lingering feelings and thoughts of Rei II permeate the mind of Rei III enough that she rejects both Seele and Gendo’s plans of Instrumentality and instead gives the choice to Shinji as to what the fate of the world, and mankind, should be.

Mind you, Shinji was in the midst of a severe psychotic and emotional break at the moment so her timing could have been much better.

Like an angel who has forsaken sympathy…


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Directed By:
Hideaki Anno
Produced By: Noriko Kobayashi & Yutaka Sugiyama
No. of Seasons:
No. of Episodes:
Original Channel: TXN (TV Tokyo)
Original Release: October 04, 1995 – March 27, 1996

If you’ll pardon my citing the likes of Wikipedia, because remember girls and boys Wikipedia itself is not an apt source of information though it can and should certainly be used to track down the original source materials of said information but I’m rambling. Ahem, as I was saying, to paraphrase an entry in Wikipedia, Neon Genesis Evangelion, or simply Evangelion, is one of the most successful and critically acclaimed anime television series of the 90’s and is considered not only as a critique and deconstruction of the ever popular mecha genre, but it in itself a cultural icon that influenced an artistic and technical revival of the industry.

Sadly, it doesn’t help the fact that one must not only watch the series in its entirety more than once but that a great amount of the story can only be found in other materials such as the manga adaptation and informative behind the scenes materials such as the recently released books The Essential Evangelion Chronicle.

Don’t get me wrong, Evangelion is a great series to watch and enjoy, particularly if one is a fan of giant robots and monsters duking it out with each other, but the fact of the matter is that there is so much more that’s going on behind the scenes and right there in front of you… Well, to use my own self as an example, I first watched the series when it was released on VHS by the now sadly defunct ADV Films around ’98 and it wasn’t until a whole ten years later that I was able to comprehend the entirety of the story.

For as much as it is an apocalyptic anime featuring giant bio-mechanical weapons of war against creature close to being beyond our mortal comprehension, Evangelion is also an anime about emotional and mental conflicts and struggles. By the director’s own words, and those of certain other characters in the show, the main character of the series, Shinji Ikari, suffers from what is known as the hedgehog’s dilemma, wherein he wants to get close to others but is scared of being hurt and hurting them in kind to do so. Heck, Anno even goes so far as to say that Shinji has something akin to an Oedipus complex and frankly psychology is too far beyond my field of expertise that I’ll simply end it here.

Unfortunately, with it being a Japanese animated series, the introduction of the show is sung in Japanese and while it certainly rhymes in its native tongue, the direct English translation leaves much to be desired. However, contrary to most other anime that I’ve seen and enjoyed, “A Cruel Angel’s Thesis” actually fits in with the series as a whole. I shan’t go too much into the translation itself but if one’s curious there is an actual English version of the song found on Youtube.

As to the imagery of the intro, again, there’s far too much to define or explain in a single review but I will say this: nearly the entirety of the secrets and lore of the series can be found in the multitude of images that go flashing by.

The basic summary of Evangelion is that it takes place in the far future of 2015, wherein a cataclysmic event known simply as Second Impact had occurred back in 2000 that resulted in Antarctica being vaporized and causing the Earth’s very axis to be altered to such an extreme that some places, like Japan, no longer experience winter never mind the massive increase in global sea levels.

NERV, an organization based in the city of Tokyo-3, is given the task to ensure that a Third Impact doesn’t occur by way of monstrous beings known as Angels. To combat the Angels, they have created bio-mechanical machines known as Evangelions that, unfortunately, cannot be piloted by anyone born before Second Impact, leaving the fate of humanity in the hands of three very emotionally and psychologically damaged teenagers.

I’d say we’re doomed but frankly, given the truth behind NERV, Second Impact, and even the Angels themselves, we were doomed way before Commander Gendo Ikari, Shinji’s father and one of my own personal top ten evilest of villains, irrevocably damaged his own son to ensure a scenario that would spell the destruction of mankind simply to be reunited with his wife once more.

The opening episode of the series, aptly named “Angel Attack,” sets the stage of a post-cataclysm Japan and the threat that they, and the world, faces in the form of the Angels. We are introduced to NERV’s chief members from the stoically cold-hearted Commander Gendo Ikari, to the chief operations officer Captain Misato Katsuragi whom is not only a survivor of Second Impact, but was the sole witness to what truly occurred down in the south pole.

It is also where we meet Shinji Ikari and… to put it mildly, he is essentially the Japanese equivalent to one Charlie Brown but with a heck of a lot more emotional and psychological baggage to make one’s head spin. Abandoned by his father when he was but a toddler and having witnessed his mother’s “death” mere days prior, Shinji had grown up to be reclusive and withdrawn, developing a strong flight response from difficult situations. As the series progresses, and with some encouragement from Misato whom acts as his guardian instead of his father, he starts to develop some courage and becomes more outspoken and confident in himself.

His relationship with his fellow pilots, Rei Ayanami and Asuka Langley Soryu is also one of the most complicated and frankly over-thought aspects of the series by devoted fans and casual watchers alike. I have already spoken my piece when it concerns Asuka and Shinji and I’ll save my thoughts on his relationship with Rei for another time.

In “Angel Attack,” we’re shown the basic in’s and outs of how the Evangelion works but, unfortunately, the episode ends before the fight can truly begin and frankly speaking, it’s all the better for it. It’s not a true “to be continued” ending but it is a major cliffhanger to a point that it leaves one hungry for more.

And let me tell you here and now, Evangelion delivers more and more even to this day. For though the series itself is long over, it is recently going through a cinematic revival in the form of Rebuild of Evangelion, a film series that initially begins the same as the anime but takes a major turn off the beaten path towards places that I can’t even begin to fathom how it’ll all end.

If I were to pick an episode in particular as my all-time favorite, and one that can also help serve as an introduction to the show to those whom are only vaguely interested, I’d say that it’d be episode 09, “Both of You, Dance Like You Want to Win!” In this episode, Asuka moves in with Shinji and Misato and as she, and Shinji, adjusts to living together, the Angel Israfel attacks. Though it appears that Asuka deals it a decidedly swift mortal blow by way of bisecting it, Israfel reveals its trump card by splitting itself into two separate bodies that act in tandem with one other and defeats Asuka and Shinji rather soundly.

It’s only thanks to an N² mine being dropped on it that Israfel is temporarily disabled long enough for NERV to prepare a way to defeat it. Concluding that the Angel has to be defeated in perfect synchronization between two Evangelions, Misato puts Shinji and Asuka through a strict training regimen by spending as much time together as possible to synchronize their actions in order to perform a dualized attack set to a timed dance routine.

Of course, Shinji being the Japanese equivalent to Charlie Brown and Asuka his Lucy… Huh, never made that connection until now… Drat where was I? Oh, yes, with the two of them being all but polar opposites of each other, this one of the few episodes that is light-hearted and comedic throughout whilst still maintaining an appropriate level of seriousness.

It’s not the most action orientated one of the bunch but it is one that really brings to light just how damaged and yet how incredibly strong both Asuka and Shinji truly are. Considering just what is to come for them and the world as a whole… They’re going to need what little happiness they have in order to survive.

Say her name…!


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Unfinished Business: Becoming a Rock Star
Featured In: Danny Phantom (2004-2007)
Voiced By: Tara Strong

Like a great many of the first season of Danny Phantom villains, Ember McLain is one who is speculated as having been alive at some point. For though she’s one of the few whose origins are not outright stated like Poindexter and Desiree, Ember’s origin as a tragic villainess has only been defined by one of the series’ creators. An origin that clashes with what is popular fan speculation that arose from Ember’s song “Remember” but more on that in a moment.

The time is the late 70’s to early 80’s. Youth revolution is in full swing and rock and roll has reached a whole new level. In the midst of this was an unpopular girl, one who had an incredibly large dream to join those musical legends on the center stage, to inspire others just as they have inspired her.

One day, a boy of the popular crowd approaches her asking her out to a night on the town and she accepts with eager elation. She waits for him all through the night and well into the morning and with a broken heart, she collapses in exhaustion upon her bed. A fire mysteriously sparks to life in the house and consumes it and the lone occupant inside in a blazing glory.

Such is one possible origin for the ghost of Ember McLain but it is one that is told to us by a creator of the series, and it is one that has never been implanted in the series proper. No, Ember’s origins as a ghost are told more clearly in her song, “Remember” in such ways that make me wonder how far this series would have gone if they hadn’t toned it down to childish levels as it progressed.

“It was September… Winds blow, the dead leaves fall… To you, I did surrender… Two weeks, you didn’t call… Your life goes on without me… My Life, a losing game…” Not to beat around the bush with this, it is strongly hinted, if not outright stated, that Ember gave herself to a boy, either her heart or more, and in the time since he had either gone out of his way to ignore and/or avoid her. In his ignorance, his life progresses and likely goes for the better while hers steadily sinks lower and lower either because of heartbreak or perhaps from the results of what transpired that one night in September.

“Your heart, your heart has rendered… Your loss, now bear the shame… Like dead trees, in cold December… Nothing but ashes remain…” Here… Here is the real breadwinner of Ember’s origin as a ghost, particularly in her mild pyrokinetic abilities. It is strongly hinted here that Ember had confronted the boy and or left a strong enough message for him to realize just what he had done to her before she… She killed herself.

A tragic villainess indeed…

As a ghost, Ember has all of the standard abilities and weaknesses including but not limited to intangibility, flight, invisibility, a “ghost ray” which is a blast of ectoplasmic energy, and spectral body manipulation. What makes her a distinctive ghost from others though is her ability to gain power from people chanting her name. This is her greatest strength and her biggest weakness for while her power could be unlimited if enough people chant her name, the moment their adoration is broken and the chanting comes to an end, she as powerful as a newly arisen ghost.

Another unique ability that Ember possesses is tied to her voice and her guitar, both of which she can use together to hypnotize people. However, it has been shown that she can only hypnotize a certain group of people at a time. In her premiere episode “Fanning the Flames,” she hypnotized the teenagers of Amity Park into adoring her and later on, in the episode “Pirate Radio” she did the same to the adults but did a more Pied Piper routine with them.

Her guitar also has a unique feature of a knob that, depending on which icon is selected, allows Ember to utilize it in a variety of ways. The traditional application of using it as a musical instrument via a music note, a spiral wave for hypnosis, a fireball for flame attacks, and, most notably, a heart for a love spell which is what actually made Ember a popular character in the series for fans.

In the episode “Fanning the Flames” while Danny is trying to stop Ember, but she has him on the ropes thanks to the chanting of the other affected teens in town. Sam steps inbetween the two while Danny tries to recover his wits and Ember, recognizing the mutual attraction between the two, opts to not harm Danny further but to distract him, and Sam, both by casting a love song on them. Sam, immune to the spell by way of the Fenton Phones (ear-buds that work as radios that also nullify spectral noise), is merely blown back but Danny takes the full brunt of the spell and falls heads-over-heels down creepy creek in love with Sam.

Now, this is where I in particular fell in love with the character of Ember. For all that he is new to the ghost-busting scene, Danny had still made quite the name for himself by besting such villains like Skulker, Vlad Plasmius, Spectra, and Desiree. Heck, Poindexter recognized Danny instantly as a halfa, a viable threat to ghosts and humans alike. That she chose to instead distract him, heck, to actually try and help him and Sam’s relationship with one another…

Why would she do that instead of hurting him or even killing him outright?

In the end, Ember’s own spell came back to bite her as Sam figured out fairly quickly that a sufficient shock to Danny’s worldview of their relationship would snap him out the spell. Thus she applied the “fake-out make-out” with Dash, Danny’s chief bully and tormentor at school, and though he was freed from the spell, Danny’s heart still felt like it had been ripped out of his chest and he took that pain out on Ember. Oh he didn’t hurt her physically but boy did her pride take a severe hit as Danny took after his “not my girl”-friend Sam by way of shocking the audience out of their hypnotic stupor.

He had his friend Tucker sing and let me tell you now gentlemen and ladies, you have to work extremely hard at being able to sing that badly.

She also appears in the episode “Pirate Radio” where she was more of a secondary villain to the likes of Youngblood, a child ghost with a huge chip on his shoulder in regards to adults and their so-called authority. Rather than hypnotizing teens into adoring her again, Ember used her powers to lure the adults of Amity Park onto a cruise ship which is actually Youngblood’s own ship and uses them to power it via exercise equipment like treadmills and such.

… Honestly, it’s one of the sillier episodes and raises far more questions than answers about Ember, particularly her willingness to work with what is essentially a kid but let’s be honest here. If you had the chance to be a pirate, even for an off-the-wall-crazy plan, you know you’d totally do it and with greater gusto too I’m sure.

Like a vast variety of ghosts from Danny Phantom and most other media, Ember is a ghost bound to the Ghost Zone, and the mortal world, by her unfinished business or as the show defines it, her obsession. In life, she had aspirations of being a rock star and in death she has succeeded in that regard but it is a satisfaction without end.

She will never be happy until the whole of the world is united in chanting her name and if such a thing should come to pass, I don’t think she’ll happy. Because no matter how great a singer she is or how amazing a performer she can be, Ember still “cheats” with her music, using hypnosis and other ghostly abilities to her advantage.

No matter how much she may try to hide it, even from herself, Ember knows that there is no greater power than that of pure adoration of the crowd, given freely and willingly.

Gonna catch them all cause he’s…


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Created By:
Butch Hartman
No. of Seasons: 3
No. of Episodes:
Original Channel: The WB Television Network
Original Release: April 03, 2004 – August 24, 2007

Though not precisely the dictionary example of this, Danny Phantom is one of the few cartoon series that I frequently cite as one that allowed for a ridiculous application of censorship where such things were not only unnecessary, but it would only make more questions than answers. That’s not to say that Danny Phantom wasn’t a great cartoon series. In fact, it alongside with a select few others of past and present cartoons is what I would definitively name as true blooded “Nicktoons.” There was an appropriate amount of action, drama, and cartoon comedy to be found in every episode, even in those whose plotline borderlines on a rating more befitting the more matured minded folks.

The intro to the series is one that fell to the usual trope of being a literal introduction to the show via musical summarization. Though sung, it outright tells of how young Danny Fenton’s parents —a pair of eccentric ghost hunters— have built a portal into a “world unseen” later to be named simply as the Ghost Zone. Unfortunately, it appears that the device is a failure and they give up on it but Danny, either through curiosity or perhaps something more, takes a look at the machine for himself and unwittingly discovers the flaw that his parents failed to notice.

They forgot to push the on button.

Geniuses. Always figuring out a hard way to every easy solution. Anyway, Danny accidentally activates the Ghost Portal whilst still inside it and its activation floods his body with ectoplasmic energy, rearranging his molecules to turn him into a creature never seen before. A literal living ghost, a hybridization of human and specter, a… halfa as the ghosts of the Ghost Zone would eventually name him.

Halfa… I’m sorry but really? Couldn’t there have been a better name choice for his species than that? I can understand wanting to make it easy for kids to pronounce and spell, I still occasionally forget to include the “h” in dhampir never mind pronouncing it correctly, but “halfa?” Every time I hear it spoken in the show I keep waiting for someone in the background to pop up with a loud exclamation of “Half of what?!”

Anyway… Danny soon discovers that he’s able to change to ghost and human form at will and that in either form he can turn invisible, intangible, and fly though these abilities are easier to control in his ghostly form. He swiftly learns that the Ghost Portal’s activation has made it easier for ghosts from the Ghost Zone to enter the mortal plane and that he, with his powers, must stop them from coming through and sending them packing.

It’s rather interesting to note that in the intro, Danny appears to outright destroy the animalistic ghosts that are attacking him and his town of Amity Park but in the show proper he never, not once, accomplishes this feat even to those ghosts whose existence threatens the entirety of both the living and ghostly realms.

The titular character of the series, Danny Fenton or Phantom in his ghostly form, is… not the stereotypical teenaged kid. Oh, Danny’s still a teenager but he’s one that isn’t a stereotype nor is he one that I would call an adult’s idea of what a teenaged boy is/should be. Don’t get me wrong, I loved shows like the Power Rangers but it was a little ridiculous how overly perfect those kids were with all the various charity works and sports and science competitions they took part in.

Danny outright admits that he’s not a perfect student, citing on more than one occasion that he could have utilized the easier solution to a problem, ghostly or otherwise, if he was a better student, is surprisingly moral but at the same time a bit vicious to those who hurt him or his, and, for a time, actually loathes Christmas for justifiable reasons but that’s a separate episode altogether.

As Danny grows and develops as a person, so too do his powers and his control over them change and grow to a point where he starts to develop his own unique set of powers that differentiate him from the only other halfa in the series, the villainous Vlad Plasmius, a “friend” to Danny’s parents who secretly loathes Danny’s father and loves Danny’s mother to an extremely creepy degree.

As for the introductory episode of the series, “Mystery Meat” it serves as more of an introduction to the actual characters of the show rather than its initial beginnings. Really, it isn’t until the start of the second season where we see the events of the intro theme in full detail and frankly, that’s perfect.

“Mystery Meat” showcases everything that we need to know about Danny and his two friends Sam, his vegan goth-minded eventually-to-be-girlfriend, and Tucker, the tech-savy comedic relief member of their merry band. We also meet the atypical schoolyard bullies in the form of the jocks, the one hard-cased teacher who loves to shout exclamations of shock/horror via classical book titles, and Danny’s eccentric family including his older sister Jazz.

Like many of the ghostly villains that appear in the series, especially in the first season, the aptly named Lunch Lady Ghost appears thanks to the actions of the main cast, in this case Sam and her anti-meat stance towards the lunch menu of the school. Whether by actual influence, or her family’s incredible wealth, Sam somehow manages to get the lunch menu to go full vegetarian and thus incurs the wrath of the Lunch Lady Ghost, whose shtick is… meat.

No, I’m not kidding, her thing is literally telekinetically controlling and altering large quantities of meat products to a point where she can create monsters of meat. While certainly not the worst of Danny’s villains to appear and definitely not the most annoying of the bunch, she does an amazing job of showcasing the running theme of the ghostly villains and ghosts as a whole in the show. She is also one of the few ghosts confirmed as having been alive at some point prior and had actually worked at Danny’s school where she insists that the lunch menu hadn’t been changed in over fifty years.

That’s… really kind of disturbing in it’s own right but I digress.

Still, as good as an introduction to the series this makes, I wouldn’t call it my personal favorite of the bunch and honestly, I’m still having a difficult time pinning down a singular episode. Episodes like “Reign Storm” and “Ultimate Enemy” are incredible examples of how amazing this show could get with plots that are all but ripped straight from the pages of classic comic book sagas but the both of them are two-parter episodes and thus I can’t rightfully include because blast it, I hate cliffhangers. That and honestly, if even if I review them with as little detail as possible, I fear spoiling one of the greatest bits of character development I’ve seen in a superhero cartoon, particularly one geared towards kids.

As such, I’ve decided to pick the episode that premiered my favorite ghostly villain of the series. That is, until I realized that I’ve already did a review for Desiree and that as much as I love her character, her few episodes focused more on the results of her granted wishes rather than Desiree herself. As such, I went with my close second favorite ghostly villain and their featured episodes, both of which I’ll discuss in their character review later this week. For a little teaser however, I will say this: turn down the volume, things are going to get LOUD.

The midnight ride begins…


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Mythical Creature of Origin:
Popularized By:
“The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” by Washington Irving
Commonly Featured In:
Film, Television, Video Games

If ever there was a de-facto mascot towards the Halloween season, I’d honestly say that it was the Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow who only outranks Jack-o’-Lantern by a small margin simply for the fact that his tale is one that is easily the most recognized of Hallow’s Eve tales.

As stated above, the Headless Horseman was likely conceived by the notion of creatures from Irish myths and legends known as dullahans or “dark men” as their name translates. Contrary to what the name might imply, dullahan are in fact a type of fairy that resemble humans, most often men, who carry their head like a sack or hold it up.

They are said to wield a whip made from the spine of a human corpse and that should a dullahan stop its ceaseless ride if only for a moment, that means that a death is about to occur. Should a dullahan speak the name of someone though, that person is said to die right on the spot, more likely from fright than by anything from the dullahan itself.

As to the one made famous by Washington Irving’s classic tale “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” there’s a bit of a darker origin. For one thing, no matter what variations of the tale are done in film or television, the Headless Horseman was always at one point an ordinary, if not slightly extraordinary, mortal man. In the original tale itself, he was a Hessian artilleryman who was killed during the Battle of White Plains in 1776 by way being decapitated by an American cannonball.

The shattered remains of his head were left on the battlefield while his comrades hastily carried his body away and eventually had him buried in the cemetery of the Old Dutch Church of Sleepy Hollow. From then on, the Headless Horseman would arise every Halloween night as a malevolent ghost, furiously seeking his lost head.

His strength and prowess are variable by the telling of his tale but for the most part, the one true power behind the Headless Horseman is fear. For no matter how far we as a people have come since those times huddled in caves and grassy huts, the instinctual fear of flight from a predator is still pumping strongly in our veins. True, the Headless Horseman is but a man without a head but one who has nothing to lose and everything to gain in chasing down those who are still in possession of their own head and believe you me, there is nothing more dangerous than such an individual.

In more modern times, there have been many variations to the myth behind the Headless Horseman which include, but again is not limited to, being an incarnation of the Horseman of Death from the Four Riders of the Apocalypse, to being a bloodthirsty and outright monstrous individual whose head was cut off in retaliation for his crimes and buried separately from his body so that he may know no rest in the hereafter.

Even the game World of Warcraft has their own rendition of this classic tale and one that I’ll share via the video below simply for the length it goes and the visuals necessary to truly comprehend the horrible tragedy that is this particular Headless Horseman.

What is one important thing to note of the Headless Horseman however is the fact that he does bare some weaknesses much the same as most ghosts. He cannot enter holy ground nor can he cross running water, an often used symbol of cleansing one’s own soul. However, do not think yourself safe should you find yourself behind church walls or across the end of a bridge. For though the Headless Horseman cannot enter nor cross, he can still reach out and strike from afar if need be, often using the jack-o’-lantern replacement for his head as a burning missile of death and despair to his quarry.

So go out into this Hallowed night, you might find yourselves some delight, but take heed my words rhymed and true, you might find yourselves with more than you can chew.

For in this night unlike any other, there are monsters, ghosts, and all sorts of bother. So keep close to those you hold dear and listen well to your hearts’ whispering fear.

For you never know just when or where, monsters can come from here or perhaps just over there. Still, regardless of monstrous frights or sugary delights, I wish you all the most haunted of nights.

Happy Halloween.

You don’t know Jack…


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Otherwise Known As:
Jack O’Lantern, Jack-o-Lantern, Jack of the Lantern
Similar Entities:
Jack Skellington, Samhain, Pumpkaboo & Gourgeist
Commonly Featured In:
Film & Television

Jack-o’-lanterns are the defacto face of Halloween and with plenty of good reasons to go behind it but I wonder how many of you know the truth behind this ghoulish gourds? Oh yes, I’m sure a fair amount of you are no doubt aware that the use of pumpkins wasn’t until the Americas were found and founded, and that it was such vegetables like turnips that were utilized, but do you know how long the practice has been done?

Truth be told, no one does simply for the fact that gourds have been a domesticated plant species for well over ten thousand years ago for their carving potential, but the earliest known use of a gourd as a lantern was as far back as 700 years by the Maori people of New Zealand.

The custom of using turnips, and eventually pumpkins, for the making of jack-o’-lanterns at Halloween owes its roots to Ireland and the Scottish Highlands. The festival of Samhain, a celebration that is widely considered the forefather of the modern Halloween holiday, was a time where supernatural creatures and the souls of the departed were thought to roam the earth. As to the purpose of the jack-o’-lanterns, that is something that has a multitude of reasons depending on whom you ask.

For some, they are used to ward off evil spirits by way of frightening them away from homes. They are also said to represent the souls lost to Purgatory, what with Halloween being the eve of All Saints Day that is in turn followed by All Souls’ Day.

As to the origin of the name, now there’s an interesting tale or three to tell. One of the oldest, and by far most likely, reasoning behind the name comes from a tale whose roots lie in the Emerald Isle but has multiple variations across the entirety of Europe. The main elements of the tale goes that a man by the name of Jack manages to trap Satan and is both rewarded and cursed, again depending on which variation of the tale is told.

The story goes that Jack manages to trick The Devil into a trap of his own making, most often because he is either on his deathbed or is about to be killed via an angry mob. The trap is made in a variety of ways but one of exceptional note is that Jack, being chased by a mob of villagers from whom he stole all their valuables, tempts The Devil into turning into a coin that Jack would use to pay for the stolen goods. When coin disguised Satan disappears, the villagers would no doubt fight over who had stolen it, leading to further evils that The Devil could reap.

Intrigued by the idea, Satan did indeed to himself into a coin, a silver one no less, which Jack snatched up and closed tight into a wallet that contained within it a cross that Jack had also stolen from the village. With a cross right next to him, The Devil was stripped of his powers and was thus trapped by Jack who only agreed to release the Dark Prince should he agree to never take Jack’s soul.

Stuck between a cross and a hard place, Satan agreed and so Jack lived a longer life than most but he did eventually die. However, his life had been far too sinful for him to enter Heaven and as The Devil promised, Hell would not take him. He asked The Devil who met him at the Blackened Gates, where he would go and how he would find his way for he had no light with which to see.

The Devil mockingly tossed him an ember from the very flames of Hell itself, which would never burn out and Jack carved out a lantern from a turnip, or pumpkin, to use as a lantern. Thus began his endless wandering across the Earth in search of a resting place to call his own.

Thus he was so named “Jack of the Lantern.”

A more recently modernized interpretation of this very myth was actually featured in the cartoon series The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy wherein Jack was not so much a thief as a trickster of the worst sort. Having their fill of his antics twenty times over, the people of his village sent a prank gift to their Queen and framed Jack for it. In response, the Queen sent forth her Black Knight to end Jack’s life. However, Jack proved ever a wily one even in death as he managed to swipe Grim’s scythe when the Reaper came for him.

Jack promised to give it back in exchange for eternal life and an infuriated Grim agreed to the promise. Jack would have his eternal life but he would have a cursed life like no other. For Grim does not take kindly to tricks and with but a swipe of his scythe, beheaded Jack, leaving the trickster to grow and carve pumpkins for a new head.

There was another interpretation of the Jack o’ Lantern character done by Rankin Bass in one of their Festival of Family Classics episodes. This variation of Jack had it that he was never a man but was in fact a leprechaun whom had the brilliantly mad idea of turning himself and his pot of gold into a pumpkin seed to sleep and rest undisturbed for a year’s time and was abruptly awoken when two young children used his pumpkin-self and carved a terrifying head out of it for their scarecrow.

Realizing that the children’s farm has a more supernatural pest problem, Jack offered his services to the youngsters. Let me tell you, there’s yet to be a variation yet of a Jack o’ Lantern that could ever come close to being so awesome.

Characters that are similar to Jack o’ Lantern but are wholly unique to themselves, have appeared over the years in many shapes and sizes. The Fright Knight of Danny Phantom whose sword, Soul Shredder, sends those whom it cuts to a world of their worst fears and whose master cannot be ridden of until said sword is placed within a pumpkin and an incantation is made.

Then there’s Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King of Halloween Town, who has grown weary of the endless scares and frights, and wants for something exciting, something new that he’s never experienced before and finds it in an entirely different holiday altogether. Last, but certainly not least, was the character of Samhain seen in The Real Ghostbusters cartoon series who was the literal god of the Halloween holiday, who sought to rid the world of light and make All Hallow’s Eve last forever.

As for me, myself, personally… well… I’m rather partial to the likes of this fellow below, but then again, I’m always eagerly waiting for a new tale of All Hallow’s Eve…

No decent folk should associate with…


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Otherwise Known As:
Demons, Fiends, Imps, Hellions
Minions of:
Satan, Lucifer, Beelzebub, etc.
Commonly Featured In:
Film, TV, & Cartoons

Out of all my reviews past and future, this one will likely be the most opinionated of the bunch. Devils, as I have come to know them in modern media and in classical storytelling, are an entirely different species from that of The Devil. That is to say that devils may have a remarkable likeness to the one whom is often entitled as The Devil (most commonly either Lucifer or Satan) they are akin to comparing a common housecat to a lion. There are similarities to be sure but only one of them can truly spell your doom whilst another needs an entire pack.

Or is it a cabal of devils… Flock perhaps? Blast, that’s going to bug me for weeks now….

Anyway, devils, as I believe them to be, are more akin to the likes of such creatures as imps, fiends, and even hellions. There was a story I had read where an interesting comparison was made between devils and demons. It stated that devils were the lesser evil, devious instead of outright malicious, mischievous instead outright harmful, and tolerable instead of outright blasphemous.

They are at the very bottom of the totem pole of demonic prowess and prestige, minions and lackeys to the demons and lords whom rule over them. They do not commit the same evils as demons but whisper, trick, and outright entice humans to do so. A devil may bestow luck and fortune to whomever may manage to best them but there is almost always a catch to it, by the person’s own folly or by the dues owed to the devil in turn.

This actually got me to thinking of the few though not exceptionally rare instances in fiction, televised media or the written word, where devils were featured instead of The Devil. One of the most fitting examples I’ve ever found of devils that does not portray them as being nearly human save for demonic powers and attributes was in a production done by the master puppeteer himself Jim Henson.

In the late 1980’s there was an Emmy award winning program that Jim Henson served on as executive producer called The StoryTeller, which, as the name might imply, was a series which focused on European folk tales. However, rather than following the trend of using the most popular and well recognized stories, Jim Henson opted to use the most obscure ones he could find and boy did he deliver in the premiere episode of the series based on a Russian folktale, “The Soldier and Death.

While I’ve supplied the link to watch the episode for yourself, I will still speak briefly on the part the devils play in the overall story. A soldier, returning home from a two decade long war with nothing but a sack and three biscuits, meets with three beggars to whom he gives the biscuits.

Each beggar in return gives him a gift of their own, giving the soldier a ruby whistle, as in literally whistling to a near gemlike quality, the ability to dance the jolliest of dances, and the last man gives him a magical pack of playing and a sack that has the power to trap anything that is ordered into it.

The soldier eventually arrives in a town where he hears that devils have overrun an abandoned castle. He goes to the castle and awaits for their arrival upon the stroke of midnight and the devils arrive in hellish glee. He offers them a game of cards to which the devils may take what they want from him should they win, be it his immortal soul, his whistling, or even his teeth. The devils in turn offer up forty barrels of gold should he win.

Of course, with the magical deck of cards, the soldier easily wins against the devils despite most of them cheating “to High Heaven and Low Hell to no avail” and watching him for similar tricks. Angered at their loss, they attempt to kill the soldier who bids them to enter the sack. Having captured them, the soldier takes the sack outside and, I kid you not, proceeds to beat the hell right out of the devils until he demands the end of their mischief and their return back to Hell. The devils agree and hastily fly back to the Black Gates but for one whom the soldier grabs by the cloven hoof.

The devil begs for the soldier to release him but the soldier refuses until the devil swears to serve him faithfully and the devil does so. Upon replying that the soldier will hold the devil to his promise, the devil’s foot pops off and remains in the grip of the soldier to hold as leverage until he has need of the devil.

Years pass by and the soldier has made a fortune and a name for himself and it isn’t until the soldier’s young son falls deathly ill that he has need of the devil he caught in a promise of servitude. Upon being promised the return of his foot and freedom from his servitude, the devil gives the soldier a small glass goblet that allows him to see Death.

If Death is at the foot of a person’s bed, they will recover if sprinkled with water from the goblet. If Death is at the head of the bed, nothing can be done. Fortunately for the soldier, Death sits at the foot of his son’s bed. Unfortunately, such is not the case for the ruling Tzar who hears the tales of the soldier who can stave the hands of Death.

The soldier, ever the patriot, bargains his life for that of the Tzar with Death who takes the Tzar’s illness and places it upon the soldier. However, the soldier is not so ready to succumb to Death as he takes up the sack and captures Death. This however has the consequence of stopping death across the entirety of the world and as time goes on, more and more people who are waiting for death that will not come to them gather outside the grounds of the soldier whom captured Death in a sack.

The soldier, realizing the horrors of his crimes, offers his life first to Death before freeing him and setting the world right again. Death, in his imprisonment, had become afraid of the soldier and his sack to such a degree that he flees from the soldier and refuses to take him. He had become condemned with immortality, to watch as others, including his own family, aged and died in front of him.

Being unable to stand the torture of everlasting life, the soldier traveled to the edge of the world and down to the Black Gates of Hell itself where he was met by the gatekeepers, the very devils whom he had won fortune and fame from and though they don’t recognize the soldier, they do recognize the sack he’s carrying and they refuse to allow him to enter Hell. They demand that he leaves but he refuses to go until he is given a map to Heaven and two hundred souls that Hell has no further use for.

Upon arriving at the Pearled Gates of Heaven, the soldier is met by a lone gatekeeper who allows the entry of the souls but not of the soldier. In desperation, the soldier gives one of the souls the sack that had captured Death and asks for the soul to command he enter the sack once the soul passes to Heaven proper.

Unfortunately for the soldier, there is no memory in Heaven, souls forget the agonies they’ve endured in life and such a formerly damned soul had much to forget and so the soldier wanders still to this day, to find an end to a long and cursed existence.

From this and many other tales, I’ve come to surmise that devils are dealmakers and mischief-makers. Oh yes, they are damnable creatures but it is not they who revel in the seven sins of mankind but they do not force or coerce us into committing them. They trick, they lure, and they even unwittingly lead an innocent soul to damnation. Take a look at the soldier for example.

He won gold from them fair and square and though they tried to kill them, he merely captured and beat them before setting all but one of them free. Even that one lone devil treated him with a surprising level of respect, calling him “sir” and “excellency.” That lone devil gave the soldier the means of seeing and staying Death’s hand but it was the soldier himself who used it with his sack to capture Death.

In more recent times, it is far more common to think of The Devil rather than devils, but it is still a popular costume choice for the holidays. There is a vast variety of speculation and reasoning behind this. As for me, I like to think of it as a way to truly disguise our selves whilst being the most revealing of our true selves. For most if not the entirety of the year, we act and behave as we dictated to act by society and generally a good conscience but on one night of the year, we can don a mask and be as we imagine ourselves to be.

To let the devils inside loose for one, lone night…

It’s alive… IT’S ALIVE…!


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Otherwise Known As:
Frankenstein, The Monster, The Creature, Adam
Similar Gestalt Entities:
Coldstone, Fran Madaraki
Commonly Featured In:
Film, TV, & Cartoons

The Frankenstein monster… I suppose that the first thing I should speak about in reference to this creature is something that has been something of a pet peeve with me for the longest time. That peeve being the creature’s name is, in fact, NOT Frankenstein despite having been created by the scientist of the same name.

In point of fact, the original novel version of Victor Frankenstein never bestows the creature with a name, calling it “fiend”, “thing”, and “ogre” just to name a few. In more modernized retellings or original interpretations of the creature, many have come to name it either straight up Frankenstein after its creator or by the name of Adam thanks in part to a direct quote from the creature when it refers itself as the “Adam of your labors.”

Though arguably a creature belonging to the undead, Frankenstein’s monster is in fact a living being despite its horrendous origins. To those whom are unaware of what the Frankenstein monster truly is, it is the end result Victor Frankenstein and his attempt at besting death. The doctor accomplished this by way of creating a literal gestalt entity, a body composed of various corpses that he and/or his servant had scrounged for through legal or illegal methods.

Though the body was rendered whole, albeit in a fashion that made it a truly horrendous sight to behold by anyone with even an ounce of common decency, Victor brought it fully to life by means of alchemic formulas with lightning often being the “jump starter” to the creature’s heart.

Upon witnessing just what he had done, Victor disavowed the whole experiment and drove the creature from his home. The monster, despite being an adult in body possessed the intelligence of a child and did not immediately comprehend who or what it is. It isn’t until it stumbles upon a lone cottage in the wilderness that it begins to educate itself by way of eavesdropping on the family within, learning to speak and become surprisingly well mannered. That is, until the creature comes to realize the one of the worst faults of humanity.

Our inability to tolerate what is different from us. Our fear of things that we don’t understand and as a wise little muppet once said, fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, and hate leads to suffering.

Suffering is something that the creature in most of its stories knows all too well in one form or another.

In most interpretations of the creature, it is distinctly inhuman in some form or another, either being grotesquely scarred with stiches and portions that don’t match correctly, i.e. a lopsided gait or a deformed head made up of various craniums. Another notable feature, made popular by the 1931 film Frankenstein, is mechanical elements to the creature, most notably a pair of screws or bolts upon the neck. The most noteworthy aspect of the Frankenstein monster however is its coloration, ranging from a paleness that makes the workings of arteries and muscles disgustingly transparent to sickly shades of deathly blue or decomposing green.

The prowess of the Frankenstein monster is variable by the retelling but its most common power is an incredibly inhuman strength on par to what I described that certain types of zombies can do. There is also the concept that the creature is either incredibly durable to the point of being immortal in the sense that it neither ages and can, possibly, survive most mortal wounds.

One aspect in particular that has been a recent trend in the movie industry of late is the idea that the Frankenstein monster can be used to bring life to the lifeless either in the rediscovery/reverse-engineer the original experiment. The film Van Helsing in particular utilized the idea of Dracula commissioning Victor’s experiment to utilize the process, and later the resulting creature, to bring his own undead children to life.

Lightning and electricity is also a popularized element to the creature, but is not one that has been notably used as a power by the creature. More often than not, lightning and/or electricity results in the creature’s resurrection from a supposed death but there have been instances wherein it utilizes electricity as a form of attack either through mild electrocution to full out thunderbolts.

As to weaknesses, it has been comically shown in the films Hotel Transylvania that the creature has a pathological fear of fire but again this is a result of popularized media more than the original book. Though, to use the same film as an example, the creature may be as close to immortal as anything can get, it can still die or, at the least, enter a coma like state. Despite its horrendous origins, the Frankenstein monster is still made up of human parts and so can be killed though the ease of this is debatable.

While there is no one film example that I can say showcases the monster to its true potential asides from the original 1931 film or the Hallmark mini-series, I can say that there is a surprising number of characters whom are based directly or indirectly on the creature itself.

The first one, apropriately named as Coldstone, is a character from the Disney cartoon series Gargoyles whom was a joint creation of Demona and David Xanatos via magic and science respectively. Heck, Xanatos himself even goes so far as to cry out, “It’s alive, it’s ALIVE!” followed shortly by a confession of him always wanting to say the line but never having a reason to before then. Coldstone appears are first to primarily be made up of a singular gargoyle and cyborg components but later appearances reveal a far more dreadful truth.

Coldstone is in fact made up of three separate gargoyles and unfortunately a lover’s triangle of sorts. The first gargoyle, Othello, is the one originally believed to be the sole soul behind Coldstone and is the mate of Desdemona, a female gargoyle, and rival/enemy to Iago who vied for Desdemona’s attentions in life. The three of them had been something of a… tug-of-war over control of the Coldstone body until robotic duplicates were made for Iago and Desdemona, aptly named Coldsteel and Coldfire respectively.

That… was a rather horrific interpretation of a Frankenstein monster if ever there was one. The idea of the composite parts being able to not only retain the souls of the original body parts but that said parts would know and recognize each other…

It has only been done in one interpretation of the Frankenstein novel and even then not to this extreme. It was made worse by the fact that whenever Iago or Desdemona took control over Coldstone’s body, there was no clear way to tell aside from their mannerisms as it was Othello’s neck and head that was used and such was always his voice. That… had to be unbelievably awkward for Desdemona but that’s neither here nor there.

Another far more terrifying and utterly gory example of the Frankenstein monster being the inspiration of a whole new type of character can be found in the being known as “Franken” Fran Madaraki, the “daughter” of Naomitsu Madaraki. In truth, she is both his greatest masterpiece and, personally speaking, his greatest failure. Born in a similar manner to the original Frankenstein monster, Fran follows in the example of her creator in that she, much like him, has a very… unique… moral view.

Oh she is a… good… person… Willing and gladly helping anyone whom asks her for her assistance and especially so for cases that she finds emotionally moving, being something of a romantic. It’s just that Fran’s interpretations of making someone’s dreams come true more often than not coincides with showing them their absolute worst nightmares too. She has sworn to never take a life and she means it to a horrifyingly awful degree via this quote: “Regardless of the shape or form, if it can function as a living organism, it is good.”

You… really don’t want to know the results of this line of thinking from Fran “the Ripper.” I’d use some examples of her experiments but I want to keep this blog at a PG(-13) rating and honestly, that’s what Google is for. I warn you all now though if you do look up the manga, be prepared for a host of horrors that no amount of brain bleach will ever wipe away.

That being said, the Frankenstein monster as an aspect of Halloween is probably at the forefront, easily surpassing the likes of vampires, werewolves, and even zombies for the sole fact that he, contrary to them, is a unique individual. There is no one name that best refers to what manner of creature the monster is and though many interpretations and variations have been made, when one hears the name of Frankenstein they do not think of the man behind the monster but the monster itself.

When hinges creak in doorless chambers…


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Otherwise Known As:
Specters, Phantoms, Poltergeists, Spooks, Apparitions, Spirits
Possibly Originated From:
Commonly Featured In:
Film & Cartoons

Ghosts, specters, phantoms, poltergeists, spooks, apparitions, and spirits… So many names for what are, essentially, the same creature though many of those names are often applied to a certain types. By their dictionary definition, ghosts are the supposed spirit of somebody who has died and are often believed to appear as a shadowy form or to cause sounds, the movement of objects, or a frightening atmosphere in a place.

A rather cut and dry definition but an adequate one.

There are many variations as to how one can become a ghost and no I don’t mean just the act of dying. If death were all that was necessary to create a ghost, we’d be drowning in a sea of souls. No, it is often either the manner in which the living had died or how they had lived that creates a ghost. Going on towards the safer route, those ghosts that are often named as specters, spooks, and apparitions, these types of ghosts are the result of someone who has died with unfinished business or with an extremely strong obsession.

Using one of my favorite cartoon series, Danny Phantom, to cite a few examples we have the ghostly genie Desiree who was a harem girl in life and whose appearance beguiled the heart of a sultan. The sultan promised Desiree everything that her heart desired but the sultan’s wife, jealous of Desiree’s beauty and of the sultan’s affections towards her, had her banished from the land.

Upon death, Desiree arose as a djinn, a genie, forever cursed to grant any wish that she heard though she has the leeway of turning them into a sort of “monkey’s paw” type of wish. Case in point, “I wish for a million bucks!” Congrats, you now own a herd of spectral deer. In a way, Desiree was essentially damned as a ghost to forever witness those attaining her heart’s desire but never really receiving her own because who would ever wish for a genie’s happiness instead of their own?

Another good example of obsession is in the ghost Nicolai Technus, the self-proclaimed master of technology who is so obsessed with proving his brilliance to the world that he will utilize every hair-brained scheme he can conceive of to take and adapt any piece of technology he manages to find in order to take over the world. What makes it particularly saddening for him is that he acts every bit the stereotypical braggart, taking the time to literally broadcast his plans for world domination before he actually acts any of the said plans out.

In the case of unfinished business, this was primarily featured in the film adaptation to the most popular ghost of them all Casper the Friendly Ghost. In the film, it is shown that in order for a ghost to manifest and remain in the living world, they must have some type of unfinished business and, upon completing that business, will immediately continue on towards the afterlife.

Another aspect of ghosts that wasn’t really touched upon that much in the film itself but more like hinted towards is the idea that ghosts “age.” Not in the literal sense but as they continue to haunt the world they slowly forget more and more of whom they were in life and so steadily start to degenerate in appearance. In the case of Casper and his uncles… well just take a good look at them. Casper is the only one of the group to remember his actual name whereas his uncles refer to themselves as Stretch, Stinky, and Fatso, based entirely upon their appearance/mannerisms as ghosts.

Ghosts that are arisen from how they died, those ghosts which are often labeled as phantoms, poltergeists, or simply vengeful spirits… They are the spirits of those whom did not die a natural death. Most commonly as murdered victims or those whose life was a hellish torment, these types of ghost are by far the most dangerous of the lot.

Poltergeists, by their very name, are the type of ghosts that cause noise and can physically interact with the world around them. They are also the type of ghost to not strictly haunt a specific location but certain individuals, either those who caused them grief in life or are able to perceive them better than most, i.e. psychics. While not outright malignant, poltergeists are still one of the more violent type of ghosts and reports of their activity date back as far as 856 AD in Germany where the name first originated.

Vengeful spirits… Oh boy, vengeful spirits… A good many of you have no doubt heard of such films as The Grudge, ParaNorman, or 13 Ghosts (the original and the remake) then let me be clear in stating that the ghosts present in those films are but the bloodied tip of the crimson iceberg that makes up the entirety of vengeful spirits.

A ghost made of vengeance is oftentimes little more than a rabid animal, attacking and even killing anyone that stands in their way whether or not those in their way were responsible for their deaths. Taking the aforementioned films as a few examples…

There is the Grudge, which in itself is not the spirits of the dead but using them to enact its curse born from when someone is killed with extreme sorrow or a powerful rage. The instigator of the Grude was Kayako Saeki whose mother, an exorcist, had her daughter consume the spirits that she exorcised in order to contain them, which in itself provided the catalyst to create the Grudge curse. Though Kayako and her son are often the ones seen killing their victims, their victims themselves can arise to kill and further spread the curse.

In the film ParaNorman, the primary antagonist, though I hesitate to really call her that, Agatha Prenderghast was an eleven-year-old girl who could commune with the dead and whom was wrongly convicted of witchcraft and executed. Though possessing no such power in life, in death Agatha became the very witch that the townsfolk claimed her to be and so cursed the council that convicted her to arise as zombies and when confronted by the titular Norman himself, displays reality-warping powers to the extreme.

As for the films Thireen Ghosts both the original and remake… Virtually every ghost in the films died a violent death and/or lived a violent life. In point of fact, in the remake of the film all but one ghost actively go out of their way to either terrorize if not outright kill anyone they see with one ghost in particular, the aptly named Juggernaut, killing more people in death than he had in life.

This leads to a particular conundrum that most films and stories very rarely bring up. That being whether a ghost can still be affected by deeds, good or bad, which it commits. Basically, would a ghost that was, essentially, a neutral soul that didn’t immediately go to Heaven or Hell be damned if it commits a murder or blessed if it saves the life of another?

Theology though is a subject for men and women far wiser than I so let’s move on towards the strengths and weaknesses of ghosts. Strength wise ghosts are variable in so many ways that it makes vampires look tame by comparison. Oh sure, there’s the stereotypical invisibility, intangibility, and even telekinesis but beyond that it truly depends on the ghost in question.

Looking back at the ghosts present in Danny Phantom for example, Ember McLain, whom quite likely perished in a fire, uses fire and musical abilities whereas the Ghost Writer, and yes that is his title, can make anyone do anything he wants them to do so long as he writes it out on his keyboard. It isn’t until he stops writing that his victims are free to do what they want or if he breaks any of the rules he sets for his literary piece. Case in point, if he is writing a poem that rhymed, he’d have to keep writing in rhyme otherwise his hold on his victims would break.

Likewise, what can and cannot hurt a ghost is variable by the story but such things as salt and talismans are said to keep them out of places and/or lock them in. It should be noted though that there is nothing capable of killing a ghost though one can be “destroyed.” A ghost, being dead, can be forced out of the mortal world by various means again depending on how the ghost in question came to be. In the television series Supernatural, one of the most common methods of dealing with a lingering spirit is to salt and burn the body of the ghost. In same cases, a ghost may be put to rest by way of having their body go through the proper burial rights but this is oftentimes a hit-or-miss, particularly if the ghost is a vengeful one.

Ghosts are virtually the mascots of Halloween itself, one of if not the first thing to come to mind when thinking of this particular holiday. Yet, in more recent years, it has become more popular of films to feature vengeful ghosts rather than those of a more neutral if not beneficial nature. Not every lingering spirit has it out against the living nor does the living need to fear or hate the departed. However, there is something of a delightfully horrific surprise to be found in the recent film Crimson Peak

In the light of the moon…


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Otherwise Known As:
Similar Creatures:
Skin-Walker, Revenant, Were-Beasts
Possibly Originated From:
Germanic Folklore
Commonly Featured In:
Film & Books

Contrary to popular belief, what we recognize as the common features, strengths, and weaknesses of werewolves is not based on any one myth or legend but are instead a culmination of them. There are many legends and stories that depict the idea of people turning into animals, by choice or by force, with wolves being a common element to be sure but never to the extremes of what we know as the modern werewolf.

In point of fact, the earliest known depiction of what we would classify as the atypical werewolf was in the Gothic novel The Phantom Ship that was published in 1839. Though the novel focused more on the exploration of legends surrounding the Flying Dutchman, there was a chapter that featured a femme fatale who transformed into a wolf. It wouldn’t be until the 1941 film The Wolf Man that virtually every known trope of the lycanthrope would be popularized.

The first and most common theme of what makes a werewolf is how one becomes a werewolf. Magic and sorcery are the most common causes of the “original” werewolf, and are oftentimes utilized as a means of cursing the individual or because said individual made a bargain without realizing the full cost. Either way, lycanthropy is often treated as an affliction, one that can be passed either through the generations or via a bite from another werewolf.

This is where things get a lot more… argumentative, especially in concern towards there being a possible cure to lycanthropy.

One such cure that I had seen, in a mini-series that I’m sorry to say I cannot recall the name of, had the werewolf be shot by a silver bullet and, upon reverting back to her human form upon death, was brought back to life thanks to modern medical applications. The curse, or rather the “wolf” was what was slain and as it was the human side that was brought back, the wolf side remained dead and that’s just the tip of the convoluted iceberg that concerns werewolves.

Another example of a possible cure was in the film Alvin and the Chipmunks meet the Wolfman and yes it was as strange a film as it sounds but bear with me here. In the film, Theodore, having been afflicted with the curse of lycanthropy, fights against the original wolf man and in the ensuing battle the two of them end up biting each other a second time and thus neutralize the curse. How or why this could possibly work, I’ve no idea but there you go.

The transformation of man into werewolf is one that is variable by the story. There are many stories that feature the werewolf as being very little different from an actual wolf aside perhaps from a vast difference in size and ferocity. Others portray the werewolf as being a literal wolfman, bipedal humanoid wolf with a fierce hunger for human flesh. Heck, even the transformation being forced by the phases of the moon, primarily the nights of the full moon, depends on the story in question.

One excellent example of this can be found in the film series Underworld wherein the werewolves can transform whenever they want but the first transformation is born under the light of the full moon. Another example can be found in the comic book series Gold Digger which features a plentitude of beings that have the ability to shapeshift from human to animal, with one of the featured characters being a were-cheetah. The phases of the moon affect how easily they can shift and their own supernatural abilities but regardless of this they can shift between a human, hybrid, and full beast form at will.

Personally speaking I’m more for the idea of a creature that is neither wolf nor human, but a monstrous hybridization of the two. Not quite the atypical wolfman, which to me just looks like some poor fellow who hasn’t shaved or trimmed their nails in a long while, but an actual mix of the two like what was seen in the Underworld films or An American Werewolf in London.

Speaking of that film, there was an interesting interpretation of the werewolf curse that I almost wish was done more frequently. While it is common for the werewolf to not remember their actions while transformed, at least for those with a forced transformation, this film had it that the werewolf’s victims would not only remain in a state of limbo until the curse is lifted.

By lifted I mean severing the “bloodline” of the werewolf whom killed them i.e. said werewolf either killing themselves or being killed in turn. Thus, they haunt the werewolf, driving the human side slowly insane as they entice them into killing themselves before they kill again. It’s especially bad as they appear not as they were in life but as they are upon death, full mutilation and all, with those victims that were close to the werewolf continuing to rot.

On the note of how the lycanthropy curse affects the victim in question, aside from the stereotypical memory loss during transformation, and said transformation being as long and painful as possible, there are quite a few signs of one being a werewolf. First and foremost is how animals act towards them, especially dogs that were once friendly with them and now act like feral beasts in their presence.

Another though less common element is a werewolf’s aversion to wolfsbane or aconitum, is a flower that is said to not only bloom in the presence of a werewolf but can be used to deter them as either a repellent to their animalistic senses or even limit/control the transformation when made into a drought.

Yet the most common weakness of all is a werewolf’s aversion to silver, which can range from burning the werewolf upon touching it, in human form no less, to killing them outright when shot by a silver bullet. In point of fact, the film Monster Squad even posed the question of whether a werewolf could be killed by other means by having the werewolf in question blown into literal pieces that quickly formed back together to reform the werewolf.

In the Gold Digger comic series, were-beasts can heal from most wounds at an accelerated rate save for those made by other were-beasts or silver. Heck, in the upcoming film, Goosebumps, a kid with silver fillings bites a werewolf and sends the thing running from the pain.

I’m still trying to process the sheer ludicrous genius of that idea…

Overall, werewolves as whole are one of the most common elements to be found in Halloween, often grouped with vampires through a mutual animosity or a strange form of kinship. In point of fact, while there are films that feature werewolves and vampires together, it is extremely rare to see one that has the two of them acting beneficially towards each other. I read a piece of fanfiction once that told a tale of how the werewolves were the daylight guardians of the vampires who, in turn, would use their powers of hypnotism and the like to secure all the nearby quantities of silver to protect their wolfish relations.

Honestly, I’d love to see a film that has such a thing going for it so long as it’s one that doesn’t take themes or ideas from a certain book series that I refuse to acknowledge as having anything to do with either werewolves or vampires.


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