Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Monsters, Creatures, and Evil Spirits: A Halloween Primer

Dear George,
Next to Xmas, Halloween is definitely the best holiday for kids.  You get to disguise yourself in a costume so people don’t know who you are.  When you get old enough, you go out after dark with your friends with the possibility of engaging in mischief.  You collect tons of candy and goodies.  And there’s a lot of scary excitement about the prospect of encountering evil beings and monsters in the night.  

There are many things to be scared about in life, and witches, vampires, and ghouls give us entities upon which to target our worries.  In the interest of pinning down just who we should be concerned about this Halloween eve, I’ve compiled a taxonomy of evil beings and monsters.  Here are the most important ones.  

The Devil
The devil, of course, is number one, since he is the very personification of evil.  Most religions and cultures acknowledge the devil’s existence.  In Christianity he is a rebellious fallen angel who fights with God over the souls of human beings.  The American public, by and large, tends to believe in the devil’s reality and power.  67% believe in the devil’s existence (3), 51% believe that people can be possessed by the devil or other evil spirits (10), and 45% believe that Satan is the cause of most of the evil in the world (11).   The devil doesn’t just come around on Halloween — he’s here all the time.  

The devil commands an army of demons.  Often fallen angels or the spirits of those who have died recently, demons are evil spirits who have the capability of possessing living beings.  (12) Upon entering the body, demons “seize” the victim and cause nightmares, disease, epilepsy, and even death.  Rites of exorcism are used to expel demons.  Exorcism is practiced on occasion by Catholics, Jews, Muslims, and Hindus.  (13) 

There are important sub-categories of demons.  A succubus is an attractive female demon who appears in dreams and seduces men.  Having sex with a succubus results in loss of one’s health or even death.  Adam’s first wife, Lilith, later became a succubus.  She left Adam and the Garden of Eden after mating with the archangel Samuel.  A male sexual demon who seduces women in their sleep is an incubus.  (12) 

Ghosts are particularly likely to be hovering about on Halloween night and are probably the supernatural creatures we are most likely to personally encounter.  Ghosts are apparitions or spirits of deceased persons that appear after death.  Descriptions of ghosts range from an invisible presence to barely visible wispy shapes to lifelike visions.  Experiences of ghosts of deceased ancestors appear to exist in all human cultures.  While ghosts can be good or evil, people generally fear ghosts and see them as an omen of death.  (14) About 42% of American believe in ghosts.  23% report that they have actually seen a ghost or been in a ghost’s presence.  (9) 

If you go to the movies or watch TV, you probably know a lot about vampires already.  Vampires are undead creatures who feed on human blood.  They are believed to come from the grave at night to suck blood from sleeping victims.  Vampires are capable of immortality, though they can be killed by sunlight or a stake driven through the heart.  (7)  A Fox News poll found that only 4% of American adults believe in vampires.  (3)   I find this surprising since I notice one or two vampires on Ludlow Avenue almost every day.  According to one informative website, prominent vampire communities are located on the Sunset Strip in L.A., in New Orleans cemeteries, in the Caves of St. Louis, Missouri, and in downtown Detroit.  Georgia Tech professor and researcher John Edgar Browning interviewed 35 vampires in New Orleans and reports that there are at least twice that many in the city.  (6) 

Zombies  are all the rage these days.  They are undead creatures who are created when human corpses are reanimated through a sorcerer’s or witch’s magic or other means (e.g., viruses).  Zombies are mindless, primitive, uncontrollable, and extremely violent.  They are also very ugly.  Some zombies hunger for human brains.  (12)  Victims of zombies may become zombies themselves.  Both zombies and vampires are undead creatures, but zombies are brainless, repulsive creatures, while vampires are attractive, intelligent, finely dressed, and can blend in with the living.  (2)   A 2014 Chapman University survey on American Fears found that 18% of Americans are at least somewhat afraid of zombies.  (5) 

Ghouls are undead monsters who live in graveyards and eat human flesh.  Ghouls prey on young children as well as adults, and they like to drink human blood.  Sometimes ghouls and zombies get confused.  Ghouls live in graveyards, are attracted to the dead, and are created by black magic or possession by demons.  Zombies are attracted more to live human beings and are created by voodoo or the bite of another zombie.  I used to watch out for ghouls when riding my bike past Riverside Cemetery outside Menominee in the dark of night.  (2) (12) 

A werewolf is a human being who has the ability to shape shift into a wolf, either purposely or after being placed under a curse or an affliction (e.g., a bit from another werewolf).  Werewolves are aggressive and malevolent.  The full moon causes the transformation from human being to wolf.  Werewolves have superhuman speed and strength, though they can be killed by a silver bullet or blade.  (12)  I didn’t think we had any werewolves in Cincinnati until I ran across an account by William D. Carl in a book called “Bestial: Werewolf Apocalypse”  (Kindle, $10.99).   Here’s what happened (or might happen) in our city: “As night descends on Cincinnati, the city braces for hell on earth: The populace mutates into huge, snarling monsters that devour everyone they see and act upon their most base desires. Planes fall from the sky. Highways are clogged with abandoned cars, and buildings explode and topple. The city burns.”  (1) 

Witches possess evil magic powers.  Though both women and men can be witches, they usually are older women who wear black cloaks and a pointed hat and fly on a broomstick.  Modern witches are generally followers of Wicca, “a modern pagan, witchcraft religion” (12).  According to Marla Alupoaicei, co-author of “Generation Hex”, Wicca is the fastest-growing religion in America and will soon be the third largest religion after Christianity and Islam.  Witch School, one of thousands of occult websites on the Internet, reports that it has trained over 200,000 witches to date.  Currently there are over 200,000 registered witches in the U.S. and about 8 million unregistered practitioners of Wicca.  (8)  According to Gallup, 21% of Americans believe in witches, though my opinion is that that’s an under-estimate. (4)  

So there are quite a few evil beings to be worried about this Halloween.  I think back to a conversation with a graduate school friend many years ago.  He remarked that we all have monsters hidden within ourselves.  That struck me as a profound truth, and, if so, it also means that we are surrounded by hidden monsters all the time.  Maybe it’s not just werewolves that we should be worried about.

SOURCES:  (1), “Bestial: William D. Carl”; (2), “Difference between Ghoul and Zombie”; “Difference between Zombie and Vampire”; (3), “Fox Poll: More believe in Heaven than Hell”;  (4), “Three in four Americans believe in paranormal”; (5) www.neurologicablog, “What Americans believe”; (6), “There are real-life vampire tribes roaming New Orleans”; (7), “Vampire”; (8), “The fastest growing religion in America is witchcraft”; (9), “More Americans believe in witchcraft that agree with Citizens United”; (10), “57% believe in the devil, 72% for blacks, 61% for women”; (11), “Study: Americans are as likely to believe in Bigfoot as in the big bang theory”; (12), “Demons”, “Witchcraft”, “Zombies”; (13), “Exorcism”; (14), “Ghost” 

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