Skip to Content

50 Halloween Monsters and Their Origin Stories

Halloween is known for its spooky characters and chilling tales. But have you ever wondered where these monsters come from? In this series, we’ll explore the origins and stories of 50 different Halloween monsters.

From ancient myths to modern pop culture, each creature has a unique history. We’ll dive deep into how they’ve become such a big part of our favorite spooky holiday. So, get ready to learn about the monsters that have made Halloween the haunting celebration it is today.

1. Vampire

50 Halloween Monsters and Their Origin Stories - Vampire

These mythical creatures have had stories told about them for centuries, as far back as Mesopotamians in the fertile crescent.

While their lore has changed over the centuries and differs from culture to culture, the basic idea is that vampires are undead and need human blood to survive.

The popularity of vampires in association with Halloween can be traced to the publishing of Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

Thanks to Dracula, we have the modern-day idea of what a vampire is – pale, unearthly, yet charismatic and seductive.

From the popularity of Dracula in the 19th century came a whole slew of vampire media in the 20th century, when Halloween was also picking up speed as a holiday for dress-up.

Today, there are as many depictions of vampires as there are stars in the sky, from Edward Cullen in Twilight to Nicholas Cage’s most recent turn in Renfield.

2. Werewolf

50 Halloween Monsters and Their Origin Stories - Werewolf

One of the first references to a werewolf-like creature comes from Petronius, a courtier at the time of the emperor Nero.

Yet the idea of the modern-day werewolf has its roots in Medieval history, where writers spread stories of men turning into wolves as fact.

By the 19th century, we have many of the common facets of werewolves come into play – that they are deterred by silver and have superhuman strength.

It in 1935 and 1941, Hollywood released two werewolf films, Werewolf of London and The Wolf Man, respectively.

These raised the profile of the werewolf at a time when the celebration of Halloween was also on the rise.

These mythical beasts have since been cemented into the popular imagination, thanks to movies like The Twilight Series and the Underworld series.

3. Zombie

50 Halloween Monsters and Their Origin Stories - Zombie

The idea of the zombie, an undead, reanimated corpse, comes from Haiti, where a witch or sorcerer could supposedly bring back to life a dead person.

The idea was popular among Haitian slaves, who believed that if they were good, they would go to a heavenly afterlife, but if they were bad, they would become a zombie and a slave forever.

Zombies were introduced to the U.S. in the early 20th century, but by the third quarter of the 1900s, zombies would work their way into the popular imagination and stay there permanently.

This was thanks to George Romero’s film series, starting with Night of the Living Dead.

Today, we have so many different zombie stories in the media, from The Walking Dead to World War Z, to 28 Days Later.

All of these are vastly popular films and TV shows, so it’s no wonder that people started dressing up on Halloween as zombies and likely always will.

The only question is, will they be the newer, fast zombie or a slow, lumbering zombie?

4. Ghost

50 Halloween Monsters and Their Origin Stories - Ghost

The belief in ghosts can actually be traced to pre-literate societies – it seems that for as long as there have been people (and dead people), there has been a belief in spirits and apparitions.

There are mentions of spirits in Homer’s Odyssey and even in the Old Testament.

In more modern times, we have Hamlet’s father’s ghost visiting the main character in Shakespeare’s famous play.

Speeding up to the Victorian era, there is the ghost of Jacob Marley visiting Ebenezer Scrooge in Charles Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol, as well as three ghosts throughout the night.

Of course, the Victorians – that macabre bunch – really latched onto the ghost stories, so it is through them that we have the modern interpretation of spirits.

While some kids (and adults) make do with a sheet and two eyeholes for their Halloween costume – a classic! – others go all out, dressed all in white and grey.

5. Witch

50 Halloween Monsters and Their Origin Stories - Witch

As long as there have been women defying “conventional” womanly behavior – submissiveness and meekness – there have been stories of witches.

These defiant women have been made up mostly of unmarried spinsters and widows throughout the centuries (and they have paid, in some cases, with their lives).

The tools of their trade? A cauldron, obviously, for brewing potions, a broomstick for flying through the night, a black cat, their familiar, and an evil spell book.

It wasn’t until the 1939 movie The Wizard of Oz, however, which was released right when trick-or-treating at Halloween was starting to pick up steam in the United States, that we got our first cultural touchstone depiction of a witch.

Oh, the Wicked Witch of the West, and her green skin, black dress, and pointy hat! 

Forever the ultimate depiction of a witch and one that still resonates with kids and adults on Halloween today.

6. Frankenstein

50 Halloween Monsters and Their Origin Stories - Frankenstein

When Mary Shelley was vacationing with friends in Switzerland in the early 19th century, little could the group have known what would be unleashed on the world shortly thereafter.

It was because of a horror story competition that Shelley wrote the story of Frankenstein, where a mad scientist connects and reanimates different parts of men to create one monster.

While there have been several depictions of Frankenstein’s monster throughout the years, the most enduring is, surprisingly, the 1931 Boris Karloff creation.

This is where Frankenstein’s monster gets the bolts in his neck, the rectangular face shape, and the lumbering, awkward movements.

No other depiction has come close to touching this, and it is this one that children and adults most commonly reach for when they dress up as Frankenstein’s monster for Halloween.

7. Mummy

50 Halloween Monsters and Their Origin Stories - Mummy

Mummies are preserved bodies that have been embalmed – either purposely or not – and may thus withstand the tests of time, with the oldest mummy found nearly 10,000 years old.

The Egyptian mummy craze started in the 1920s with the discovery of King Tut’s tomb by archaeologist Howard Carter.

But it wasn’t until the horror film in 1932, The Mummy, that people began to emulate the wrappings and awkward movements of modern-day mummy depictions.

8. Banshee

50 Halloween Monsters and Their Origin Stories - Banshee

A banshee depicts a woman with a ghastly complexion, with long, streaming hair and eyes that burn red from her pitiless crying.

It’s a bit of Irish folklore that originates in the Medieval period when the banshee’s screaming or wailing portends a death in the family.

9. Headless Horseman

50 Halloween Monsters and Their Origin Stories - Headless Horseman

While Headless Horseman figures have appeared in stories since the Medieval period, it is Washington Irving’s depiction that has captured the popular imagination.

In his Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Ichabod Crane is haunted by a Headless Horseman, said to be the ghost of a Hessian soldier who lost his head in battle.

The story ends on the note that poor Crane merely had a trick played on him by his competition for the hand of a wealthy and beautiful local lass.

This story has strong ties to Halloween, with its ghostly apparition and the use of a Jack-o-lantern thrown at Ichabod right before he flees Sleepy Hollow.

10. Grim Reaper

50 Halloween Monsters and Their Origin Stories - Grim Reaper

The Grim Reaper is death personified, often shown as an animated skeleton, carrying a scythe and enrobed in all black.

He may be depicted as violent – hastening his victim’s death – or gentle, quietly ushering the deceased’s spirit to the underworld.

Because so much of Halloween has to do with death – ghosts, ghouls, zombies – it is fitting that the Grim Reaper be associated with the holiday, too.

11. Demon

50 Halloween Monsters and Their Origin Stories - Demon

Demons are known as Satan’s spawn, come to earth to work his evil will, and they have been depicted for centuries, as far back as ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia.

Perhaps demons’ most prolific work is through human possessions, such as in the film The Exorcist – a popular film around Halloween thanks to its gruesome story.

12. Goblin

50 Halloween Monsters and Their Origin Stories - Goblin

A goblin is a smallish creature that resembles a bat, though it is often depicted as having two legs and two arms, a cape or robe, and it may even wield weapons.

It is mischievous but mostly in the evil realm, and it may play tricks on its human subjects.

Since the veil between the living and the dead is at its thinnest during Halloween, it stands to reason that little goblins might also slip through the cracks and wreak havoc on the holiday.

13. Jack-O’-Lantern

50 Halloween Monsters and Their Origin Stories - Jack-O-Lantern

Jack-O’-Lanterns are a holdover from the Celtic Samhain traditions that were absorbed by Christians throughout the Middle Ages.

Traditionally, the Celts carved faces into turnips to ward off evil spirits around Samhain; the practice was brought to the U.S. and transferred to pumpkins, which are larger and softer.

Jack-O’-Lanterns get their fantastical reputation from stories like Sleepy Hollow, where the Headless Horseman holds and throws one of these carved pumpkins at Ichabod Crane.

14. Poltergeist

50 Halloween Monsters and Their Origin Stories - Poltergeist

Poltergeists are spirits that interact with humans in a physical way, whether it’s by moving or destroying items or directly attacking people.

While there have been stories of these ghosts for centuries, the word came into popular usage thanks to the spooky Poltergeist film series in the 1980s.

15. Skeleton

50 Halloween Monsters and Their Origin Stories - Skeleton

Skeletons, especially those that are put together to form a human body, are particularly creepy on their own.

But add in black magic or an evil spirit to reanimate the skeleton, and you have a recipe for a really good Halloween story.

Skeletons are stark reminders of death, after all – it’s all that is left of us after time (and the worms) have had their way!

16. Black Cat

50 Halloween Monsters and Their Origin Stories - Black Cat

Black cats are creatures of Halloween due to their association with witches.

These cats, whose fur is the color of the night, were thought to be witch’s familiars – companions in evil.

Or they were thought to be witches themselves, with the supernatural beings in question using potions to transform themselves into innocuous creatures.

17. Spider

50 Halloween Monsters and Their Origin Stories - Spider

Spiders are another thing that are creepy on their own, despite being very good for the environment (and for houses!).

Perhaps it’s their skittish way of moving on eight legs or the fact that some are actually venomous and can kill a human with just one bite.

They’re synonymous with dark, abandoned buildings or attics; and they were once thought to be witches’ familiars.

18. Bat

50 Halloween Monsters and Their Origin Stories - Bat

Bats get their bad reputation from one species – out of over 1,300 – the vampire bat, which does drink blood, is only found in Central and South America.

Still, their infamy is enough to spread to all bats, whose admittedly creepy flying through the night and nocturnal activities can be construed as spooky.

Like spiders and cats, bats were also thought to be witches’ familiars.

19. Cthulhu

50 Halloween Monsters and Their Origin Stories - Cthulhu

We get the modern-day Cthulhu from H.P. Lovecraft, whose monster most closely resembles an octopus, though there are traces of dragon and even human in him.

While Cthulhu remains imprisoned or hibernating in an underwater city, there is strong fear and anxiety that one day, the creature will return to the surface – and then it’s lights out for all of us!

20. Phantom

50 Halloween Monsters and Their Origin Stories - Phantom

Phantom is simply another word for spirit or ghost, but it can also be an illusion of the mind or something that only exists in the mind.

21. Wraith

50 Halloween Monsters and Their Origin Stories - Wraith

Wraith is another term for a ghost or spirit, though this one has connotations of being seen just before or just after someone’s death.

It’s also thought to be particularly ghastly, not to mention vengeful.

22. Scarecrow

50 Halloween Monsters and Their Origin Stories - SCarecrow

Scarecrows are humanoid figures dressed like people and propped up in fields to scare away birds that would peck at the harvest.

Their connection with Halloween has to do with Samhain, the festival of the harvest, and the crops that the scarecrows oversaw throughout the growing year.

Perhaps it is their uncanny resemblance to actual humans that provokes such a creepy feeling – like being watched by them or feeling that at any moment, they might move of their own volition.

23. Chupacabra

50 Halloween Monsters and Their Origin Stories - Chupacabra

A vampire-like monster that sucks the blood of animals, the Chupacabra legend actually isn’t that old – the first killings attributed to the monster were in just 1975.

Some say that the Chupacabra is more reptile-like in appearance, with scales and spines; others report more of a dog-like look, though without the fur.

24. Medusa

50 Halloween Monsters and Their Origin Stories - Medusa

Medusa is a Gorgon from Greek mythology whose hair was composed of snakes and whose look could turn humans to stone.

Unfortunately, her time came to an end at the hand of the hero Perseus, who was sent to slay her and who received help from the gods, namely a mirrored shield.

25. The Invisible Man

50 Halloween Monsters and Their Origin Stories - The invisible Man

The Invisible Man was a science fiction story by H.G. Wells, published in 1897, detailing how Griffin – the eponymous invisible man – plans to terrorize the world with his invention.

Though published at the end of the 19th century, the Invisible Man continued to thrill well into the 20th and 21st centuries.

The most famous depiction of the story is the 1933 film, starring Claude Rains, which popularized the face-in-wrappings and round sunglasses look.

26. The Creature from the Black Lagoon

50 Halloween Monsters and Their Origin Stories - Creature From The Black Lagoon

The Creature from the Black Lagoon is based on a 1950s movie that follows a crew that is exploring the Amazon.

They come across a “piscine amphibious humanoid” beast with the body of a human (albeit covered in scales) and the face of a fish.

This creature is, of course, fantastical, and while there were sequels and some panned remakes, one major inheritor of the movie is 2017’s The Shape of Water.

27. Gargoyle

50 Halloween Monsters and Their Origin Stories - Gargoyle

Gargoyles are stone carvings added to the exteriors of buildings, with open spout mouths designed to direct water away from roofs.

However, due to the truly grotesque nature of some of the gargoyles, they are also figures of disgust and terror.

Some were modeled after dragons (or rather, the artist’s interpretation of a dragon!), while others have been said to resemble demons.

28. Bogeyman

50 Halloween Monsters and Their Origin Stories - Bogeyman

If you ever misbehaved and your parents warned you the Bogeyman would get you, you were actually taking part in a hundreds-of-years-old tradition (comforting, isn’t it?).

While there are tons of variations of the Bogeyman and no one set appearance, he is thought to have claws and sharp teeth – the better for eating errant children with.

29. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

50 Halloween Monsters and Their Origin Stories - Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde come from Robert Louis Stevenson’s gothic 1886 novel about a man who develops a serum that turns him into an uncaring, unsympathetic beast of a human.

It has seen numerous film and stage adaptations, but at its core, it seems to remind us that beasts are not far from humans – in fact, they may be lurking within us all.

30. Dullahan

50 Halloween Monsters and Their Origin Stories - Dullahan

The Dullahan is Ireland’s version of a Headless Horseman, though it is also a general term for a headless spirit who does evil or wicked acts.

The Dullahan may be depicted on a black horse and carrying his own head under his arm or held aloft for maximum terror.

31. The Kraken

50 Halloween Monsters and Their Origin Stories - Kraken

The Kraken, a colossal octopus monster that was said to live in the seas of the North Atlantic, had its first reported sightings as early as the year 1700.

Since then, its legend has only grown, though today it is believed that the “Kraken” sailors saw was really a giant squid.

Still, the Kraken was cemented in the popular imagination by Jules Verne’s’ Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea in the 19th century, then Clash of the Titans in 2010.

32. Slender Man

50 Halloween Monsters and Their Origin Stories - Slender Man

From a Photoshop contest on the Something Awful forum in 2009 came The Slender Man, a freakishly tall humanoid creature with no features, wearing a suit.

Inspired by H.P. Lovecraft, Stephen King, and Zack Parsons, the creator of The Slender Man, Eric Knudsen, set off a moral panic when his character inspired two girls to attack another one.

The Slender Man’s mythos is dark, indeed – he is thought to stalk, abduct and otherwise traumatize people, and in particular, children.

And if you get too close to The Slender Man, you might catch Slender Sickness, which causes nightmares, delusional paranoia, and nosebleeds.

33. Jersey Devil

50 Halloween Monsters and Their Origin Stories - Jersey Devil

The origin of the Jersey Devil begins with Mother Leeds’s 13th child – supposedly, Mrs. Leeds was a witch, and the father of the child was the devil.

Being unlucky number 13, the child was born and transformed into a winged creature with the head of a goat, hooves for feet, and a pointy tail (a sure sign of the devil).

The Jersey Devil gets his name from the area in which the legend originates – South Jersey, though the tradition is also active in the Philadelphia area as well.

34. Mothman

50 Halloween Monsters and Their Origin Stories - Mothman

The Mothman mythos began in the 1960s when two couples in West Virginia came across a “large white creature” whose eyes “glowed red.”

A year later, when a bridge collapsed and killed 46 people in the same area, the Mothman was connected to the tragedy, and his legend spread.

There may be a very basic explanation for what the Mothman really was, however – a sandhill crane, which can grow to be as tall as a man and has reddish circles around its eyes.

35. Freddy Krueger

50 Halloween Monsters and Their Origin Stories - Freddy Krueger

Freddy Krueger is the creation of Wes Craven, who directed the first Nightmare on Elm Street film in 1984.

After escaping justice on a technicality, the child serial killer is burned alive by a mob of angry parents, and while his body dies, his spirit lives on in the dreams of teenagers of Elm Street.

His costume is one that has been replicated again and again for Halloween, featuring a striped sweatshirt, dark brown fedora, and, of course, his bladed glove.

36. Jason Voorhees

50 Halloween Monsters and Their Origin Stories - Jason Voorhees

Jason Voorhees is another horror/slasher movie character who comes from a troubled past – he died as a child by drowning – and who is virtually indestructible.

It is only in the third Friday the 13th movie, however, that Jason dons the iconic hockey mask as he goes on a killing rampage.

37. Michael Myers

50 Halloween Monsters and Their Origin Stories - Michael Myers

From the Halloween film franchise comes Michael Myers, whose iconic mask – Captain Kirk painted white – has terrified legions of moviegoers.

He is homicidal, superhuman, and typically seen wearing a dark jumpsuit, knife in hand.

38. Leatherface

50 Halloween Monsters and Their Origin Stories - Leatherface

Leatherface is the main villain in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre film series, a mentally deranged son in a family of slaughterhouse workers (who are also cannibals).

The original 1974 horror flick was truly one of the first of its kind, and Leatherface became iconic for his creepy masks – made out of the skins of his victims.

39. Chucky

50 Halloween Monsters and Their Origin Stories - Chucky

Chucky is a psychopathic doll that is animated when it is possessed by the spirit of a serial killer in the Child’s Play film series.

Throughout the movies, Chucky terrorizes and murders without compunction while maintaining the “cute” red hair, blue eyes, and smile of his doll exterior.

While not strictly a Halloween movie, the first film was released about a week after the holiday in 1988.

40. Pennywise the Clown

50 Halloween Monsters and Their Origin Stories - Pennywise

Pennywise the Clown is the humanoid embodiment of an evil creature called It, who lives in a well in Derry, Maine.

He is able to shapeshift and alter reality, often getting inside his victim’s minds and showing them their greatest fears.

It, or Pennywise, is the creation of horror novelist Stephen King.

41. Siren

50 Halloween Monsters and Their Origin Stories - Siren

Appearing in Homer’s Odyssey, sirens were creatures with bird-like lower halves, human-like upper halves (always female), and alluring voices that guided sailors to their doom.

Later, in the Medieval period, they would become synonymous with mermaids (their lower halves being fish).

42. Ghoul

50 Halloween Monsters and Their Origin Stories - Ghoul

Ghouls actually come to us from the Arabic (ghül), and they were said to live in cemeteries or other desolate places, luring unwitting humans to them and devouring them or drinking their blood.

They were also known to prey specifically on children.

Once they had finished with a body, they could then shapeshift into the person they had eaten, allowing them to trick further humans.

The modern ghoul, however, originates with H.P. Lovecraft in the 19th century, whose take is a dog-faced monster who steals human children and replaces them with one of their own.

43. Harpy

50 Halloween Monsters and Their Origin Stories - Harpy

Like the sirens, harpies are half-bird, half-human, typically female.

Their hands are sharp-as-razors talons, and their feathered bodies lie below “faces haggard with hunger insatiable” – they would steal food from their victims right out of their hands.

44. The Phantom of the Opera

50 Halloween Monsters and Their Origin Stories - The Phantom of the Opera

The Phantom of the Opera comes from the popular book and musical which goes by the same name.

In this story, a budding opera starlet is haunted by a disfigured man – posing as a phantom – who trains her voice and has fallen in love with her.

Their love is ultimately doomed, but not before the Phantom exacts some terrible revenge on those who have wronged him.

This has popularized the Phantom’s costume, a black tuxedo or suit, a black cape, and a white half-face mask.

45. The Hunchback of Notre-Dame

50 Halloween Monsters and Their Origin Stories - Hunchback Of Notre Dame

The Hunchback of Notre Dame is a character from a book by Victor Hugo, Quasimodo by name, who is hideously deformed and therefore sticks to the grounds of Notre Dame Cathedral.

He falls in love with the Roma dancer Esmerelda, one of the few people who has ever shown him kindness, but fate intervenes, and she is eventually executed for crimes she did not commit.

The story was sanitized and popularized by the Disney animated adaptation of the same name.

46. Nosferatu

50 Halloween Monsters and Their Origin Stories - Nosferatu

Nosferatu has been popularized as the Romanian word for “vampire” however there is no actual historical etymology.

Still, it has been accepted as such since the 19th century when Bram Stoker mentioned it in his book Dracula and further, when audiences viewed the 1922 film Nosferatu.

The German low-budget horror film’s villain is Count Orlock, the titular nosferatu, who preys upon the unwitting humans who come into his sphere of influence.

The film has endured for over a century, not least of which is because of Count Orlock’s truly terrifying visage – it’s difficult even for this modern viewer to look at pictures of him!

47. Dracula

50 Halloween Monsters and Their Origin Stories - Dracula

The ultimate big daddy of monsters, Dracula was cemented into the popular imagination at the 1897 publishing of the Bram Stoker novel of the same name.

Purported to be an amalgam of historical figures, including Vlad the Impaler and Elizabeth Bàthory, Dracula has become the archetype vampire, a much-copied version.

There is his ability to transform into a dog-like creature, his abhorrence of sunlight and crucifixes, and his hatred of garlic.

48. The Wolfman

50 Halloween Monsters and Their Origin Stories - Wolfman

The Wolfman is perhaps the most enduring bit of media about werewolves, being made in 1941 and starring both Lon Chaney, Jr. and Claude Rains, as well as Bela Lugosi.

While there is no source material from which the character is drawn, the Wolfman nonetheless has greatly influenced public perception of werewolves.

This includes the belief that silver is the only thing that can stop a werewolf, that men turn into werewolves by the light of the moon, and that you can turn into a werewolf by being bitten by one.

49. The Mummy

50 Halloween Monsters and Their Origin Stories - The Mummy

As mentioned above, The Mummy, a 1932 horror film (which was made pre-Code), had a significant impression on the public’s perception of mummies.

Well, on its perception of mummies that have been brought back to life, that is, and the film capitalizes on the innate creepiness of these long-dead bodies.

From the shuffling movements of The Mummy (at least initially) to the way the bandages are wrapped, this monster has influenced Halloween costumes for decades.

50. The Swamp Monster

50 Halloween Monsters and Their Origin Stories - Swamp Monster

I have to think that for as long as there have been swamps, there have been stories about what lies within those murky waters.

There are many mythological swamp monsters in the U.S., including the Honey Island Swamp Monster of Louisiana and the Skunk Ape said to inhabit the swamps of Southeast America.

Swamp monsters may be piscine (such as the Gill-Man from the Creature from the Black Lagoon), lizard-like, or more of a creature covered in plants and vines from the swamp.

Or, they’re a Sasquatch-type creature who inhabits the marshlands, like the Honey Island Swamp Monster.

They’re thought to be violent when provoked, too. 

Although no conclusive evidence has ever been presented as to the existence of these creatures, well, no one has disproven their existence, either!

Save this page