Now that Shocktoberfest has come to an end, I wanted to write one more piece as look back on the month-long journey I took as I profiled 30 famous monsters from the popular consciousness. I can safely say that I learned quite a bit about some of these characters while doing my research on them and hoped that by writing these articles, my audience would maybe learn something new about these monsters. To give a quick rundown of how this will go, I plan to reflect on my favorite and least favorite articles as well as the ones that surprised me the most with their history, showcase a few characters who didn’t quite make the cut but whom I’d like to do articles on for next year and explain why I decided to create this project for myself.
Out of the 30 articles I wrote, if I had to pick three favorites they would be Frankenstein, the Headless Horseman and the Xenomorph. Not only are these monsters all some of my favorite characters from any medium, but I also had a lot of fun learning about where the origins of these characters lie and how their stories have been told. I also admire that there is more to these monsters than simply trying to scare the hell out of you. Frankenstein represents the fault of meddling with the laws of nature, the Headless Horseman embodies vengeance out of a loss of identity, and the Xenomorph stands as an allegory for the macabre and soulless implications of rape.
While I did enjoy every article I wrote, the three that piqued my interest the least—although maybe not your interests—were Jason Vorhees, Pinhead and El Chupacabra. As much as I recognize their impact on culture, I found that there wasn’t really as much to them as characters as I would have hoped. Concerning Jason, I think the idea of him is actually more frightening than what he actually is, much in the same way that I believe that Jared Leto’s performance in Dallas Buyers Club was better on paper than it was on execution. (Just my opinion) While Pinhead does at least have more personality than Jason, I’ve just never really gotten into Clive Barker’s work very much and feel that Pinhead’s design and attitude outshine a hackneyed idea for a story. As for El Chupacabra, the only thing that really struck me as interesting was how the myth got started. Everything else about it was difficult to get a good pulse on because the details of what it is and how it behaves are so sketchy. Still, I did find it curious how much the original account resembled the alien from Species, and that despite seeming like an old legend, the myth of the monster is still relatively young.
Again, whittling it down to three, the ones that took me most by surprise were the articles on zombies, cannibals and clowns. Knowing that zombies needed to be the vanguards of this series, I went into it with a lot of preconceptions from public awareness of what zombies were about but had no idea where their mythos came from and how they were able to become reanimated. Originally, I only wanted to showcase Hannibal Lecter instead of cannibals as a group, but the more I read about cannibalism, the more I realized that I was needlessly restricting myself to one example when there were so many others. While Hannibal was still the star of that article, I was glad to shed a little more light on the issue and hopefully make my audience aware of the racist history associated with cannibalism. I really wanted to include information about the rumors of Idi Amin Dada being a cannibal and why they spread as well as profile the film, Ravenous, as an under-appreciated film that understands the historical implications of anthropophagy and uses it as a brilliant metaphor for Manifest Destiny, but sadly, time and unforeseen setbacks derailed those ideas. Clowns were a late addition to the list and came in as a substitution, and I’m glad I made that change because while clowns aren’t meant to be monsters, that hasn’t stopped the public’s perception of them being seen that way, and with clowns being one of the most prevalent phobias, I was almost kicking myself for not including them in the original list. What surprised me is how recent the advent of the clown in makeup actually is. They’ve only existed as we know them now for a little over 200 years, which is a short time when compared to other fearsome creatures like ghosts, vampires and werewolves.
And now for a few monsters I really wanted to include in this series but chose not to due to not having much to say about them, not quite being as worthy of mention as others, being too obscure or simply not being as scary as some of the others. Here are five of those monsters who may or may not be featured in future articles, and I’m going to start with the one most of you are probably disappointed in by me not writing about him.
I know that John Carpenter’s Halloween is a horror classic and that it was the debut film that made Jamie Lee Curtis a star, but to be honest, I just couldn’t find much about Michael to write about. His motivation for killing was purposefully meant to not be clear according to Carpenter, but many have espoused that he sadistically butchers teenagers for being either too promiscuous or for using illicit substances. (Carpenter has dismissed these explanations.) In the end, I felt that Michael was too similar to Jason Vorhees and that featuring him alongside Jason would be redundant, and much like Jason, Michael is pretty much just the mask. He doesn’t have any real personality aside from being a creepy murderer, and since the hockey mask gives Jason a little more of his own identity than a worn-out William Shatner mask, Michael didn’t make the cut. That being said, if I do Shocktoberfest in 2015, Michael will be the first one profiled.
This particular breed of monster was a tough cut because since I discovered what they were as a boy, I was fascinated by them. They would have also been a good representative for monsters originating in south Asia and found all throughout Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism. Even though their name and depiction has found a way into Western consciousness—consider the name of Voldemort’s snake, and you’ll understand what I mean—they just felt a bit too obscure for American audiences, and as much I desire to inform and entertain, I didn’t want to alienate my audience by going too far into foreign territory, so if I get enough requests for them, an article on nagas will be added to the books.
Growing up, I loved fantasy tales and always looked forward to any story that involved a fight with a dragon. My adoration for dragons comes from their diversity across cultures and what they represent as opposition to humans, but I eventually had to come to terms with the fact that while these beasts can be very scary, they aren’t really appropriate for the horror genre and don’t come with an aura of “shock.” I love them to death, but to be honest, they do belong more in the fantasy genre and aren’t really as akin to the monster icons as I first thought. Besides, my articles on gargoyles, Cthulhu and Godzilla are all related to dragons in one way or another, so even if I never include them in Shocktoberfest, they got at least three good solid winks from a few notable others.
This one hurt me to exclude. Not only are they pretty scary and have a rich and interesting history as well as plenty of examples from modern pop culture, but when I ran through my list, the cyclopes just didn’t really hold up to some of the more classic horror creatures. I also didn’t want my list to become too marred down in monsters from ancient Greek mythology considering that there were already several examples in the series with ties to Greek antiquity already. Make no mistake, however, that if Shocktoberfest 2015 comes to fruition, expect to see the cyclops.
Here’s the villain I wanted to end my series with this year. I wanted him to be on the list more than any other monster, but after some heated deliberation with a close friend, I was convinced to remove him, and to be frank, I’m still kind of regretting it. The reason why he came off the list was for the same reason dragons came off the list; horror just isn’t his genre. As intimidating as this fallen Jedi is—being ranked at #3 as the American Film Institution’s greatest cinema villain behind Hannibal Lecter and Norman Bates—Lord Vader just isn’t a monster the same way Imhotep, Gill-man, the Phantom and Freddy Krueger are. In spite of his machine-like appearance, he ends up being more human than we expected him to be and is even able to reclaim his humanity before he dies, so some of his monstrous nature is lost. Again, like Michael and the cyclops, if I decide to do this again, Darth Vader will be featured in Shocktoberfest.
(Note to self: include Norman Bates as well.)
I want it to be known that this was not some project that was handed down to be by the website administrators. This was my idea, and thankfully I had a lot of support from the editors who thought my project was a good idea and gave me an outlet for it. I mention that not to toot my own horn but to profess my admiration for strong fictional characters who transcend their stories. As fatalistic as my personality can be, I inexplicably find myself drawn to fiction and love false stories more than true ones. But doing taking on this project helped me realize why that is. Fiction not only is a reflection of our reality but it informs it too.
Freddy Krueger might be a dream-invading sociopath who takes disturbing glee in the suffering and deaths for which he’s responsible, but our attention to Freddy serves as a warning of what happens when the helpless are neglected and how vengeance never fills whatever void is trying to be relieved.
Vampires reflect our desire to be eternally beautiful and power but reminding us that with great gifts come a great price, and sometimes the price is more than what the gift is worth.
Edward Hyde is not some other person who forces the kind Dr. Henry Jekyll to commit atrocities. They’re both the same man, and every one of us has the capacity to become like Mr. Hyde. The more we try to deny it, the more we become him until he consumes all that was good about us.
The beautiful irony of fiction is that while these stories and characters come from the imaginations of ordinary men and women, what they tell us about the human condition is more true than any biography or history book could ever be. It reminds us of the things we value and sometimes what we either should or shouldn’t value. We take these lessons and apply them to our lives in the hope that we can somehow manage to create a fully sense of humanity within ourselves. So on this day, All Hallows’ Eve, let your imagination shine by allowing your creativity to add another unique persona to the pantheon of human fiction. Every piece we add completes us more and more.
Please let me know in the comments below what your feelings on the series were. Did you have a favorite article? Is there another monster you’d like to see showcased in the future? What ever your opinions are, I’d like to hear them. And once again, have a happy Halloween!