Ever wonder how come nonsensical creatures like men turned to wolves by moonlight or soulless, shuffling, brain-eating zombies were considered scary instead of silly? And scary enough that the tropes have survived for centuries? We dug into the history of 10 of our most enduring monsters, and unsurprisingly they often originate in attempts to explain the unknown or justify our deepest fears.

For example, when eastern Europeans in the Middle Ages noticed they were losing a lot of family members, it made sense at the time to blame the resurrected, life-sucking undead, according to Smithsonian Magazine. It’s a myth that works without an understanding of germs and diseases like the plague and tuberculosis, which were what was really killing people.

Vampire bats were later named after the mythical monster and may have even contributed to the myth itself, according to one theory from a neurologist named Dr. Juan Gomez-Alonso. In addition to having a taste for blood, bats are known carriers of rabies, which can affect the brain and lead to myth-compatible things such as insomnia, hypersexuality and violent behavior.

Up next in vampire lore: the elusive vampire squirrel.


Scary history: Origins of 10 classic Halloween monsters