There are so many reasons to love the Halloween season, especially when it comes to researching mythical monsters. Tracing the origins of mythical beasts in books and film is among one of my favorite things to research. Here are a few you may recognize.
Mythical Monsters in Books and Film
The first of our mythical monsters is the Hellhound or the Black Shuck. This ghostly black dog wanders around the East of England, usually on the coastlines of Norfolk and Suffolk. Watch out for his glowing red eyes, and sharp claws which he used to mark the church door in Blythburgh. Black Shuck is commonly known as a harbinger of misfortune, so if you see him beware!
Where to Find this Monster: This wild dog beast can be found in its original form as the ‘Hellhound’ most recently in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
The Lantern Man
In the fens of Eastern England, if you’re out after dark then beware. The Lantern Man is a variation of will-o’-the-wisps.
Both are trails of ghostly light which, if followed, will lead to peril. The Lantern Man is specifically drawn to the sound of whistling, and his trail of lights lures victims into the treacherous marshes.
Where to Find this Monster: The Pixar film Brave, which is set in Scotland, features trails of ghostly lights. They lead the main protagonist, Merida, to her fate.
The Will-o’-the-Wisps Clip from Pixar
Herne the Hunter
In Windsor Forest in Berkshire, there is an oak tree. It was here that a hunter named Herne supposedly hanged himself, after he was cursed to lose his hunting skills. Herne’s restless spirit returned to have revenge upon those who plotted his downfall, and took control of the forest. Some say Herne’s spirit still rides, wearing the horns of a deer and circling his oak tree. He is still the keeper of the forest, and doesn’t want anyone to interfere.
Where to Find this Monster: His legacy has made its way into many books, films, TV shows, video games and even Tarot cards, but its first mention was in William Shakespeare’s, The Merry Wives of Windsor.
Ratman of Southend
There is a bridge in Southend, Essex, that it may be best not to walk under alone, in case you meet the Ratman. The Ratman has two origins: in some stories he’s the ghost of a tramp ho died from the cold and was eaten by rats, or the deformed son of the town’s mayor, who was born to look like a rat as a way of punishing the mayor for committing adultery. Either way, he’s not friendly. If you hear the sound of nails scraping on stone, or feel a brush of whiskers, it’s time to run!
Where to Find this Monster: Local author, Dee Gordon, detailed the local ghost stories of the Essex area – including that of the Ratman – in the book, Haunted Southend. Ghost tours in the Essex area have been known to include nighttime visits to the Ratman Tunnel in the hope of seeing the creature.
The last on our list of mythical monsters are the Bugbears. These little critters live in woodlands all over England, and got their name from their supposed bear-like appearance. They are similar to goblins or brownies, only hairier and with more animalistic faces. For centuries, they have been used to scare naughty children into behaving.
Where to Find this Monster: The fantasy role playing game Dungeons and Dragons features bugbears. They were introduced in the 1975 rulebook entitled Greyhawk, and have since appeared in every subsequent edition of the game. They are evil creatures, and players are able to play as them.
It’s always good fun knowing that the mythical creatures in the books and films we love don’t only exist there alone. More times than not these creatures are adapted from age old folklore from all corners of the earth. England is particularly filled with ancient tales mythical creatures which fascinate us now, and will do so for years to come.