From vampires to witches, demons to ghosts, Halloween is packed with all sorts of spooky stuff. All of which is old as probably not Hell, but yknow, a couple hundred years old. Or just like 90 years. But hey, I got a little bit of information and free time to kill.
The mummy is much older than Halloween, the earliest ones dated back to around 5,000 years, and then raided by British archaeologists and stored somewhere in a museum. So how did they become staples of Halloween? They don’t have major costumes, there’s no name attached to them, and yet they’re one of the main centerpieces of Halloween monsters.
So how did it get there? I actually looked into it (just for this blog specifically.)
Excerpted from, Halloween Monsters: Mummies, Abigail Owen states, “In 1903 Bram Stoker (of Dracula fame), wrote The Jewel of the Seven Stars, a first-person narrative of a young man pulled into an archaeologist’s plot to revive Queen Tera, an ancient Egyptian mummy.”
So 1903 was the first major example of a mummy being a monster. Cool! It also aligns with a lot of pop culture depictions of mummies, of a guy in an explorer’s hat exploring a mummy’s crypt.
29 years later, the Mummy idea would be face greater publicity with the release of the 1932 movie The Mummy by Boris Karloff where a team of British archaeologists discover the mummified remains of an ancient Egyptian prince. It actually looks like it has a lot more plot than that, the mummy returns to life by reading his “ancient scroll aloud” and disguises himself as a richman ala Frankenstein, but the production was a hit, thus solidifying mummies into the Halloween monster lexicon and most probably where you got it from, Halloween merchandise. (I swear there’s gotta be a catalog for these things.)
Now, I am not able to succinctly pin down “ghosts.” I can tell you that much, especially in a six hundred word cap. However the idea of sheet ghosts are interesting. This one’s a bit macabre, but you’re literary art students.
Before coffins, the dead were wrapped in burial shrouds, or from poorer families, their sheets from their deathbed. This goes back to the 1300s, where ghosts were often skeletons draped in their shrouds. Ghosts were thus often connotated of being draped or clothed in white, so much so people were mistaken for a ghost or shot at because of it.
This depiction of ghosts made its way into the theatre and Victorian photography, where often to imitate ghosts people were dressed in white garbs from head to toe. By now, bedsheet ghosts were less of a scary omen and more of a laugh, but what really changed and cemented that idea was children’s programming. I’ve actually seen a couple of these myself, The Lonesome Ghosts from the Mickey Mouse cartoons, Scooby Doo and The Phantom Ghost, along with Casper. By now, ghosts are more prominently portrayed as clips. Little pieces of the living that are no longer preserved and will disappear in front of you.
sources are Halloween Monsters: Mummies by Abigail Owen and Why Ghosts Wear White Sheets (And Other Spectral Silliness) by Rae Alexandra