Origins of Well Known Monsters III

Horror movies have had a field day with the living dead, but have you ever stopped to think where the zombie originated from? The thought of the undead was not the brainchild of a movie executive, but came from a specific culture. In this article, you will learn about the origins of both zombies and ghouls.


Haunting places that humans prefer not to frequent (such as cemeteries, graveyards, and abandoned buildings), ghouls are monsters that originate from Arabian folklore. In the Middle East, the ghouls were in the same category as ‘jinn’ (evil spirits). The word ‘genie’ originates from ‘jinn’. According to folklore, a ghoul will lure unknowing travelers into the desert so that they could kill and feast upon their flesh.

Stories were told of ghouls that preyed upon small children and lured the weak to isolated areas. They were also known to rob graves and eat the dead ”“ in addition to feeding on the flesh of the living.
The oldest literature that makes mention of the ghouls is thought ‘One Thousand and One Nights.’ However, the term was initially highlighted in 1786 by William Beckford in his novel titled Vathek, which refers to a ‘ghul’ from an Arabian folklore.

Sometimes, a ghoul is known to take on the form of an animal, especially the hyena. The creature will catch the attention of the unwary ”“ hoping to lure them away into a desolate area where they can kill and devour their prey. Some tales speak of the ghoul drinking the blood of their victims as well.


The living dead have since become well known characters in books, horror films, and popular culture, including movies, such as ‘Night of the Living Dead.’ The concept of a zombie (a human that is both living and dead at the same time) has historic ties to Latin America, where undead corpses have come to life in many folk tales in the Afro-Caribbean culture.  The animated corpse is brought back to life by some sort of mystical source, which includes witchcraft. Over the years, the zombie has become more linked to the folklore and tales of North America and Europe ”“ thanks to the magic of movie making.

In South Africa, zombies are still a part of present-day culture, where some communities believe that a dead person can transform into a zombie by the hands of a small child. The spell placed on the victim can be broken when a powerful traditional healer is involved. Others feel that witches can turn an individual into a zombie by killing and possessing the body of the victim for the purposes of forcing a person into slave labor.


In Western folk tales, ogres are popular characters in stories of maidens lost in the forest and hidden treasures. The ogres are often depicted with large heads, wild hair and beards. In fairy tales, they are seen as human eaters ”“ using their extreme strength and ferociousness to overcome their targets. Ogres are creatures that first appeared in French literature. Ogres appear in myths, folklore, classic works, fairy tales, and fiction writing.  They are known as a bully, brutalizer, exploiter and a creature that harasses. Sometimes, ogres are seen as comparable to a troll ”“ a supernatural being found in Norse mythology and Scandinavian folklore.