The History of Scary Stories

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With Halloween right around the corner, our minds are on all things ghoulish. To help get in the spirit of Halloween, scary stories are often told. Ghost stories aren’t just for this spooky time of year, but there is something special about scary stories on the night that it’s believed the worlds of the living and the dead become blurred. Halloween started as a celebration of Samhain by the Celts over 2,000 years ago, but ghost stories have a much longer history.

Belief in ghosts or spirits that live among us are one of the traits shared throughout ancient cultures. You can find ghost stories with similar themes shared in Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, Rome, China, and India and in the Celtic lands of Ireland and Scotland. The common thread through each culture is that the soul of a human being survived death and went to live on in another place, and that they still needed sustenance to live on in the afterlife. The passage from life to the afterlife took on different forms with funeral traditions and types of burial, but it was a common belief that if something went wrong with these rituals, this would cause the souls of the dead to stay among the living. It was a rare that an encounter with a ghost was a pleasant experience in the stories told.

Regardless of your thoughts on ghosts and their existence, the tradition of telling ghost stories has been a part of every culture, and the way and the reason that they are told have evolved over time. Sometimes scary stories are used to deter specific actions, especially in children. Scary stories that involve more than ghosts have been used to explain the unexplainable and are especially used for entertainment. Scary movies collected $733 million in ticket sales in 2017. Things that go bump in the night are intriguing to all, even when you don’t like to be scared, which has helped to carry the tradition of telling ghost stories on for thousands of years.

Sources:

https://www.history.com/topics/halloween/historical-ghost-stories

https://www.ancient.eu/ghost/

https://www.history.com/topics/halloween/history-of-halloween

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/26/movies/top-horror-movies-box-office-it-get-out.html

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