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Dr. Franklin Ruehl, Ph.D.

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15 Intriguing Halloween-Related Factoids!

Posted: 11/03/11 03:22 PM ET

- Halloween's origins can be traced to the ancient Celtic festival known as "Samhain," which included a feast of the dead in both Pagan and Christian times, and marked the end of harvest and the commencement of winter!

- Jack-o-lanterns were once carved out of turnips, beets, or potatoes before the custom reached America and pumpkins were discovered...according to legend, Jack was a miser who could enter neither heaven nor hell, being forced to wander the earth carrying a lantern until Judgment Day!

- The Greek legend of King Lycaon of Arcadia being transmogrified into a wolf by Zeus after offending the god by serving him a meal of human flesh gave birth to the scientific term for werewolf, "lycanthrope."

- Prior to the 17th century, witches were depicted as riding brooms in the sky whose heads pointed downward, but thereafter, with the heads pointed upward (they also flew on cats, donkeys, goats, or even the Devil himself in animal form)!

- There was a real-life Dr.Dippel Frankenstein who engaged in alchemical experiments utilizing both animal and human cadavers at Castle Frankenstein in southwestern Germany in the early 1700s...Mary Shelley actually visited the castle in 1814, perhaps being inspired by Dippel's work to pen her famous novel!

- Surprisingly, the very 1st written account of a seance is contained in the Old Testament(Samuel I,Ch.28), wherein Saul enlisted a sorceress, the Witch of Endor, to summon the spirit of Samuel so he could consult with him about the ongoing war with the Philistines!

- In the 1922 German horror flick,"Nosferatu," the reflection of the vampire Orlok (portayed by Max Schreck) is clearly visible in a mirror in one scene...although based on "Dracula," that name was never employed because the producers had failed to pay for the rights to use it!

- Not a single defendant at the1692 Salem Witch Trials was burned at the stake...19 were hanged while a 20th, a man who refused to enter a plea, was crushed to death with heavy stones (medical historians have ascribed the bizarre behavior exhibited there to various causes, such as an outbreak of encephalitis or rye bread contaminated by the hallucinogenic known as ergot)!

- Godzilla's name in Japan is "Gojira"...after purchasing the rights to the film in 1956. American producer Richard Kay renamed the creature and added extrensive scenes with Raymond Burr of "Perry Mason" fame portraying a reporter named "Steve Martin!"

- No mummy's tomb is known to have been inscribed with a curse...the concept originated with a stage show in London's Piccadilly Circus in 1821, followed by Jane Webb's 1922 novel, "The Mummy" ("Little Women" authoress Louisa May Alcott also dealt with a mummy's curse in her obscure 1869 short story, "Lost In A Pyramid")

- Val Lewton, who produced such film noir classics of the 1940s as "Cat People" and "Curse of the Cat People," actually had an abiding fear of cats(a full-fledged ailurophobe)...he penned several film scripts under the pseudonym of Carlos Keith!

- The first chain-clanking ghost was described by the noted Roman writer Pliny The Younger in the 1st century A.D., who reported that the philosopher Athenodorus of Athens encountered such an entity who lead him to his grave where he had been buried alive in shackles...when the chains were removed and the body given proper burial, the spirit vanished, apparently finally at peace!

- Today, in a village in Germany's Fichtel Mountains, stands a large stone marker known as the Wolfstone Cross, placed above the grave of a female werewolf who, by day, was an old woman, but, who by night, was a murderous lupine ultimately dispatched by a hunter's silver blade back in the 18th century!

- To ward off the power of the Evil Eye, people around the globe have invoked many practices: Colonial Americans carried heart-shaped amulets, Turks wore eye-shaped brooches made of blue glass, and women in India painted black circles about their own eyes!

- Bela Lugosi was born Bela Blasko in 1882, but changed his name in 1903 in honor of his hometown of Lugos,Hungary, while Boris Karloff was born William Henry Pratt in 1887, but assumed his new minacious moniker in 1909 while riding through Canada on a train!