Posted by: Ticktock | November 2, 2008

Analyzing Halloween Archetypes

We had a fun Halloween this year.  My daughters were dressed respectively as a bumblebee fairy and a puppy dog, both costumes hand made by my crafty wife.  We did the hayride, pumpkin carving, candied apples, and we even had room in our schedule for me to pull off my mad scientist haunted basement.  Just for a sec, I’ll pull down the mask of anonymity and post a couple pictures.  I would normally reserve this sort of thing for a personal blog, but every once in a while it’s good to remind people that I’m human and not some blogging robot.

You can see from the picture that my mad scientist lab ended up being your standard touch-n-feel innards buffet –  grape eyeballs, cauliflower brains, tomato hearts, udon noodle intestines, and petrified mastodon snot.  Yeah, I decided to be a silly mad scientist, and I think my comedy gamble paid off based on the positive reactions by everyone.  My daughter, SB- the bumblebee, was terrified to go through the haunted basement, so we did a version with all the lights on and with me explaining absolutely everything, including the “disembodied” head poking through a bed sheet between the dryer and the washing machine and my best friend as the barely scary monster.  Fun stuff!

After it was all over, I started thinking about the meaning behind Dr. Frankenstein and his monster.  I’m sure this is a well worn path, but the classic archetype of a “mad” scientist depicted by Mary Shelley was clearly a social reaction to the fear of modern science, that it would create a “monster” that it couldn’t control.  This theme has continued even until today with political ads of little girls picking flowers (much like the girl in the Frankenstein movie) just before she is obliterated by a mushroom cloud (killed by the monster).

Some conservatives (and conspiracy theorists) look at modern genetic engineering and genome mapping as a Frankenstein’s monster.  Most recently, Jurassic Park tapped into that fear with dinosaurs preying on the scientists that created them.  There have been other more recent examples that tap into the fear of science gone wrong, like I Am Legend and The Island, yet few have managed to stick in our subconscious mind the way the monster legends have persisted over time.

After SB’s trip through the mad lab, I was a tiny bit worried that all the good things about science she had learned from Sid the Science Kid such as curiosity and discovery would be clouded by the dark images of disemboweled and dismembered horror victims, but parents sometimes worry too much.   My daughters will become what they are meant to become, and what I do will make little difference as long as I’m an active and positive parent.

Continuing with the thread of over thinking life’s symbols, I also noted that SB was prancing around the house with a broom between her legs and calling herself a “witch”.  Again, this is probably unoriginal territory, but I think it’s important to remember that witches are archetypes that were created to demonize and disrespect the universal image of women.  These evil ladies were depicted as flying around on household brooms and stirring large cooking pots, both traditional symbols of a woman’s pre-feminist role in society.  Sure enough, the witch hunts and trials that took place historically were done by male dominated christian societies, which means little to us now, but is important to remember as our daughter’s playfully imagine themselves as culturally demonized icons that were once no laughing matter.

I tried to remember the rule of threes and add a third halloween monster to analyze, but such things should probably not be forced.  Besides, I’m sure my readers can help me with the cultural symbols we can interpret from the origins of legends such as werewolves, vampires, and mummies.  So, if you’ve made it this far… what do you think?  How do some of these monsters fit into society?  What fears and insecurities do they tap into?  What can we learn from them?   And, perhaps more importantly, how was your Halloween?



  1. Indeed, encountering real fear. touching it even, exactly what the consumeristic flood tries to hide or turn into just another piece of plastic from China, anything you’ll spend another dollar on. thanks for your post.

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