The Origins of the Myths of Halloween



The myths and legends of these infamous figures continue to live on. Here’s where you can find the origins of some of the more popular spooky stories.

Emma Safari, Photojournalist

Halloween is a beloved holiday by many. Millions of American children, teenagers, and adults celebrate the holiday every year. So, as Halloween turns the corner, let us dive a little bit deeper and explore where a few of the spooky myths and legends behind the holiday originated.

First, there is the famous and well-known Headless Horseman. The Headless Horseman, also known as ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is considered one of America’s first ghost stories. According to, the tale first surfaced when Washington Irving wrote his tale of the headless horseman in 1820. Although, the spooky story can be traced back to the middle ages when the Brothers Grimm wrote their stories, along with the Dutch and the Irish legend of a Grim Reaper-like rider, known as “Dullahan” or “Gan Ceann” rose. 

Next, we have Bloody Mary. As the legend goes, when you stand in a bathroom with the door closed and say the name “Bloody Mary” in the mirror three times, Bloody Mary would lash out and leave a mark on you. However, the story has adopted many variations through the years. One claims that the participant’s hair will turn white, another says the mirror will drip with blood, while insists that the participant will become another one of her victims. So where did it all come from? According to, this American horror story can be estimated to have appeared during the 1970s. A few different women of history can be held accountable for the horror story. Three in particular: Mary Tudor of England who maintains the nickname of ‘Bloody Mary’; Elizabeth Bathory, who was nicknamed the ‘Queen of Blood’; and Mary Worth, who executed witches during the Salem Witch trials.

This leads us to the next myth: witches. Witches have been seen to appear all throughout history in various cultures. This myth has mostly to do with religion. Most witches were perceived to be doing the Devil’s work by casting spells and making potions. Stated by during the years 1550-1660, witch hunts had become a commonality; nearly 80,000 suspected witches were killed in the course of this time period.

Last but not least, is the tale of Frankenstein. One of our students at Yorba Linda High School, Emily Amaya (11) states “Frankenstein is my favorite Halloween myth because my aunt used to always tell me that story when I was growing up.”

“Frankenstein is my favorite Halloween myth because my aunt used to always tell me that story when I was growing up.””

— Emily Amaya (11)

This tale first arose in 1816 and was written by Mary Shelly. Mary was inspired by the myth after she heard about experiments on frogs where dissected limbs held the ability to move and twitch after being removed from the body. According to a University of Northern Georgia blog, Shelly took her feared nightmare and turned it into a written piece that would live to haunt many for years to come. 

These horror stories continue to haunt the public and provide inspiration for many Halloween costumes. The legends will continue to live on as more movies and books are made about them.