I truly believe that nothing beats a good TV monster. Ever since I found religion (ie, Buffy the Vampire Slayer) at age eleven, I haven’t been able to get enough of ‘em. And now, as a fantasy writer and folklorist, I think I know why: Monsters are mirrors. They’re reflections of what we fear, what we question, what we loathe and long for. Every monster contains a contradiction: zombies are living and dead. Werewolves are animal and human. Vampires are enticing yet deadly. And in that dissonance, we find all the contradictions and complexities within ourselves. What’s more enticing than that?
But these creatures weren’t born in writers’ rooms—they sprung to life organically, in the mouths of folktale tellers throughout time. Some of our favorite TV creepy crawlies have roots stretching back far before the small screen was even invented. Here are five TV monsters you know and love—and the real folklore behind them.