Ghosts: usually defined as apparitions of deceased people; spirits or souls of a deceased peoples; any spirit or demon.
Mummies: not only bandaged figures stalking about, but links to mythologized ancient Egypt. The fascination of mummies and Egypt is surely due to the magic aura of this culture and the battle to destroy the mummy often becomes a battle to exert science over magic. Not only. Many of these mummy fictional works are set during the British colonial period and rise the problem of colonization and racial relationships. Europeans and Americans search for treasures that bring them doom and the Egyptians, survived over the centuries, travel toEngland andAmerica to get their revenge. The struggle overcomes the limits of time and becomes a sort of sexual fight. The feminine protagonist, usually surrounded by many men with different relations towards her, represents a revenge of women on men according to an oriental point of view: women can marry up, across racial boundaries, men cannot.
Zombies: mindless, clumsy, primitive, extremely violent and decaying corpses with a hunger for human flesh. According to Vodou, they are dead persons who can be revived by a bokor, or sorcerer. Zombies remain under the control of the bokor since they have no will of their own. “Zombi” is also another name of the Vodou snake lwa Damballah Wedo, of Niger-Congo origin; it means “god”
The presence of zombies has been explained scientifically. Pharmacologically: there are two special powders which, entered into the blood stream, induce a death-like state in which the victim’s will is entirely subjected to that of the bokor. Psychoanalytically: there is a link between social and cultural expectations and compulsion, in the context of schizophrenia and other mental illness.
Nowadays they are seen as a vehicle to criticize real-world social ills; they are apocalyptic signalling the end of the world as we have known it.
Vampires: mythological or folkloric beings who feed on the life essence of living creatures. From Bram Stoker‘s 1897 novel Dracula the vampires give a voice to the anxieties of an age. Dracula, with its suggestions of sex, blood and death, showed the fears in Victorian Europe where tuberculosis and syphilis were common.
Psychoanalysts see vampires as symbols of several defence mechanisms. Passions such as love, guilt, and hate stimulate the desire of a reunion with loved ones; in cases of unconscious guilt, the wish for reunion may become anxiety. The instinctive sexuality of bloodsucking emerge when normal aspects of sexuality are repressed.
The vampire can also assume political overtones: they are usually aristocrat that feed on their subjects. In Werner Herzog’s Nosferatu the Vampyre, a middle-class solicitor, becomes the next vampire: the capitalist bourgeois becomes the next parasitic class.
People identify with these immortal beings they temporarily overcome their fear of dying, performing a sort of exorcism towards death.
Their stiff, violent, unconventional protagonists have some elements in common:
All of them
- reconstruct the boundaries of Life and Death, a romantic theme which finds as a well known predecessor the phantom ship of the Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
- destroy the limits between Past and Present. In their imaginary world lives (or reincarnations) and loves last through the ages, transcend time.
- represent the timeless contraposition between Magic and Science which attracts explorers, doctors, university professors, museum curators, librarians. Their aim is to explain supernatural phenomena by means of scientific knowledge.
- embody the contrast between East and West: they show the western defeat against the ancient cultures, old beliefs cannot be explained by modern theories..
- represent the fear of the “other” as they symbolize the radically different. They are no women nor men, they have no sexual identity. Their behaviour appears to be contrary to society’s norms, it is unconventional, perverse, antireligious, or taboo.