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Friday, 1 October 2021

Nothing brings on the heebie jeebies like a good old scary story

You’re in dark forests, grouped around a campfire, with a flashlight pointed on your face, what’s missing? You guessed it, a horror story. A good tale of monsters never fails to spook the young and old alike. We take a deep dive into the origins of five of the most famed horror stories, legends and myths of all time from Egypt and around the world.

A couple of classics-

Frankenstein: The man-made monster comes from the wonderful imagination of famed English writer Mary Shelley. In 1816 — aka the year without summer — her boyfriend challenged her to write a horror story. She did, and the rest is history. But did you know that Frankenstein has roots in science? The idea of resurrection through the use of electricity — called galvanism — had gained popularity in the early XIXth century after Luigi Galvani, an Italian scientist, got a dead frog’s legs to twitch by using electricity. Shelley used the same concept to give us Frankenstein, writing to a friend: “Perhaps a corpse would be re-animated; galvanism had given token of such things: perhaps the component parts of a creature might be manufactured, brought together, and endued with vital warmth."

Dracula: Everyone’s favourite vampire is not as old as his monster counterpart, Frankenstein. Dracula was published more than half a century later in 1897 by Irish author Bram Stoker, but that didn’t stop the novel from becoming a world renowned classic. Stoker reportedly used Vlad Dracula, a bloodthirsty medieval king who ruled the region that is now Romania, as the basis for the character of Dracula. Vlad Dracula was famed for his cruelty, reportedly roasting children and feeding them to their mother, nailing turbans to the head of Ottomans, and washing his hands in the blood of his victims. He also really enjoyed impaling people. He liked it so much in fact, that he is no more famously known as Vlad the Impaler.

The Loch Ness monster: Nessie — which, might we add, is a terrible name for a monster — supposedly haunts the Loch Ness waters in Scotland. The story is old, very old; with reports of sightings dating as far back as the sixth century AD. However, it wasn’t until the twentieth century that Nessie became universally well-known. It all started when a couple supposedly saw the monster cross their car’s path. The story sparked international media attention and the Daily Mail even commissioned a hunter to find Nessie. But efforts to find the monster have not been fruitful, and the monster is, at least for now, fictional.

And some local flavor-

El Nadaha: The feared she-creature that lures men to a watery death with her charming voice has unclear origins. The legend has been part of Egyptian folklore for centuries now, but its exact roots are untraceable. El Nadaha finds her parallel in the sirens of ancient Greek mythology; creatures that were half bird and half woman who sang sailors into the sea. In Homer's the Odyssey, Odysseus had this crew’s ears filled with wax so they would not be tempted by the siren’s song as they crossed the sea. Recent Netflix Egyptian production Paranormal — while missing the mark on many things — has an interesting episode dedicated to El Nadaha, if you’re interested in a visual take.

Abou regl masloukha: The creature of our childhood nightmares, used by parents to get their children to behave. It is said that he had lost his leg and would take yours to replace it. We can’t mention Abou regl masloukha without mentioning El Sel3awa, the ravenous dog-wolf-fox hybrid that has been reported to have magical powers ranging from invisibility to the ability to speak with a human voice (depending on who is telling the story).

Baron empain: The indian-style mansion towering over Heliopolis has been a source of mystery and superstition since its construction over a century ago. It’s rumoured that the Baron’s daughter’s ghost haunts the mansion. The myth surfaced when she was found dead in the building; reportedly having killed herself after an unrequited love affair. But that’s not the only myth surrounding the baron’s estate: there were also rumours claiming it was built on a rotating base so that the baron could see the whole city without getting up. Furthermore, the existence of a supposed secret passageway, yet to be found, that leads to the nearby basilica has also contributed to the mysterious and spooky allure. The site also supposedly served in the 1990s as a setting for a number of illicit “satanic rituals” (read: parties) the Egyptian press reported at the time, adding to the building’s creepy backstory.

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