Happy Halloween: Monsters at the UMFA

Halloween is here! Time to stock up on candy and pop in your spookiest DVDs; time to coordinate costumes with friends and loved ones. But, most importantly, it’s time to get scared. And the UMFA is here to help!

"Revengeful Monsters," John Hamilton Mortimer, English. 1778

“Revengeful Monsters,” John Hamilton Mortimer, English. 1778

According to David Wardle, Professor of Classics and Ancient History at University of Cape Town, the word monster derives from the Latin monstrum, which indicates an “aberrant occurrence” which is usually biological, indicating something amiss within the natural order.  We humans don’t like the idea of something amiss with the natural order– it makes us nervous.

A culture’s monsters may embody its deepest anxieties, and across all cultures, people tend to fear the unknown. Most monsters come from unexplored and unknown places; when you’re a kid, these places might be under the bed or in the closet. But once we grow up and conquer our own bedrooms, we start to wonder if monsters might be lurking in the backcountry, deep ocean or lakes, or simply in The Dark.

"Enrag'd Monster." John Hamilton Mortimer, English. 1778

“Enrag’d Monster.” John Hamilton Mortimer, English. 1778

And no matter how many places we might explore and still find no monsters in wait, there is one place we can never check out: death. Most of our monsters come from this unknown place. Consider: Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster (not to be confused with Frankenstein, who is actually the doctor), and of course mummies and zombies.

All of this is to say nothing of ghosts, which permeate our own culture (the number of Americans claiming to believe in ghosts hovers around the 40%+ percent mark) and these apparitions can take on a monstrous appearance.

Come celebrate Halloween at the UMFA today!

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