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Witches, warlocks, and werewolves: an interactive Halloween timeline

Halloween conjures up lots of lovely childhood memories for me. We didn’t go trick or treating, we went guising, but the basic premise was the same – we would dress up and visit neighbouring houses, but in order to be rewarded with sweets or small amounts of money, we had to sing for our supper (or do impressions in my case, as that was my particular party piece). Tricks didn’t enter the equation.  At parties, we bobbed for apples, tried to eat treacle scones suspended from the ceiling, and did our best to be as ghoulish and scary as possible.

As children (and plenty of grown-ups) attend their fancy-dress parties this weekend, an array of fiendish supernatural beings will be on display. Many have been spooking us for centuries whereas others are more recent incarnations.  Use our timeline to discover whether poltergeists have been petrifying us for longer than mummies have been menacing us – or to find out how long we have been worried by witches and warlocks.

For each creepy creature, we’ve shown the first recorded mention in the Oxford English Dictionary. Clicking on the image below will open the timeline in a new window. Use the arrows to take a hair-raising journey through a thousand years of words for things that go bump in the night.


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