5 Halloween Character Case Files

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If you’ve decided to dress as a scary, creepy character this Halloween, you’re likely to have plenty of company. Witches, zombies, ghouls, vampires, and werewolves are perennial favorites of young and old alike.

You should also know, however, that most of these characters have medical and psychological “baggage,” say the handful of experts who study them.

So don’t just take along a vial of hallucinate, with visual and auditory changes, and their breathing becomes depressed, he says. Those are the ones who turn into “zombies” — someone who can barely walk, barley see, and walks very clumsily. They walk around with arms outstretched, stiff arms and legs, as if they are bumping into things, he says.

Those who absorbed it slowly, he says, went home and slept it off. And they were presumed innocent.

Another expert, Daniel Lapin, PhD, a clinical psychologist with a private practice in San Francisco, sees the medical mystery of zombies differently. In Haiti in the 1700 and 1800s, the bokor, or priest, selected a victim and laced his drink with curare, a preparation of plant poisons that knocks out the motor nerves but keeps the sensory system untouched.

“As total paralysis sets in, the bokor pretends to be magically inducing the paralysis,” Lapin says. “The bokor next officiates at the victim’s burial. The victim thinks he or she is being buried alive.” And the victim is right.

Two or three days later, the bokor digs up the victim. “The victim bonds subserviently and forever with the person who digs them up, usually the person who drugged them,” Lapin says.

Sometimes, however, Lapin says the victim would “go crazy during the ordeal,” and the bokor then has no use for them and drives them away. The victim would then be likely to wander from village to village, Lapin tells WebMD, earning the reputation as the village idiot.

Halloween Character Case File No. 3: Ghouls

Ghouls, traced back to ancient Arabic folklore, have a complicated, troubling psychological profile. They like to hang around burial grounds. And they have an obsessive-compulsive desire to consume corpses, says Lapin. “Unlike a psychotic, they know what they are doing, know the consequences, know it is wrong, and could turn themselves in,” he says.

“Some just obsess about this in their head,” he says, but some actually do the dastardly deed. In 19th-century India, for instance, Lapin says there are reports of women with this condition, sitting around a grave and “chowing down.”

Halloween Character Case File No. 4: Vampires

Probably the best-known vampire is Dracula, the centuries-old vampire who stars in the 1897 Gothic horror novel by Bram Stoker.

While some say vampires have no medication.”

If he had to pick a psychiatric diagnosis for vampires, he says, “I would say they were suffering from delusional schizophrenia.” Vampires might have believed they could live a long time if they drank human blood, Krippner says.

Halloween Character Case File No. 5: Werewolves

Werewolves, talked about and reported on since ancient Greek times, may have a rare psychiatric disorder called lycanthropy, in which one has the delusion he or she is being transformed into a wolf.

The lycanthropy can be due to a hair growth is the werewolf’s way to disassociate, Lapin says. “It’s simply a way to stay unconscious of what they are doing.”

The Joy of Being Creeped Out on Halloween

If your motto is the scarier the costume, the better, chances are you like the creepiness of it all.

And some say that’s just fine — at least for while. “Halloween,” Krippner says, “is one of the few occasions where it is OK to flirt with the dark side of life.”