The 15 Best Pieces of Real-World Lore, Urban Legends, & Monsters In Supernatural
ComingSoon.net is taking a look at some of the best pieces of real-world lore/urban legends (in no particular order) incorporated into Sam and Dean’s 15-year “family business.”
In the second episode of Supernatural’s first season, “Wendigo,” Dean Winchester (Jensen Ackles) re-establishes the family motto with his brother, Sam (Jared Padalecki): “Saving people, hunting things, the family business.” In the 15 years since, oh have they hunted things. That Wendigo, vampires, ghosts, demons, shape-shifters, djinns, wraiths, rugaru, leviathan, mythological gods, angels, and now God himself—monsters on a food chain stretching the length between Heaven and Hell.
When Supernatural premiered in 2005, it seemed to adhere to the monster of the week format with an overarching plot; adapting real-world lore like holy water (too easy) and urban legends/stories like Bloody Mary and the woman in white (stories passed from generation to generation) to create miniature horror movies. It was genuinely scary in the first couple of seasons. However, as the show incorporated more and more lore, eventually fooling around with the Bible itself, its massively convoluted mythology edged out jump scares and dim lighting. It’s been an uneven, yet entertaining ride. That said, here are the 15 best pieces of real-world/urban legends in Supernatural.
The folklore and myth surrounding vampires stretch back to 18th-century poetry and 19th-century Gothic fiction. Stakes, sunlight, crucifixes, dead man’s blood—we all know how to kill fangs: you cut their heads off.
“Most vampire lore is crap. A cross won’t repel them. Sunlight won’t kill them and neither will a stake to the heart. But the bloodlust — that part’s true. They need fresh human blood to survive. They were once people, so you won’t know it’s a vampire until it’s too late.” – John Winchester, “Dead Man’s Blood”
In Supernatural (like other fiction), vampires used to be human; this fact is made abundantly clear when characters like Gordon Walker or even Dean Winchester himself turn. In the first season of Supernatural, vampires are considered “rare”. However, as the show went on, they became a regular occurrence, even giving the show its first real “not all monsters are bad” moment in Season 2’s “Bloodlust.”
Sam: “Roanoke was one of the first English colonies in America, late 1500s?”
Dean: “Oh yeah, yeah, I do remember that. The only thing they left behind was a single word carved in a tree. Croatoan.”
Sam: “Yeah. And I mean, there were theories — Indian raid, disease, but nobody knows what really happened. They were all just gone. I mean, wiped out overnight.”
Supernatural took the story of the Roanoke Island, found by John White on 18 August 1590 in his search for the English colonists, and turned it into a demonic virus:
Sam: “Dad always had a theory about Croatoan. He thought it was a demon’s name, sometimes known as Deva or sometimes Reshef – a demon of plague and pestilence.”
First introduced in the Season 2 episode, “Croatoan,” the virus infects people and turns them into murderous creatures (with varying degrees of intelligence). It’s eventually revealed that the Croatoan Virus is an endgame tool, intended to wreak havoc on the Earth during Lucifer’s Apocalypse.
Supernatural brought back creepy clowns before American Horror Story or 2017’s IT. The second episode of the show’s second season, “Everybody Loves a Clown,” incorporates a Rakshasa that dresses up like a clown and has children invite them into their homes to feed on the parents. Rakshasas are derived from Hindu mythology, also known as “man-eaters.” In Supernatural, they are essentially shapeshifters that can make themselves invisible (vulnerable to pure brass).
“Human by day, a freak animal killing machine by moonlight…werewolves are badass.” First appearing in ancient Greece and Rome, werewolves AKA Lycanthropes are encountered by Sam and Dean on numerous occasions. The supposed cousins of skinwalkers, werewolves can be taken down by a silver bullet to the heart (or cured with a blood transfusion from the sire werewolf). Unfortunately, in regards to a cure, the Winchesters were clueless in Season 2’s “Heart.”
Spirits with a story. Every ghost has a unique story and/or circumstances surrounding their death; in most cases, ghosts are deceased humans that refused to leave with their reaper to Heaven or Hell, some residing in The Veil while appear in the physical plane (going crazy after years).
From legendary spirits like Woman in White and Bloody Mary, spirits often kill in ways that reflect that tragic lives; they can be defeated by salt/burning their remains/personal effects or by confronting them with a specific/revealing aspect of their story. Iron (like salt) is also known to repel ghosts (and other unnatural things). In the Season 2 episode, “Roadkill,” Sam says, “Well, they weren’t evil people, you know. A lot of them were good, just something happened to them. Something they couldn’t control.” Because of the infinite number of ways they can be incorporated, ghosts are both a cornerstone of Supernatural and the horror genre.
The yin to angels’ yang, Demons are malevolent spiritual entities created by human souls having endured torture in Hell. They require a vessel to possess to walk the Earth (and are sometimes able to move around as smoke). From Azazel to Crowley, Demons have been one of Supernatural’s most influential monsters. That said, the series’ best incorporation of lore arguably occurs in Season 2’s “Crossroad Blues,” when crossroads demons are introduced. The beginning of that episode references the death of real-life bluesman Robert Johnson, who mysteriously died in 1938. Urban legend teases that Johnson sold his soul to the devil at a crossroads (which he sings about in his songs) for his musical talent. In addition to holy water and salt/rock salt, Devil’s traps, anti-possession tattoos, and exorcisms are often used when combating Demons on Supernatural.
In Greek mythology, Sirens are seductresses that lured sailors to wreck on the rocky coast of their island with enchanting music and voices. In Supernatural’s Season 4 episode, “Sex & Violence,” Sam and Dean encounter a Siren (who just wants to be loved and worshipped, repeatedly). The creature takes different forms, compelling humans to prove their love and devotion in extremely violent ways, usually resulting in the death of a victim’s loved one(s).
The Mark of Cain
In Abrahamic religions, God put a curse on Cain after he killed Abel, the Mark of Cain. “Therefore whoever kills Cain, vengeance will be taken on him seven-fold, and the Lord appointed a sign for Cain, so that no one finding him would kill him” (Bible, Old Testament, Genesis 4-14). In Supernatural, “The Mark” is the seal created to lock away The Darkness AKA God’s sister. The Mark was originally given to Lucifer who then passed it onto Cain as a source of The First Blade’s power (so that he could kill the Knights of Hell). As is the case with much of the Bible, Supernatural took a lot of creative liberties with The Mark of Cain.
The Marvel Extended and The DC Extended Universe are about to launch their multiverses, so why not Supernatural?
“In the beginning, it was just me and sis. And it was fine. But I wasn’t satisfied. So I made more. I created the world. But I didn’t stop there. No, no, no! I got the bug. So I — I kept creating. I made… other worlds. Different combinations, scenarios, characters. Different versions of the same characters. You know my — “my other toys.” – Chuck AKA God.
Unfortunately, the multiverse is destroyed in Season 15 as God attempts to start anew.
Soldiers of Heaven, Angels are celestial beings created by God. Introduced in Season 4, Angels outclass almost every other supernatural creature. The most recent spin on Angel lore has been the introduction of Lucifer’s son, the Nephilim, Jack Kline. Nephilims are half-angel/half-human creatures mentioned in Genesis (and other biblical texts). They are also said to be the offspring of “sons of God,” fallen angels who breed with human women. Supernatural gets all of that right. However, the Bible goes on to call Nephilims giants who caused the biblical flood, a piece of information the show chooses to ignore. Instead, Nephilims are just (much) more powerful versions of angels.
Genies from Arabic mythology, Djinn were first introduced in Supernatural’s second season, “What Is and What Should Never Be.” In the Koran, Djinns are neither inherently good nor evil, having free will not unlike that of humans. This isn’t the case with Supernatural’s Djinn (at least at first), who put realistic fantasies into the heads of the victims they feed off of. In the series, Djinn can be killed via a silver knife dipped in lamb’s blood.
Shapeshifting is the ability to transform into a variety of supernatural ways depicted in mythology and folklore. First introduced in Supernatural’s first season episode, “Skin,” Shapeshifters are creatures that start as humans and later learn how to change their appearance. Due to having human impulses and desires, Shapeshifters aren’t as predictable as vampires or werewolves. However, like werewolves, they are vulnerable to silver.
Despite their having different names, reaper lore exists in almost every culture on Earth. As servants of Death (one of the four horsemen who will eventually “reap God”), reapers fairy souls to the afterlife. In Supernatural, they can stop time and are only visible to those about to die. They sometimes appear at mass gathers when a disaster is about to take place and are one of the most recurring creatures in Supernatural (people die a lot). The incorporation of reapers and Death has been as much a game-changer for the series as demons or angels.
The Wendigo, the show’s first monster, was introduced in Supernatural’s second episode ever. According to Algonquin legend, Wendigos are men who got lost hunting in the woods and turn to cannibalism to survive—which results in their mutated strength, speed, senses, and ability to mimic the voices of humans. The name Wendigo translates (roughly) to “the evil that devours.”
Chuck Shurley is originally introduced as a prophet/writer of the “Supernatural” books in the show’s fifth season. In what is Supernatural’s most meta twist, the writer of Supernatural inside of Supernatural turns out to be God himself—the capricious creator tormenting Sam and Deans across the Multiverse for his amusement. Supernatural’s take on the biblical God is its most interesting, daring, and creative: he’s the writer and his characters are tired of being a part of his story…after all, 15 seasons is a long time.