Saving people. Hunting things. The family business.
“Supernatural” fans might be saying goodbye to the Winchesters (and Castiel, of course) at the end of the fifteenth and final season, but the show has over 300 episodes full of ghouls, ghosts, and urban legends. And believe it or not, the show’s writers did their homework.
Although Dean and Sam Winchester are sadly fictional, the things they hunt are, more often than not, rooted in traditional folklore or urban legends. Here are the scary stories behind some of the best episodes of the series. Note that we’re sticking with earlier seasons to avoid any major spoilers for the series.
Cue the music!
We covered the Mexican folktale of La Llorona in-depth already, but here’s a quick recap. In the legend, a beautiful woman in white drowns her children and then herself. Her spirit haunts waterways, looking for living children to steal for her own.
In the pilot episode of “Supernatural,” Sam and Dean hunt down a “Woman in White” who has been killing unfaithful men along a stretch of road in Jericho. The brother’s never mention the name “La Llorona,” but given that the ghost is defeated when she’s forced to confront the children she drowned, it’s clear where the writers drew their inspiration.
This is one urban legend that just won’t die. Kids have been daring each other to say “Bloody Mary” in the mirror three times for generations. The urban legend inspired an episode of “Supernatural” where the writers gave the ghost an involved backstory.
The episode begins with a little girl accidentally summoning the ghost of Mary in the mirror during a sleepover. After that, the show diverges from the urban legend. Mary kills anyone who has a secret, making their eyes explode from their sockets. Eventually, the boys are able to figure out who she was and trap her in a mirror. The Bloody Mary ghost is vanquished–but the legend no doubt lives on.
History buffs know that the word “Croatoan” refers to one of the biggest mysteries in America. The Lost Colony of Roanoke, located in what is now Dare County, North Carolina, disappeared without a trace in the late 16th century. The only clue was a single word carved into a tree.
“Supernatural” takes that idea and runs with it. In the Winchester universe, Croatoan is actually the name of a demonic virus that drives people into murderous rages.
Drawing once again from history, the Winchesters take on America’s first serial killer, H.H. Holmes. He created a murder mansion, complete with trapdoors, false doors, and drops into pits of acid. (Which, now that I think on it, sounds a lot like the Winchester Mystery House… minus the acid.)
In this episode the ghost of H.H. Holmes is still killing women and hiding their bodies. Needless to say, the boys save the day and put the ghost to rest.
Okay, one more. This episode features the legend of the crossroads demon. The title refers to the Robert Johnson blues song, and the episode weaves in the popular legend that the bluesman sold his soul for great musical talent.
The episode is honestly one of the better ones from the early seasons, but Johnson’s life is even stranger than fiction. After rising to the forefront of the Delta Blues movement in the 1930s he simply disappeared.
Later music historians eventually discovered that he had died at the age of 27, found on the side of the road. No autopsy was performed, and the folklore surrounding his brief life suggests that he really did sell his soul and paid the price.
You can listen to Johnson’s original version of the song below!