Creatures of the night who aren’t so scary after all

Black cats have long been the subject of unkind superstitions that cast them as witches’ companions. (Tony Campbell/Dreamstime/TNS)

Every October, the spirit of Halloween comes alive around my charming little town. With all the pumpkins, corn stalks and skeletons, I find myself transported to a world reminiscent of Halloweentown—and I love it! Pretend spiders, among my favorite decorations, seem to crawl across everything from porch swings to mailboxes.

What sets me apart is that I don’t need faux spiders to enliven my front porch — I’ve had a spider friend residing behind my siding for as long as I can remember. Night after night, she diligently spins her web in all its intricate glory.


I find her and other mysterious creatures usually associated with Halloween nothing short of spellbinding.

In the supernatural realm, spiders have mystical powers, often attributed to their web-weaving abilities, but in the natural realm, they have a crucial role in maintaining environmental equilibrium. They’re nature’s architects, and pound for pound, their webs are stronger than steel. But these remarkable animals face a peril far more terrifying than any horror movie: habitat loss. Although spiders are best protected through habitat conservation, we can also help those who wander indoors by gently returning them to their home in nature.

In addition to eight-legged, (not so) eerie arachnids, there are many four-legged denizens of the dark who are considered to embody different facets of Halloween and horror.

Rats go hand in hand with Halloween because they have been traditionally (and wrongly) accused of spreading the bubonic plague, also known as the Black Death. In fact, they are endearing little individuals who laugh when tickled and have a great capacity for empathy. We can show kindness to them by speaking out against vile glue traps and, should one wander indoors, using only humane alternatives, such as live traps and natural repellants, including peppermint oil, cloves and eucalyptus.

Black cats have long been the subject of unkind superstitions that cast them as witches’ companions (familiars), embodying an attendant spirit. Although such tales are nothing but legends, in the days leading up to Halloween, these vulnerable animals face grave danger as cruel people prowl with the intention to harm them. The best way to protect all cats is to keep them safe indoors—always, not just during the Halloween season.

Wolves are emblematic of Halloween largely because of ancient werewolf tales. Picture this: a dimly lit courtroom in the 1500s, an unfolding series of unsettling murder trials, the accused confessing to being a werewolf able to shapeshift from human to wolf form. Yikes! But real wolves are social, intelligent animals who form tight family bonds and play a vital role in maintaining ecological balance. What’s really scary? The fact that gray wolves face extinction in the U.S. For these animals, who mate for life, hunting can devastate entire communities.

Some flying creatures of the night might also strike fear in the hearts of humans. Far from frightening, each is remarkable in their own right.

Bats, the sole flying mammals on the planet, are associated with vampires, making them a fitting symbol of Halloween. But with mosquitoes on the menu, instead of being bloodsuckers, they eat bloodsuckers! Sadly, many species are vulnerable or endangered. You can help them by turning outdoor lighting off and sealing cracks and holes through which they might enter buildings.

A “murder” of crows or an “unkindness” of ravens is considered an omen of doom, thanks to their craving for carrion (the flesh of dead animals). Despite this sinister reputation, crows are super-smart—many people have reported receiving small trinkets from them in exchange for offerings of food. But beware: Crows remember faces and hold grudges against those who are unkind.

As we revel in the spirit of the season, let us also treat these and all individuals with respect and understanding. For beyond the tales of sorcery, trickery and treats, the true magic of Halloween is compassion toward all the world’s wonderful creatures.