Debunking Halloween Animal Myths
Hello again! Your friend Tuki here at the Potter League. I hope you’re all enjoying the fall! I don’t mind the cool weather but I still like my perch to be in the sun! I’ve been listening to people talking about some of the fall activities they enjoy such as apple picking, hayrides, and most of all Halloween!
I like Halloween because there are a lot of animals associated with this holiday, unlike some of the others. But, there are so many myths and falsehoods that get circulated about my animal compatriots, so I’ve done some research with the help of my human friends and I’d like to set the record straight.
First, black cats. Now, being a bird, cats are not my favorite animals but, people believe a lot of negative things about black cats. They are not bad luck as anyone who owns a black cat will tell you! In ancient Egypt it was believed that having a black cat in your home would bring good fortune. Black cats are also believed to act as a witch’s ‘familiar’ or ‘familiar spirit’ that helps the witch perform magic or serves as a guide to the spirit world. Some shelters won’t adopt out black cats around Halloween for fear that they will be mistreated or used for Halloween pranks.
Spiders are another animal that gets a bad rap on Halloween. I will admit, they look a little creepy with all those legs and eyes so I guess that’s why they make good Halloween decorations! There are only three species of spiders in the US that can cause harm to humans – the brown recluse, the hobo, and the black widow. Bites from these spiders are rare and hobo spiders are not typically found in this area. Spiders are also beneficial because they eat other insects such as mosquitos and centipedes (which are even creepier than spiders!).
Bats are another Halloween animal that people don’t seem to understand. I’ve heard people say that bats are blind, they get stuck in people’s hair and suck people’s blood! Wow! Well, first off, bats are not blind. They have very small eyes but those work just fine and most small bats don’t use their eyes for hunting. They use echolocation, where they send out sound waves and listed for the echo to bounce off objects. I wish birds like me could do that! Like spiders, bats eat insect so they work as a natural pest control!
Bats also don’t get tangled in people’s hair. They hang upside down and when they leave their roosts it looks like they are swooping down on you but, don’t worry – they’ll use their echolocation to avoid you!
Another myth you hear about bats is that they suck people’s blood. I understand why people want to believe that at Halloween – it is the only holiday about vampires! There are vampire bats that live in Latin America but they primarily feed on cows and chickens. There is even a medication made from bat saliva that is being tested to try and help stroke patients. If that doesn’t convince you that bats can be helpful, I don’t know what will! A lot of bat species go into hibernation or fly south for the winter around Halloween so you probably won’t see too many real bats flying around when you are trick or treating!
Another misunderstood animal is the toad. Many people think that touching a toad can give you warts. A toad’s skin has bumps that look like warts, but warts are caused by a human virus and touching a toad won’t give you warts. There are some toads that excrete a poison from their skin that can be irritating to humans and harmful to pets so it’s probably best not to touch them or pick them up.
There are even some of my bird cousins that we hear a lot about on Halloween like owls and ravens. Owls were once thought to be a sign of impending death – if an owl was heard hooting nearby, someone was going to die. I can see why a myth like that would make an owl popular on Halloween! In truth, owls hoot or screech to communicate and announce their territory. They are also known to hunt at night and are not often seen during the day which I suppose makes them more mysterious!
Ravens and crows are said to be omens of doom and companions to those who practice black magic. Edgar Allen Poe’s poem The Raven, where the bird helps to drive the narrator mad, may have helped lead to ravens’ association with Halloween. In reality, ravens and crows are remarkably intelligent animals. They can remember human faces and they communicate at a high level using different ‘caws.’ On the positive side, some Native American people believe that a raven created the earth and put the sun in the sky. Hmmmm, maybe this year, I’ll wear a raven costume for Halloween.
Now that we know the truth about some of these animal myths, I hope you still enjoy Halloween and all its scariness!
‘Till next time,
Your friend Tuki