Night of the Revenant

Ever since I was a teenager, I loved watching a good zombie flick, especially those old B-rated ones. Over the years, I saw both the original and remakes of Night of the Living Dead, the George A. Romero’s films and recently started following The Walking Dead. When the first PlayStation came out, I played almost every zombie game there was after the release of Resident Evil. Now most likely about everyone is familiar with the concept of vampires and zombies thanks to Hollywood and other forms of media. Would you believe there are other types of undead to exist in folklore throughout the world. In a three parts series, I would like to introduce other creatures know to rise from the grave by starting with the revenant.

Now most of Europe has it share of myths involving vampires, but there are legends of other types of undead to roam at night without a thirst of blood. During the Middle Ages, commonly among western countries like the U.K., there are stories about souls of the dead that are unable to move on and return to earth as a revenant. This undead is nothing more than a spirit inhabiting its remains and rises from the grave as a decaying corpse or skeleton. In many legends, the revenant is said to be wandering the graveyards at night or its home village terrorizing the living.

In researching the folklore, there are variations to why the revenant exists. In France, there are legends if one was murdered, their souls could not rest and return as this monster to seek out revenge on those who wronged them in life. Britain’s folklore holds a much darker lore where criminals or even terrible people, if not given proper burial would become revenant and wreak havoc across the countryside. They were known to attack the living, spread disease and torment villages. In are a few myths about revenants wanting to say goodbye or protect loves ones while in others to haunt the family.

Now, what I found interesting about the revenant is there are accounts of this creature written over 800 years ago by an English historian by the name of William of Newburgh. He alleged that rising of the dead was a common problem during his time and documented a number of cases in his work. William had warned to what conditions with could result in a revenant to be born and what measures to take in eliminating one. The common practice was during daylight dig up the grave of the person believe to be the revenant, dismember the body and then burn the remains. Apparently, this ritual is still performed in some parts of Europe where locals fear the dead of returning.


Bartlett, Robert. England Under the Norman and Angevin Kings 1075-1225. Oxford. 2000

“Revenant.” Myth Beast. (Accessed: September 12, 2015).

2 thoughts on “Night of the Revenant

  1. jfwknifton

    I saw a film within the last six months, of present day Rumanians in a country village who were digging up a supposed vampire corpse and giving it a good beating and then dismembering it. Centuries ago, I suspect that there were lots of occasions when ordinary people were ill, appeared to die but then the so-called doctor had just got the diagnosis wrong. They then appeared to return from the dead. Some cultures, such as the Mongols, apparently buried their dead from the waist down, and then buried the rest after signs of rotting became obvious. I think the Romans did this too.
    Even nowadays mistakes like this happen. After D-Day scores of men were buried while still alive because battlefield medics under stress gave wrong verdicts.



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