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How do you determine the difference between vampires, ghouls, werewolves and zombies? I mean as a reader you can pretty much tell, but as a writer, what are the rules that define these monsters? With every writer taking certain liberties; changing abilities and rules, changing the style and method of the monsters, how can you keep it straight across different media?

Well I have come up with a system that classifies the undead and lets you figure out what you are dealing with.

In order for something to be classified as supernatural and undead it has to have some separation or mutation of the soul and the body. How the soul and body disengage or change determines the type of creature it will become.

ZOMBIE: A zombie has no soul, the human being inside has left the corpse. The body, however, is still animated. The body must feed, but there is nothing of the person they were left behind.

VAMPIRE: A vampire has become an immortal soul in a dead body. The soul has become so powerful that it can keep the flesh alive through living blood.

GHOST: Obviously a soul without a body attached, the opposite of a vampire.

No matter what abilities they exhibit, sparkling in the sun, running and headbutting things, or crawling across the ceiling, as long as these rules are observed they still remain in their selective categories. Destroying the body can kill a zombie, but not a vampire or ghost. Ghosts can be banished or exercised, as could a vampire (if you follow me rules). Who the hell would want to try to exorcise a vampire’s soul from its body? I always imagined that the vampire’s soul was not housed inside it, like it would be with the living, but that it would sort of float around beside and around the body, forever tethered to the flesh but never free of it. A vampire can be brought back to life, as the soul is still anchored to it it could be returned to the flesh and restored to life. A ghost could rejoin its body if it was still fresh or possess another body, but for zombies there is no hope; the soul has moved on.

WEREWOLF: Of course I know of you little beasts are asking “What about Werewolves?”

Well although classified with the others, I don’t consider a werewolf to be in the same family. But to stick with the system, a werewolf is a person whose soul is bound to that of a beast, perhaps a wolf spirit or maybe just the primal force of nature itself. Two souls in one, fighting for dominance. Werewolves fall under the NATURE category.

FRANKENSTEIN: Is a living being. Sorry, but although the flesh has changed, the soul has been returned and he is technically as human as anyone else. The horror of Frankenstein is in the strangeness of his new flesh and the horror of having your soul pulled back from the other side and inserted into a freakish form. Just like vampires, Frankenstein’s can come in a variety of forms. But they are alive and usually caused by science.

WITCHES: Magic is a whole complicated system that requires the biggest suspension of logic imaginable. It is the reason why wizards tend to remain in the realm of fantasy, not horror. Witches and werewolves (and I guess technically Danny Boyle in Earth Man) are avatars of earthly power; the forces that give life to the planet also give them their abilities. This is why witches and werewolves do not exist on other planets, but perhaps zombies and vampires and ghosts do. 

My wife and I discussed this and she said the term “soul” doesn’t work, so we can easily substitute the word “humanity”. But any monster can fit into these categories:

Jason Voorhees: Nature. I mean the thing is alive but there is no personality there.

Freddy: Dream vampire. He might be dead, but he is the same evil asshole he was in life.

Chucky: A toy vampire. He has limited requirements to keep his body alive, not blood but definitely a soul trapped in a dead corpse.

So go ahead, post a comment, see if your favorite creature fits into these categories!