The inspiration behind five iconic monsters

The inspiration behind five iconic monsters

Happy halloween! To celebrate halloween I’m running through the inspiration behind five iconic monsters. Ready? Set? Go!

1) Doctor Who’s Daleks and Cybermen. 

Doctor Who was first broadcast to the British public in 1963. In the second episode of Doctor Who, the show’s most iconic creatures were introduced. Terry Nation wanted to create a Doctor Who monster that didn’t look like a man in a suit. After watching a ballet show he admired how the dancers seemed to glide across the stage and wanted to incorporate this into his monsters. Raymond Cusick was the designer of the Daleks but Doctor Who was cursed with a limited budget and tight deadlines. Cusick was allocated only one hour to design the Daleks. He used a pepper shaker on a table he was working on for inspiration. The design team were told not to create any bug eyed monsters but the Dalek design was approved regardless. The Dalek’s ideology was based of the Nazi’s desire to destroy all life on earth that was different to themselves. The word Dalek means “far”, or “distant” in  Serbo-Croatian but apparently this wasn’t intentional. When the Dalek episode, simply titled “The Daleks”, was broadcast the children of earth were terrified.  The BBC were surprised at how popular the aliens became and since their premiere the Daleks have earned their place as a British cult icon.

Seek! Locate! Destroy! Exterminate! Exterminate!

Arguably the second most popular monster from Doctor Who are the Cybermen. The Cybermen were created by Gerry Davis and Dr. Kit Pedler (A Doctor, ha!). They questioned how many prosthetics a human could have before they could no longer be classified as human. This concept is very similar to the Ship of Theseus thought experiment. If a ship travels around the world and has every part of it replaced on its travels (the sail, the hull, the oars, the crew e.t.c) when it returns to its home port is it still the same ship?

The Cybermen also had another inspiration. Robert the smoking Robot.

Robert the Smoking Robot

Robert the Smoking Robot was built by Charles Lawson in Kettering, England. Lawson, who owned a radio shop, built Robert in the 1930’s for a wager. Robert was capable of walking, saying a few recorded phrases, reading minds and lighting cigarettes. When opened up the viewer could see gears and gismos inside Robert, proving he wasn’t a man in a suit. Robert became a celebrity and was reported on as far as Czechoslovakia and the United States. Sadly Robert was lost during the Second World War and only pictures and old adverts of him survive.  I find his face creepy and like to think that he isn’t lost. He’s simply… waiting.

Robot outside shop
Robert sitting outside his creator’s shop.


2) Steven Spielberg’s Jaws

Jaws is a classic. The film and the novel it is based on, centres around a shark that preys on humans at a beach resort during the summer period. After a number of fatalities the humans decide to hunt down the shark. After a battle that results in the shark killing two out of the three crewmen the monster is finally defeated. Spielberg said that his decision to  make the film at sea rather than in a lake or in a studio tank made production problematic. Boats containing crew members  kept drifting into shot, cast and crew were seasick and sunburnt, the boats containing the actors started to sink under their weight and the robotic sharks kept malfunctioning. The crew had $4 million budget and spent $9 million. Spielberg handed in the finished product to the studio one hundreds days after the set deadline. When the film was released to the public it recouped its budget in under two weeks.

The author of the novel Peter Benchley was a shark expert and worked as a freelance writer. The inspiration for Jaws came from a newspaper article Benchley read of a fisherman catching a 4,550 pounds (2,060 kg) Great White Shark off the coast of Long Island in 1964. The idea of a shark terrorising a community may have been inspired from the Jersey Shore Shark Attacks of 1916. In a twelve day period, five humans were attacked by single shark. At one point the shark swam up an inlet to attack humans inland before retreating back to the ocean. On 12th July the shark was captured and killed. The creature was dubbed the Jersey Man Eater and it was reports of these attacks that cemented the fear of sharks into the general public’s consciousness.

One of the robotic sharks used in Jaws. The crew nicked named it Bruce and Spielberg called it “The Great White Turd” due to the many mechanical problems it had.

3) Chucky the doll

The character of Chucky first appeared in 1988. A voodoo obsessed serial killer is shot by police in a children’s toy shop and transfers his soul into a doll.  The toy is then brought by an unsuspecting mother and terrifies his new owners while seeking revenge on his old criminal partners and the police. Although Chucky is only two feet tall his brutal attacks scared cinema goers.

A model of Chucky the doll.

Robert the doll is perhaps the most famous haunted toy. The doll was owned by Robert Eugene Otto who would have conversations with the toy. His parents reported that the doll would make groaning and growling sounds in reply. Otto kept the doll into adulthood and after an undisclosed incident with the doll, Robert’s wife was declared insane. When Otto died in 1974 the hauntings continued with neighbours claiming to have seen the doll moving of its own accord. The doll was donated to the Fort East Martello Museum where it is displayed in a glass case and changes position throughout the night. Visitors must ask Robert if they can take a picture with him, if they don’t or they mock Robert in any way the doll lays a curse of ill fortune upon on them.

Robert the Doll
The head of Robert the Doll

Another famous haunted doll is Annabell. Annabell directly inspired the creation of Chucky and was given her own movie in 2014 with a second film released this year. Annabell’s story begins with two nursing students who noticed that the doll was able to move by itself. They called in a medium who convinced them that their flat was built on a graveyard and a sprit in need of help had inhabited the doll. The two students agreed to help the spirit possessing Annabell but the hauntings became more violent. The doll appeared in one of the students beds covered in blood.  The other student had a nightmare about Annabell and woke up with unexplainable scratch marks on her chest. The students drove the doll to the medium’s house but Annabell caused their car to crash almost killing both of them.  Eventually the students locked the doll in the display case (seen below) and vowed never to touch it again. The doll was removed during the filming of the first Annebell film and after a series of accidents the crew began to suspect that the set was haunted. When Annabell was returned home midway through production the hauntings on set ceased.

Annabell the doll

4) Stephen King’s Pennywise the clown

Pennywise the clown or IT is one of Stephen King’s most horrifying creations. Pennywise can shape shift, control people’s bodies and minds, processes unnatural strength and feeds of the fear of its prey. Pennywise has been featured in two films the first released in 1990 and the second in 2017.


Pennywise is also credited with starting the clown attacks of 2016. The announcement of an IT remake was launched at the same time as another film involving killer clowns, Robert Zombie’s 31. The two studios launched a publicity campaign, separate of each other, that involved their employees dressing up as killer clowns. This sparked countless copycats across the globe with many of these clown attacking members of the public.  Stephen King eventually commenting on the attacks tweeting:

“Hey, guys, time to cool the clown hysteria–most of em are good, cheer up the kiddies, make people laugh.”

Most of them?

King landed on the idea of evil clowns when brainstorming what scared children the most. Killer clowns also exist in our universe. John Wayne Gacy killed thirty three boys between the years 1972 – 1978 and buried twenty six of them under his own home. Gacy was also known as Pogo the clown and would appear in full costume at local charity events to help raise money. Theories suggest before killing his victims he would terrify them in costume.

Pogo the clown
Pogo the clown

5)  Hannibal Lecter

Hannibal Lecter first appeared in the 1981 novel Red Dragon and is most notorious  for his role in the film The Silence of the Lambs. In this film Lecter,  portrayed by Anthony Hopkins, assists an FIB agent in capturing another serial killer called Buffalo Bill. In return for his aid Lecter asks to be transported to a different prison from which he promptly escapes. Hopkins was nominated for an Academy Award for his performance and The Silence of The Lamps has become another cult classic.


The author of the Hannibal Lecter novels, Thomas Harris only revealed the inspiration for Hannibal in 2013, thirty years after Red Dragon was released. Harris explained that he was a reporter in the 1960’s and visited a Mexican prisoner called Dykes Askew Simmons who had killed three people. While visiting Simmons, Harris encountered another prisoner who Harris only referred to as Dr Salazar. Dr Salazar was guilty of murdering a “close friend” cutting this friend’s body into pieces and stuffing them into a box. Dr Salazar had treated Simmons after an escape attempt in which Simmons had been shot in the back by a guard. Dr Salazar relished talking about Simmons’ injuries, his tortured upbringing and the attractive victims both he and Simmons preyed on.

Reporters discovered that Dr Salazar was a murderer called Alfredo Ballí Treviño. Treviño was released from prison in 1981 the same year Red Dragon was published. He found a job as a doctor and continued working until his death in 2009 of natural causes. It’s scary to think that as Hannibal Lecter was murdering people on screen, his inspiration was sitting in a cinema watching.


That’s all for today. Can you name another monster with interesting inspirations? Why don’t you look at last year’s list here and leave your thoughts and comments down below. I hope you enjoyed reading this and I’ll see you next time.





2 Replies to “The inspiration behind five iconic monsters”

  1. I feel almost offended that the Daleks were designed in an hour.. Bet if they knew how popular they would eventually become it would have been a different story!

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