Frightening rat folklore inspires Halloween decorations
Halloween is the holiday when the decorations need to be scary or gruesome instead of beautiful. Replica rats are widely available and scattering a few fake rats around the house is ever so appropriate for Halloween.
Rats are known as relentless survivalists that can adapt to many conditions. Their ability to breed and overrun a place along with their association with disease has made them almost universally reviled. Certainly a few enthusiasts enjoy the charms of these clever and prolific mammals, but most people cringe in their presence. Fear of rats has been a longstanding attitude throughout history.
Since ancient times rats have been associated with the souls of people. Their supernatural character caused them to be regarded as ominous creatures that sometimes had foreknowledge of disaster. This is most frequently illustrated by reports of rats abandoning ships before putting to sea. When this happens, sailor superstition holds that the ship is doomed.
The dread of rats is not limited to seafaring folk. Rats are often the creatures in legends that act as agents of vengeance for murdered souls. A very gruesome story from
tells of how the Bishop Hatto of Mayence locked starving people in a barn during a famine in 970 and set the building on fire to reduce the number of hungry people in the region. There is no historical record to confirm this horrible story and there is no account of the supposed army of rats that hunted down the Bishop and killed him, but it makes a good story.
The famous tale of the Pied Piper of Hamelin is a great example of how music is supposedly able to charm rats. In 1284, the Pied Piper supposedly emptied the town of rats by playing his pipe.
The beady eyes and scuttling gate of rats will likely maintain their unpopularity among people. The deep folkloric roots of rat superstitions make them an excellent figure for including in Halloween décor.