Monster Monday: Gremlins

We all know about vampires and werewolves, or at least we think we do. The legends and myths that inspired these monsters are sometimes surprisingly different, but no less chilling. In this series of posts, Monster Monday, we’ll investigate the monsters that have informed our modern notions, as well as some lesser known monsters. Today, we talk about Gremlins.

WWII propaganda poster, circa 1942
WWII propaganda poster, circa 1942

Gremlins are creatures similar to imps from English folklore, but they are more mechanically inclined. The like to take apart and sabotage machinery and play tricks on people. They are usually depicted as small, nimble, and goblin-like, able to climb into machines such as airplane engines. They are dextrous enough to take apart even the most complicated machinery, though not always enough to put it back together again. Some versions depict them as simply mischievous tricksters out for their own amusement, while others portray them as malevolent, intending to cause harm or even death.

Some people link them to the fairy-like household spirits of British folklore, but they have a more modern origin. The first attested reference is from members of the British Royal Air Force in the 1920s when they began to blame unexplained accidents and machine failures on gremlins. The idea became popular during World War II, where it spread to Britain’s allies.



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