Hey...what's UP with Halloween and gargoyles? Seriously? They are absolutely everywhere as decorations and props, but it's unbelievably rare that I ever see gargoyles included as part of any set of Halloween characters. If they're seen at all alongside other classic monsters, it's often in their inanimate form as mere window dressing.

The true history and purpose of real gargoyles is a little muddled. The practice of carving "grotesques" into stone architecture has no single origin, but in Medieval Europe, it was particularly common in places of worship. It's been hypothesized that these often devilish figures were intended as a reminder to churchgoers of the threat of evil, while other theories hold that the gargoyles had a scarecrow-like function to frighten away "real" demons.

It's more likely, of course, that most grotesques were just a good excuse for someone to flex their creativity at a time when there were few socially acceptable outlets for most of the artistically inclined, but the "ward against evil" interpretation seems to be the most popular to this day, and why shouldn't it be? Who doesn't love the idea that something resembling a grisly demon might actually be protecting people from evil?

The actual name "gargoyle" didn't show up until later, from the old French "gargouille" for "throat" and the Greek "gargarizein" for the act of gargling. This references the widespread practice of incorporating grotesques into functional water spouts, and the name has stuck whether or not the gargoyle in question serves any such purpose.

So what, then, are gargoyles as a category of "monster?" There have certainly been plenty of attempts to answer that question. Gargoyles have appeared as stone-skinned creatures in all manner of fantasy games, a handful of films, and a long running animated drama that ran with the "scary but heroic guardian" angle and inspired a fandom still lurking the internet. Yet, even at the peak of its popularity, I never noticed any particular increase in the number of gargoyles in any other forms of media.

In terms of "Halloween monster," I like to think a gargoyle is more of a supernatural "goblin" than a "demon." I prefer the idea that their outer skin, at least, is always of a stone-like consistency, or that they can shift as much of their body as they please between flesh and rock at any time. Like Disney's take, however, it makes sense that a Gargoyle is completely inert when exposed to sunlight.

Despite being composed of stone and usually capable of flight, a gargoyle should really be thought of as a water-aligned monster, or at least rain-aligned. Wet weather may invigorate and even heal them, they can likely spew water from their mouths with considerable force, and ancient enough specimens may even have some limited control over local weather.

I also really like the idea that gargoyles are almost always "guardian" creatures bound to protect something, and that they're also prone to fighting against evil. There isn't any reason a Halloween monster needs to range from only neutral to malevolent, unless of course we're gathering them together as allies or friends. I guess that would answer my earlier question as to why I so rarely see a gargoyle buddying around with the other monsters, but there are many reasons why a traditionally "good" monster might go rogue.

The scarier, more menacing gargoyles we often see this time of year are probably not "well." Powerful enough sorcery could probably bend them to more nefarious purposes, but that's only the most obvious explanation. More common would be those gargoyles who tragically lost their only purpose in existence. They may have protected the same sacred monument, temple or grave for centuries before they finally failed to save it from vandalism, natural disaster or just the march of urban sprawl.

With nothing left to protect, an "orphaned" gargoyle might wander the land as a feral beast or even bitterly turn on humanity, siding with the forces of darkness because, well...between bloodsucking vampires and the current state of humanity, I think it's clear who's the lesser of two evils.