The History of Vampires, Mummies, Poe and More at Halloween

Christina Knight | October 27, 2017

If you get a little creepy around this time of year, don’t be embarrassed, so does PBS. While we don’t peddle blood and gore, we do tell some fascinatingly juicy stories about the legends and facts that gave us the scary monsters of our collective consciousness and Halloween costume closets. To celebrate Halloween week, the PBS series Secrets of the Dead has made a few of its past episodes available again for all to stream for a limited time.

Secrets of the Dead

If you’re going to wrap yourself up as a mummy for Halloween, you could strive for historical accuracy. In celebration of the holiday, we’re re-releasing the most famous mummies (and missing mummies) in history from Secrets of the Dead. Watch between October 27 and November 5—or longer, by becoming a member of your local PBS station, which grants extended Passport viewing access!

Ultimate Tut (2013)


The documentary answers the persisting questions surrounding Tutankhamun: who was he; how did he die; why was his tomb found intact; and what makes his mummy unique? Watch the full episode.

Cleopatra’s Lost Tomb (2016)


The royal tomb of Pharaoh Psusennes I is one of the most spectacular of all the ancient Egyptian treasures – even more remarkable than that of Tutankhamun (we still good, Tut?). So why hasn’t the world heard about Psusennes I? One guess: that name. Who can spell or pronounce Psusennes? Learn how to pronounce the pharaoh’s name as well about his tomb’s mysteries and revelations about ancient Egypt. Watch the full episode.

Vampire Legend

Is your Halloween humor more biting? Get your vampire inspiration here, but note it doesn’t end well at the close of the eve. Beware the villagers.


Follow scientists as they uncover “deviant” burials dating back to medieval England, pointing to a belief that the dead could rise from their graves. Predating Eastern European legend, these discoveries force a re-examination of modern vampire lore. Watch the full episode.

Watch the full film now. Look for more historical inspiration for your Halloween costume or themed party on Secrets of the Dead, the series produced here at THIRTEEN.

American Masters


The American master of horror stories, Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) invented the detective as protagonist (“The Murders in the Rue Morgue”) and gave voice to insane, murderous characters (“The Telltale Heart”) before dying under mysterious circumstances himself.

Watch the premiere of Edgar Allan Poe: Buried Alive, starring Denis O’Hare (This Is Us, American Horror Story, Take Me Out) as the morose author on Monday, October 30, 2017 at 9pm on PBS. You can also see the film at free screenings at New York Public Library locations, through October 28.

Share the Season Spirit

Participants in the Village Halloween Parade, 2016.

Participants in the Village Halloween Parade, 2016. Photo: Peter Burka.

Village Halloween Parade

It’s much more fun to walk in the Halloween Parade in the West Village than to jockey for position behind police barricades on Sixth Avenue. Either way, the tradition—now in its 44th year—reveals all the Halloween trends based on celebrity, current events and the creativity of New York City souls. The parade, from Spring Street to W. 16th Street, is led by oversize puppets (manipulated by a merry band of humans, Lion King-style) and includes sponsored floats, ingenious group costumes, and the usual oddballs. Find out all the details on how to participate (last-minute costumed revelers are welcome) or watch on the official parade site.

Day of the Dead


Craft in America: Borders featured Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) altars and rituals on September 29. The above clip from the PBS program focuses on altars at Grand Park in Los Angeles.

The Day of the Dead is a Mexican celebration when families to gather and welcome the souls of their departed loved ones at altars they adorn with marigold flowers, copal incense, pan de muertos bread, candles, sugar skulls, and photographs and mementos of the deceased. From October 27 through 29, New York-based Mano a Mano: Mexican Culture Without Borders celebrates the Mexican holiday Day of the Dead at St. Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery (in the East Village, between E. 10th and E. 11th Street, off Second Avenue). Join in to learn about the traditions of the holiday and to make crafts to honor your loved ones.