Monster of the Week: Michael Myers

Michael Myers: Not quite dead! Fotos International/Getty Images

Isn't it always the same story?

You finally turn the tables on your masked psychopathic pursuer, fell them with a seemingly lethal blow and then sit down to catch your breath.

That's when the slasher sits up behind you and turns his head towards the camera.

You know, like this:

The Science of Michael Myers

What's the science behind this? Well it's of course an example of thanatosis or tonic immobility, a common enough trait in natural world organisms such as opossums, ducks, sharks and various invertebrates. Some researchers argue that humans experience tonic immobility as well.

Thanatosis is generally a last-ditch defensive measure, and certainly slashers like Michael Myers partially implement this state of fake death in order to halt an aggressor's attacks, but the ruse is ultimately about gaining the upper hand over an intended victim. In this, Myers' thanatosis has more in common with the sleeper cichlids, an African freshwater fish. This mottled, corpse-colored killer will lie motionlessly on a muddy lake bottom and then spring into action when smaller scavenger fish move in for a meal.

It works for the sleeper cichlid, it works for Michael Myers and it's actually banned in land warfare by the Geneva conventions.

Monster of the Week is a - you guessed it - regular look at the denizens is of our monster-haunted world. Sometimes we'll focus on the cultural aspects, but mostly we'll look at the possible science behind a creature of myth, movie or legend.

About the Author: Robert Lamb spent his childhood reading books and staring into the woods — first in Newfoundland, Canada and then in rural Tennessee. There was also a long stretch in which he was terrified of alien abduction. He earned a degree in creative writing. He taught high school and then attended journalism school. He wrote for the smallest of small-town newspapers before finally becoming a full-time science writer and podcaster. He’s currently a senior writer at HowStuffWorks and has co-hosted the science podcast Stuff to Blow Your Mind since its inception in 2010. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling with his wife Bonnie, discussing dinosaurs with his son Bastian and crafting the occasional work of fiction.