Ever wonder where all these great Supernatural episode titles come from? I did, so I decided to go through season-by-season and find the pop culture references associated with the episode titles. The first season was a bit tricky as you’ll see because most of the episode titles are simply a reference to the monster of the week. But as the seasons go on, there are plenty of tasty pop culture treats that I think you’ll find interesting! And if you’re a wikipedia dork like me then this is kinda like heaven. 

1.1 “Pilot” 


 
Where it all began!
 
1.2 “Wendigo”
 
Named after the MOTW, the wendigo is a large part of the folklore of the Algonquian-speaking tribes of the northern United States and Canada.  It is believed that the Wendigo is a cannibalistic supernatural being that was, at one point, a human. That’s interesting, but the main thing we learned from “Wendigo” is to never go camping in the north woods without a huge bag of m&m’s. Or Sam and Dean for that matter! 
 
1.3 “Dead in the Water”


 
This is a common idiom meaning “a situation that has stalled with no action being taken” (dictionary.com). Of course, in the case of this episode we know it was a bit more of a literal translation. 
 
1.4 “Phantom Traveler”
 
Named after the MOTW, the phantom Traveler is believed to haunt a road, train station or airport associated with their death. 
 
1.5 “Bloody Mary”



Named after the MOTW, she (I still can’t even say her name) is a ghost or witch featured in western folklore and is said to appear in a mirror when her name is called three times and scratch out your eyes. Some believe that the folklore is based on Queen Mary I who suffered many miscarriages and false pregnancies. Whether or not these miscarriages were self-induced is speculated, but legend has it that she was driven mad by the loss of her children. 
 
1.6 “Skin”


 
Named after the MOTW, this is our first encounter with a shapeshifter who slips his skin when he changes form. 
 
1.7 “Hook Man”
 
Named after the MOTW, there are many versions of this classic urban legend but the basic gist involves a young couple parked in some secluded area, often referred to as “Lover’s Lane”. They’re usually doing something their parents wouldn’t approve of when they hear a scratch at the door of the car. There are many variations of what happens next, and I’m sure we’ve heard them all, but like many other urban legends, the hook man is meant to teach a lesson about the dangers of sexual promiscuity. 
 
1.8 “Bugs”
 
Named after the MOTW, in this episode the bugs were part of an ancient curse performed by the original inhabitants of the land. 
 
1.9 “Home”


  
Named after the boys trip back to their childhood home in Lawrence, KS after Sam has a psychic nightmare about the home’s new owner. 
 
1.10 “Asylum”


 
Named after the haunted asylum that is the focus of this seriously creepy episode.  
 
1.11 “Scarecrow”


 
Named after the MOTW, but this is not your typical scarecrow! “Dude, you fugly.” 
 
1.12 “Faith”


 
The boys visit a faith healer after Dean is accidentally electrocuted on the job causing permanent damage to his heart. The episode is probably less literally named for its theme of faith, or lack-there-of.
 
1.13 “Route 666”


 
Now renamed U.S. Route 491, Route 666 is a north-south highway in the United States. Many people call Route 666 “Devil’s Highway” because of the Christian belief that the number 666 is the “Number of the Beast”. The high fatality rate and the satanic connotation associated with the highway lead to the rumor that the highway is cursed. 
 
1.14 “Nightmare”
 
“Nightmare” is a 1981 horror movie starring Baird Stafford, Sharon Smith and C.J. Cook. A mental patient plagued with vivid nightmares of his violent childhood escapes from the hospital and goes on a killing spree.  I’m not sure how intentionally related these two titles are but you’ll remember that this is the episode where Sam is having psychic dreams about Max who is on a little killing spree of his own. 
 
1.15 “The Benders”


 
The episode title comes from the story of a family of serial killers. (Who just happened to be from Kansas, by the way) The family, better known as the “Bloody Benders”, owned a small store and inn where they would lure wealthy patrons and kill them.
 
1.16 “Shadow”


 
Named for the MOTW, the Da?va, which is a demon of darkness represented in the episode in the form of shadows. 
 
1.17 “Hell House”
 
Hell Houses are a phenomenon that began in Dallas, TX in the early 90’s. These houses were used as a contemporary fire-and-brimstone sermon. Tour guides, dressed as demons, lead visitors through the house. Each room depicted various “sin-related” images; date rape, school massacres, botched abortions, the torment of the damned in hell, etc.  

(From Alice - This must be the torment of the damned in Hell part)




 
1.18 “Something Wicked”
 
“Something Wicked This Way Comes” is a 1962 novel by Ray Bradbury. The story is about two young boys who encounter a mysterious traveling carnival in their town. What they don’t know is that the cryptic carnival leader, Mr. Dark, lures victims in by offering them a chance to “live out their secret fantasies” (sounds a bit like a crossroads deal to me) and in return, they are bound in service to the carnival. 
 
1.19 “Provenance”


 
The Word Provenance is taken from the French word Provenir meaning “to come from”. It is often used to track ownership and location of an object much like the haunted painting in this episode. 
 
1.20 “Dead Man’s Blood”
 
Named for the poison used against a nest of vampires in this episode. Just as a side note, this is also the first time we learn about the colt. 
 
1.21 “Salvation”


 
Named for the town of Salvation, IA where there appears to be a string of nursery deaths similar to the one that killed Mary Winchester. Less literally, salvation appears to be a main theme of the episode itself. 
 
1.22 “Devil’s Trap”
 


Named for the symbol used on the inside of the Impala’s trunk to keep demons away from the colt and later used to trap demons. Less literally, the title of the episode comes can be taken from the plot. Meg kidnaps John and is keeping him hostage in the Sunrise Apartments. Sam and Dean discover that it’s a trap when they arrive and find the building crawling with demons.  
 
So there’s season one. Like I said, lots of MOTW references but there were still some pretty interesting pop culture references too. So, did I miss anything? Is there some hidden gem-of-a-reference that I overlooked? Let me know because I would hate to miss one! 

(Coming up next week, Season Two Episode Titles.  They get a lot more interesting!)

Comments  

Jasminka
# Jasminka 2011-03-10 05:23
Hi Sofia, forgive me for being critical here - I do appreciate your effort, but I am not exactly fond of this article.

With your announcement of 'where did the titles come from' I was expecting a tad more information about the episode titles, more light on the lore (for instance with Wendigo), or simply more details.

I would have loved to see you elaborate some more on how asylums of old were run, where a devil's trap stems from ,etc. (but perhaps that was not your intention at all and I was expecting too much, which would be my bad, of course! ;-) ), but I liked your reference to the Bradbury novel.

I think the whole article could have been more interesting. But that's just me. I'm sure others will love it.

Best, Jas
Sofia
# Sofia 2011-03-10 07:41
I appreciate your honesty. I originally intended the articles to deal more with the pop culture references the titles draw on. There was an intro at the beginning that somehow didn't make it in the aarticle that explained this. I already wrote the article for season two which has many more references to books, movies, song etc. Which was my main goal. I figure most people know the lore from watching the show. Thanks for you input though.
Alice
# Alice 2011-03-10 09:15
Sorry, the intro is so completely my fault! I included it in the intro for the RSS feed but so forgot to include it in the actual article! It's fixed now.

Jas, I've seen the season two article and it is in so much more detail. I honestly think season one didn't have much to work with. I personally like the info on the Hell House. I didn't know that sort of thing existed.
Sofia
# Sofia 2011-03-10 09:20
No worries, Alice! Thanks for fixing it and adding all those great pictures.

Jasminka, I've been thinking more about your comments and it has really inspired me to work on a series of articles that take a deeper look into the lore of individual monsters. Not sure when I'll get around to it and if it will be posted here or not but thanks for the inspiration!
Jasminka
# Jasminka 2011-03-10 09:36
I hope I didn't hurt your feelings. That was not my intention. If I managed to inspire you, I'm glad.

Just thought of something (when at work my mind likes to wander sometimes, ahem) - I think the 'something wicked' goes back to Shakespeare (and a lot of novels/films etc have borrowed from the bard) to Macbeth (if you like to look it up) first scene of Act 4, where the witches appear and work their cauldron, the second witch (if memory serves) says
'By the pricking of my thumbs,
Something wicked this way comes.'
I believe Bradbury looked there, too, to name his novel.

Being a mythology 'geek' I am familiar with a lot of the lore, and I think it's ever interesting to look there and tell the tale to others, thereby help myths live on.
I'm certain many will love to read your take on it. And I hope to learn something I don't know! ;-)

You will find a lot of lore on the monsters! Have fun exploring that topic. I'm sure you will have. Enjoy that task, it's just great fun! :-)
Best of luck, Jas
Sofia
# Sofia 2011-03-10 10:23
No hard feeling Jasminka! I appreciate constructive criticism.

I had completely forgotten about the reference to 'Something Wicked' in MacBeth, I'll have to refresh my memory on that play!
Jas
# Jas 2011-03-10 10:27
I'm very glad to hear that, dear. Looking forward to the next installment.
:-)
Jasminka
# Jasminka 2011-03-10 09:46
Getting curious now, Alice! Thanks.
Jasminka
# Jasminka 2011-03-10 05:26
Alice, you shallow woman, you... :lol: :lol: :lol:
Get out of my head...
Karen
# Karen 2011-03-10 10:05
Hi Sofia
The writers have definitely become more creative over the years with their titles.
As you pointed out a lot of the episodes in season 1 were based on the MOTW.
But you know until this show came out I had no idea how many different Urban Legends and Supernatural entities there were. I really was fascinated by it all.
I would go to Wikipedia to read about that episodes monster and compare their documentation to the show’s take on it. It’s amazing how creative the writers can be on this show.

@Alice I just love your sense of humour, your take on the ‘torment of the damn in hell’ had me on the floor. :D :D
Sofia
# Sofia 2011-03-10 10:26
Karen,
I had exactly that same experience. When I started watching the show I was in heaven. Not only was the show a great source of entertainment in and of itself but it also gave me a whole batch of new things to read on wikipedia that were right up my alley. I'm glad there are others out there like me!
fanotheboyz
# fanotheboyz 2011-03-10 12:28
I'm looking forwar to the articles to follow on the titles of the episodes. However much info you want to include is fine by me. I'm not a Wiki-geek, so I'll be happy with what you find.

I AM very afraid when I see the title for an UPCOMING ep "My Heart Will go ON". If it's anything like the song, what kind of tear-jerker could this be??? Yikes!
Sofia
# Sofia 2011-03-10 12:37
With what I've found already for season two, I think there will be some interesting stuff to read down the line.

I share your sentiments about "My Heart Will Go On". 14 years later and the movie STILL makes me cry. Let's hope no one dies in this episode though, I think we've had enough deaths recently to last us a while!
fanotheboyz
# fanotheboyz 2011-03-10 12:31
PS: Thanks, Alice: it's always nice to get a glimpse of semi-dressed Winchesters, even if the allusion to the title is only in your mind. Now it's in mine too and will forever be associated with that title! Ha!
Sofia
# Sofia 2011-03-10 12:40
@Alice, I think every person who reads this article is grateful for your excellent picture placement. Talk about torture! :-)