Even the Ghastliest Monsters of Old Were Better Than Real-Life Horrors

How This Rediscovered "Book of Miracles" Calmed the Fear of Massacres, Plagues, and War

“There be monsters here,” old maps warn, of oceans as yet uncharted. But there are monsters even in well-trodden territories.

Let’s start with the blade-wielding clowns lurking in American woodlands (And not only there: One even showed up in my adopted hometown in rural Slovenia). Yes, I know that this is a fad, stoked by over-enthusiastic fans anticipating the new film version of Stephen King’s It, but it is outrageously creepy. Citizens are fleeing in terror and calling the police, and evil clowns are being arrested.

Monsters might be scary, …