Warning: Spoilers ahead for the part one of “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” and the holiday special.
“Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” hit Netflix in October and released a special holiday episode in December. The series is full of hidden references.
Between Archie Comics, who publish “Sabrina” comics, to real goddesses and occultists, the series sneaks in a ton of references for viewers to catch. There are homages to horror films in the set design and costumes. And the “Riverdale” spin-off even cites their neighbouring town a few times.
We worked with Archie Comics to find some of the comic references used on the series.
Here are some details you may have missed.
Doctor Cerberus’ bookstore has a tie to showrunner and creator Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa.
Aguirre-Sacasa wrote a play called “Doctor Cerberus” about a teen who is bullied and struggles to fit in. He watches horror movies every Saturday night through a program hosted by a man named Doctor Cerberus.
The familiar’s names all have special meanings.
- Zelda’s familiar is a dog named Vinegar Tom. That is also the title of a 1976 play set during the witch trials in 17th-century England. In the play, a character has a cat, who serves as a familiar, named Vinegar Tom.
- Wardwell has a raven named Stolas. Stolas is one of 72 demons named in the “Ars Goetia,” a book in the “Lesser Key of Solomon,” a spell book on demonology from the 17th-century. He is known as a Great Prince of Hell and one of his depictions is as a raven.
- Sabrina’s cat Salem is named for the town in Massachusetts known for its witch trials.
- Ambrose’s mouse Leviathan has the name of a sea monster found in The Bible.
Ms. Wardwell is the alias of Madam Satan on the series.
The name Wardwell can be associated with Samuel Wardwell, one of the few men who were accused of witchcraft during the Salem Witch Trials and executed.
Father Faustus Blackwood is the high priest of the Church of Night and a character created for the show.
Faustus could be derived from Johann Georg Faust, a real German alchemist who is now part of a German legend that tells the story of a man who sells his soul to the devil. Blackwood could come from Algernon Blackwood, an English author of ghost stories.
Susie’s last name is Putnam.
Putnam is also the last name of a family who played a prominent role in the Salem Witch Trials. Thomas Putnam was one of the major accusers during that time, and his daughter was as well.
Many side characters also have names influenced by history and pop culture.
- Mrs. Wardwell tells the young girl she picks up on the road that she will call Dr. Sapirstein, which is the same name as the doctor and satanic cult member in “Rosemary’s Baby.”
- Principal Hawthorne’s name could derive from Nathaniel Hawthorne, an author of dark romanticism who was born in Salem.
- The adopted parents of the witch boy who is murdered are named Mr. and Mrs. Kemper. Kemper is also the name of Ed Kemper, a real serial killer who is depicted in the Netflix series “Mindhunter.”
- Sabrina seeks the help of a lawyer named Daniel Webster. The real Daniel Webster was a constitutional lawyer and politician who served as Secretary of State under three presidents.
- The ophthalmologist is named Doctor Spector. A specter (pronounced the same way) is a ghost or spirit.
- When Ambrose says he met a “young Crowley,” Crowley is a reference to Aleister Crowley, an English occultist and author who founded his own religion, Thelema.
- One of the football players is named Billy Marlin. Billy the Marlin happens to be the mascot for the Miami Marlins baseball team. Whether this was on purpose or just a funny coincidence is unknown.
Ambrose likes to make plays on words.
He asks Sabrina for a “penny dreadful for your thoughts.” A penny dreadful is a short fictional story or publication with sensational stories from the United Kingdom in the 19th-century. It’s also the name of a horror series that aired on Showtime in the United States.
Sabrina has an Archie Thermos.
When Sabrina is talking to Roz and Harvey at school, she is carrying a Thermos with classic Archie characters on the sides.
Sabrina must pick a malum malus.
Malum malus can be translated to evil apple in Latin. The scientific name for an apple tree is malus.
When Principal Hawthorne calls Sabrina to the office, Roz says, “He’s baaaack.”
The way she says it is a reference to the line “They’re baaaack” from “Poltergeist.”
Neighbouring town Riverdale is mentioned a few times on the series — like the secondary funeral home —but there is one subtle mention on a wall at the high school.
A boy puts up a poster advertising a bowling championship between the Greendale Ravens and the Riverdale Bulldogs during episode three.
The Academy of Unseen Arts is located in Gehenna Station.
Gehenna is a reference to Judaism’s version of “Hell.” It is also mentioned in the Bible.
The choir is singing a real song during episode four.
The choir is singing a song called “I’ll Never Say Never to Always,” a song by infamous cult leaderCharles Manson.
Sabrina meets Nicholas Scratch at the Academy of Unseen Arts.
Nicholas Scratch is the name of a wizard and villain from Marvel Comics. He first appeared in a 1977 “Fantastic Four” issue. The Devil has also been called Old Nick and Old Scratch, so his name is a mix of the two.
Sabrina is given an Acheron configuration to solve.
The Acheron is a river in Greece, and in Greek mythology, it is one of the rivers in the Underworld.
Ambrose is warned about the psychopomps when projecting through the Astral Plane.
To some religions, psychopomps are creatures or spirts whose job it is to guide a deceased spirit to the afterlife.
The sleep demon’s name is Batibat.
The Batibat is a demon found in Ilocano folklore, and a similar demon is called Bangungot in Tagalog folklore. The word means “nightmare” in Tagalog.
Harvey Kinkle’s crop top No. 10 shirt and headphones are an homage to “Nightmare on Elm Street.”
Johnny Depp’s character Glen in “Nightmare on Elm Street” wears a similar shirt and headphone when he falls asleep in “A Nightmare on Elm Street.”
Harvey has two poster’s of “Archie’s Mad House” in his room.
While various comic and movie posters cover his walls, Harvey also honours Archie Comics. “Mad House” issues were written so that they didn’t make much sense.
During Uncle Jesse’s exorcism, which is reminiscent of “The Exorcist,” the witches reference multiple real-life people and goddesses.
- Lilith is a demon in Jewish folklore.
- Morgan le Fay is an enchantress featured in the legend of King Arthur
- Black Annis is a witch in English folklore.
- Anne Boyln was the second wife of King Henry VII before she was beheaded by her husband.
- The Witch of Endor is a woman with supernatural abilities featured in the First Book of Samuel.
- Hecate was the Greek goddess of magic and witchcraft.
- Artemis is the Greek goddess of hunting and the moon.
- Luna is the embodiment of the Moon in Roman mythology.
- Hildegard of Bingen was a spiritual woman and mystic.
- Marie Laveau was a renowned Voodoo practitioner, often called the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans.
- Tituba was a slave in Salem and was accused of practicing witchcraft and even confessed, accusing others of also practicing. But then she retracted.
- Mary Bradbury was tried and convicted as a witch during the Salem Witch Trials, but she managed to evade being hung.
- Badb, Neman, and Macha are sisters in Irish mythology. They are known as the “the three Morrígna.”
- Circe was a Greek goddess of sorcery.
- Moll Dyer is a legendary woman from Maryland who is said to have been accused of witchcraft and now haunts the area where she allegedly died.
- Juventas and Juno were Roman goddesses.
- Sybil Leek was an English witch who wrote books on occult.
Apophis possessed Uncle Jesse.
Known in ancient Egypt as Apep, he is the spirit of evil and destruction.
Luke is reading a copy of “Afterlife with Archie” when he buys coffee at Doctor Cerberus’ shop.
“Afterlife With Archie” is from Archie Comics and is about a zombie apocalypse that hits Riverdale.
Ben from “Riverdale” makes an appearance.
Even though he was killed off on “Riverdale,” Ben Button delivers a pizza to Wardwell.
He’s also holding a pizza from Persephone’s. Persephone is the Greek goddess of vegetation.
There are horror themes spread throughout the set design.
- According to Syfy, who took a set tour, the outside of the Spellman house was inspired by Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “House of the Seven Gables,” a real house in Salem, Massachusetts.
- Wardwell’s cottage was inspired by Clive Barker’s “Hellraiser.” Barker even provided over 150 pieces of art for the set.
- Father Blackwood’s office doors were inspired by 1977’s “Suspira,” which was remade this year by Luca Guadagnino.
Other pop culture references on the first half of the series include:
- Sabrina says she used the Demonomicon to learn a summoning spell for a familiar. In Dungeons & Dragons, the Demonomicon is supplement to the rules that presents the definitive treatise on demons and their masters, the demon lords.
- The Spellmans have a pet cemetery. “Pet Semetary” is a horror novel from Stephen King where a certain area of the cemetery brings things buried there back to life.
- Ambrose calls Zelda and Hilda “Jekyll and Hyde,” a reference to the novel about a man with a dual personality, one good and one evil.
- The goat they grab for Sabrina’s baptism is named Black Narcissus, which is also a psychological novel and movie about a convent of nuns isolated in the Himalayas.
- Susie has an Uncle Jesse, which calls back to the comedy “Full House” (and now Netflix’s “Fuller House”) where there was also an Uncle Jesse, though that’s unclear if it it’s just a coincidence.
- In Ambrose’s nightmare, he refers to his corpse with a line from Hamlet when he says “a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy.”
- In Zelda’s nightmare, she says that she and Hilda have a “Punch and Judy” relationship. Punch and Judy are a comedic puppet couple known for their slapstick shows.
- When Ambrose confronts Sabrina about her necromancy, he mentions “The Monkey’s Paw,” a short story about a person who is granted three wishes but face horrific consequences for messing with fate.
Leticia is derived from the Latin word for happy.
Considering the baby brings Hilda a lot of joy, it makes sense that Leticia comes from the Latin word laetitia, meaning joy and gladness.
Laetitia was also a minor Roman goddess of happiness and joy.
Zelda says the high priest has Herod-like tendencies.
As depicted in the Bible, King Herod ordered the execution of all male children two years old and under in Bethlehem during his reign following Jesus’ birth. It became known as the Massacre of Innocents.
Susie dresses up like Jingles the Elf for her Christmas job.
Jingles the Elf is a magical elf featured in Archie Comics. He visits Riverdale during Christmas and hangs with Archie and his gang.
Mr. Bartel’s name is a hint of his evilness.
Mr. Bartel plays Santa at Christmas, but his name is a variation on a creature known as the Krampus in European folklore. The Krampus is a half-goat, half-demon creature who is said to punish kids who have been bad. In Austria, the creature is known by the names Bartl, Bartel, Niglobartl, or Wubartl.
Miss Wardwell’s Spellman cookies look like the original Sabrina characters.
Miss Wardwell took her Spellman cookie designs straight from the pages of Archie Comics.
The séance scene is an homage to “Beetlejuice.”
When Diana, Sabrina’s mum, appears during the séance, she wears the wedding dress that was laying on the table. Show creator and showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa told Vanity Fair that it was a nod to the séance scene in “Beetlejuice.”
The Yule Lads terrorize the Spellmans.
Yule Lads are mischievous pranksters from Icelandic folklore.
Yule or Yuletide is a pagan festival celebrated by the Germanic peoples during the Winter Solstice. Burning the Yule log is a more modern tradition, and though the origin is unclear, it’s meant to symbolise good versus evil. The fire burning is meant to bring good luck.
Grýla is mythical Icelandic woman.
In folklore, Grýla is a giantess who can sense misbehaving children. She is supposed to eat bad children and sends her kids, the Yule Lads, to terrorize towns.
Aunt Zelda says she’ll take the baby to Desmelda.
Desmelda is a witch from the first half of the season. Miss Wardwell takes Sabrina and the Weird Sisters to the witch’s home in the woods where they learn the story about how she rejected being queen after the Feast of Feasts.
Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” gets a few references.
Sabrina says “Satan bless us, every one,” as a toast towards the end of the episode. It’s a reference to Tiny Tim’s quote, “God bless us, every one,” from the Dickens story. Ambrose then reads from the story.
Additionally, the episode ends with a bell and three demons emerging from the Greendale mines. In “A Christmas Carol,” Scrooge is visited by three different ghosts.
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