|Image from Wikimedia Commons|
The first mentions of Basilisks come from the Ancient Greek and Roman Traditions. Legend says that looking into the eyes of a Basilisk causes instant death. This is of course very bad to those who come across it, but also provides a method of killing the creatures. Holding up a mirror to the eyes of the Basilisk would cause it to kill itself. Also interestingly, hearing the crow of a Rooster also proved fatal. Weasels are also dangerous to the Basilisk. A second type of Basilisk is also found in mythology, and that is a creature that burns whatever it touches. So either way, you're in trouble.
Basilisks are sometimes interchangeable with the Cockatrice. There really doesn't seem to be much of a different between the two. They have the exact same death stare, and same aversion to roosters and weasels. The Basilisk legends most likely spawned out of accounts from real life, poisonous snakes. The King Cobra, with it's fanned out hood, may have played a part. Today, we have small lizards known as Basilisks. They most certainly do not set everything on fire, nor can they kill with a glance. What they can do however, is walk across water!