Bloodcurdling Tales of Horror and the Macabre!

As the leaves change color, the nights get longer, the air gets chilly, and All Hallows' Eve - Halloween - draws near, I am naturally inclined to dwell upon the genre of horror fiction. The first horror novel was written by Horace Walpole entitled The Castle of Otranto, published in 1764. Tame by today's standards, this classic Gothic tale contains every recognizable element of a Gothic horror novel: the horrible weather which sets the mood, the ominous setting in a Gothic castle with its secret passages and hidden doors, a creepy forest where ghosts roam and a family that is doomed by a prophecy. Since then, horror stories have evolved and become much more complex. We have had many notable writers in the horror genre. Even if we are not fans of horror, we have heard the names of Mary Shelley, Edgar Allan Poe, Bram Stoker, H.P. Lovecraft, Stephen King, and Anne Rice.

The Best of H.P. Lovecraft: Bloodcurdling Tales of Horror and the Macabre!
The title of this blog post is the title of the book by H.P. Lovecraft [The Best of H.P. Lovecraft: Bloodcurdling Tales of Horror and the Macabre!], a collection of sixteen horror stories that are shockingly gruesome. All the short stories in this book are terrifying but the three that I found particularly frightening are "The Rats in the Wall," "The Picture in the House" and "In the Vault."  The protagonists in Lovecraft's stories are disquietingly ordinary people who are driven to commit dreadful deeds all the while claiming to be innocent or helpless in the face of the dark forces that drive them to a malignant end. "Lovecraftian horror" has become an adjective used to describe stories that deal with the supernatural, the terrifying unknown that exist beneath the thin facade of reality. Born in Providence, Rhode Island, Howard Philips Lovecraft is considered to be one of the best and most influential writers of horror fiction. As per Stephen King, another master of the macabre, "H.P. Lovecraft has yet to be surpassed as the twentieth century's greatest practitioner of classic horror tales."

The Shining
Amazon ranks Stephen King as the second most popular horror story writer. King has written countless short stories and over fifty novels. If I were to pick the scariest book he has written, it would have to be The Shining. A story about a caretaker, Jack Torrance, at an isolated and sinister hotel, is an extremely scary read. A chilling story about a seemingly normal man's descent into madness, triggered by his own demons, as well as the malevolent spirit of the hotel.

Another name in horror fiction that has had a tremendous impact on the horror genre is, of course, Dracula. Written almost entirely via correspondence amongst characters, diary entries, telegrams and newspaper clippings, the story of Count Dracula is a well-crafted horror story by Irish writer Bram Stoker. Published in 1897, Dracula has generated innumerable movies and comics and has given rise to a plethora of vampire novels. Of course, there is nothing like the original to keep you awake at night.

Dracula owes a great deal to Mary Shelley's Frankenstein ; or, The Modern Prometheus. Dracula is written in the similar epistolary fashion as Frankenstein and, in both books, we are made aware of the invasion of the mysterious into the commonplace. We are all familiar with the story of Frankenstein: a hideous creature created with stolen body parts by Swiss scientist Victor Frankenstein. Repulsed by the creature that he has created, Frankenstein abandons him. Suffering from abuse and abandonment, the creature turns violent and becomes a monster.

The Woman in Black: A Ghost Story
The Woman in Black: A Ghost Story by Susan Hill is another spine-tingling ghost story set in a small English town. A London lawyer goes to an isolated town to settle the affairs of his dead client. He is beset by mysterious sounds and ghostly apparitions, especially of a woman dressed all in black. Atmospheric and subtle, with a menacing sense of evil, this is a must-read ghost story for Halloween.

I have always found the first line of the book, Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier, eerily haunting: "Last Night I Dreamt I Went To Manderley Again." So begins this seemingly innocent tale of a new bride brought to her husband's home only to meet with the ghost of his first wife and the sinister housekeeper who does her best to unsettle the new bride. Rather than blood and gore, it is the power of suggestion - mood and atmosphere - that makes this book a scary read.

The Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe
In closing I would like to mention four compilations of short stories that are sure to give you the shivers: The Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe, The Big Book of Ghost Stories, The 13 Best Horror Stories of All Time and Darkness: Two Decades of Modern Horror.

So check out these books from the Mercer County Library System, curl up by the fireside and scare yourself silly!

From ghoulies and ghosties
And long-leggedy beasties
And things that go bump in the night,
Good Lord, deliver us!
The Cornish and West Country Litany, 1926

Rina B.


Popular posts from this blog

Ocean-in-a-Bottle Craft for Kids

Neil Gaiman Ruined My Life

Happy National Peanut Month!