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So Many Ways to be Scared

Banes at 12:00AM, Oct. 19, 2023

Horror…and the baddies and creepies and long-legged beasties of horror…come in many flavours.
These divisions might be incomplete or somewhat meaningless in a way, but hey, I have to approach it somehow…

Reality Bites: Human Creeps, Scary Animals and Nature
-Serial Killers, Jason, Michael Myers, The Strangers, And Then There Were None, JAWS, Cujo, Urban Legends, Let's Not Meet stories

For years now, I've been a fan of the true stories found online, which partly grew out from the “Let's Not Meet” thread on Reddit. They're addictive and paranoia-inducing to the max. These are generally stories about close calls with home invaders, attempted kidnappers, and human traffickers. The individual stories, even if some aren't technically true, are true ENOUGH to raise the anxiety levels! These things can and do happen!

A slightly less “real” version of real life horror was the type I loved as a young teen. The Friday the 13th movies were flicks my parents REALLY didn't want me to watch; that was probably their major appeal at the time. Even a heightened reality can fit into this category.

They were never particularly scary…my brother and I were more often laughing than shivering… but I found them fascinating for some reason. “And Then There Were None” by Agatha Christie was maybe the original slasher story and is still one of my favourites.
Human killers and the natural world (seen in Jaws and Cujo) have grit and, well, reality to them. Perhaps they're cautionary tales above all else…be respectful of animals, especially ones you don't know! Lock your doors!

Monster Mash
-Vampires, Werewolves, Mummies, Frankenstein('s Monster), Zombies, Aliens and Creatures From Black Lagoons, Freddy Krueger

I had a book as a kid, a miniature Encyclopaedia called “Monsters, Ghosts and UFO's”. It was one of my most prized books. I'd read it endlessly. Moreso than the UFO part, I was interested in the ghosts and especially the MONSTERS section. I loved the idea of monsters for some reason. That affection for monsters extends FAR back into my childhood, actually…

Much as I loved them, this subsection might be the least scary to me overall. I still dig the Universal Horror series (bought ‘em all on dvd!), though they’re not really scary. I think this sort of horror can be thrilling to watch when done well, and is pretty much always metaphorical. Vampires and Zombies might represent narcissistic people who DRAIN others of their energy.

Those mythologies are there to warn us to beware of those people - and to beware of BEING those people (we all make mistakes, and all have some immaturity/narcissism to us). Remember, the truly horrific fate in a zombie movie is not dying - it's BECOMING a zombie!

That Haunting, Unchained Melody: Ghosts
-A Haunting (the series), Ghost Story, The Others, The Haunting of Hill House, The Sixth Sense, The Innkeepers

Ah, ghosts. I actually believe they really exist, and believe science will probably explain them at some point. Personally, I've even had a strange encounter or two. But what are they? Some leftover intense emotions that are hanging around? Is there a consciousness to the spirits that some people see…?

My brother believes anyone who has a “ghostly” or “poltergeist” experience has unconsciously created it themselves. That possibility is equally fascinating to think about. It could be nothing but imagination. I really don't know.

In fiction, though, I have to think that ghost stories are compelling and scary because we ALL wonder, or fear, or anticipate what will happen to us after we die. Ghost stories crack open the door to see what life after death might entail…and the stories also REMIND us of our own mortality. Maybe that's what makes them truly scary.

I may propose a Quackcast all about GHOSTS. Like Vampires, it's a big subject.

In The Mouth of Madness
-demonic possession, Lovecraft stories, The Babadook, Pennywise the Clown, the thing in Absentia

Strangely enough, the subsection farthest away from the “Real World” stuff is the OTHER type that scares me the most. This is the most “unreal” type of horror on this list.

It doesn't scare me in a way that makes me lock my doors at night or check the backseat of the car…it's not the kind of fear that appears every day, or even every month. I don't believe in Satan, and I doubt the existence of Demons and evil dimensions that can cross over with this one.

But once in a while…

Once in a while, late at night, or maybe when sick with the flu or something, my mind goes to strange places.
I find myself shivering at the thought that there might be Otherdimensional Beings that would drive me insane if I even SAW them. Things that are so…NOT like us or anything we know. Things that are normally hidden from our perception.

The ideas and creatures in H.P. Lovecraft's stories, if anything like that exists, are safely across space, or in other realms entirely.

But what if there are times, or places, where the walls between our world and OTHER worlds become thin, and something might poke its way through?

These are beings, and places, that are terrifying because of their “Otherness”, I guess. Stephen King's short story “Crouch End” is about a couple finding themselves in such a place. The Babadook, Pennywise from the book “IT”, and the critters from John Carpenter's The Thing, and Absentia are other examples.
The Uber-example is probably Satan himself, whether a literal or mythological belief is in play.

(EDIT: Above, when I typed “I don't believe in Satan”, I actually felt a shiver and found myself repeating the statement in my mind. Maybe to reassure myself? That's the kind of fear we're talking about here; the certainty we have about things starts to melt away. Brrr!)

In my more rational times (99 percent of the time), ideas like that don't even enter my thoughts.
But maybe that's the scariest thing of all: the idea that the truths we are most certain of, the reality we base everything upon - is not even close to the truth.

FINAL THOUGHTS ('final'-? yeep!)

In the past, we've talked about how fiction is a way for people to process and understand emotions. Horror might be the most important genre for this, allowing us to work through our fears and strengthen ourselves in handling them.

I believe these stories that touch on the Unknown can allow us to deal with the feeling that the Universe is unimaginably huge, and that we're nothing but an invisible speck floating inside it.

Cheery thought, hey?

Okay, it's getting late and I'm giving myself the Creeping Damn Willies. Time to sign off.

Thanks for reading all this! What kind of horror does it for you and why? What are your favourite horror stories? Do you disagree with these divisions of mine altogether?


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Banes at 8:18AM, Oct. 20, 2023

@bravo - haha! A fine parody title. Sounds like one of Gunwallace's recipe books. Vis a vis the vivisection vividness...I think I'll skip reading that book.

bravo1102 at 1:15AM, Oct. 20, 2023

The absolute horror of the book Island of Dr. Moreau is imagining the vivisection. Something none of the movies dared show. There is a very clever parody Punch did after the initial publication entitled "The Island of Dr. Menu"

Banes at 4:30PM, Oct. 19, 2023

@PaulEberhardt - yeah, maybe it’s catching a story at the right time to provoke a powerful reaction, that can’t be repeated on reread. I’ve seen the Island of Lost Souls classic, and the infamous Dr. Moreau remake but never read the book. Keeping the ghosts unexplained - I like that too, or at least not explaining EVERYTHING is a cool love of a story can pull it off without being confusing.

Banes at 4:27PM, Oct. 19, 2023

@Ironscarf - I look forward to it!

PaulEberhardt at 10:47AM, Oct. 19, 2023

I've had my own ghost experiences, and I'm actually in two minds about whether they exist. Actually in three minds, because another part of me can think of a somewhat plausible explanation, involving gestalt theory and other things, that has the beauty of being able to acknowledge them as real without needing them to be there on a physical level (and the downside of sounding like the complete bull made up for a story, which it was originally supposed to be, even if much of it is actually scientifically sound). But I really like it best when ghosts belong to the big unknown. I enjoy ghost stories when they manage to keep the mystery up to the end. - Well, I guess, I'll have to drop by in the forums.

PaulEberhardt at 10:37AM, Oct. 19, 2023

Interestingly, your personal scariness levels you assign to these different types of horror stories closely match mine. For some reason the book that has really hit home with me, as far as fuelling nightmares is concerned, was the Island of Dr Moreau by H.G. Wells. Can't really point my finger on what exactly did it, back then. Re-reading it never did the same. In fact, most horror stories don't scare me very much, but I love the way they fire your imagination and how they create atmosphere, and there are always some gems that do the trick. I think they're best when the plot is really unpredictable, but still coherent. Not an easy trick to pull off - I don't think I could.

Ironscarf at 10:01AM, Oct. 19, 2023

@Banes - That one can still be found on the general discussion forum, but the one I'm thinking of concerns an entire herd of ghostly cows! I'll send a PQ with the unlikely details later!

Banes at 8:15AM, Oct. 19, 2023

@Ironscarf - Thanks, and well said! Have you written out your ghost story somewhere I can see it, or would you share it? I'd love to hear it (I remember your encounter with a sinister/creepy location from some time ago).

Ironscarf at 8:08AM, Oct. 19, 2023

Great post and ghosts would definitely make a fascinating quackcast. The question of whether or not they are real is far less important than all the things they represent in story terms. Ghost stories don't have to be scary stories (my own ghost encounter was hilarious) but they can touch on so many elements of the subconscious. They also help us to consider our own mortality of course, which we all must come to terms with as best we can. After all, the reaper spares no one and the time of your appointment is known only to him. Will he step out of the shadows tonight, poised to harvest you with a single swipe of his silent blade? Or will there be time for many more scary stories to come?

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