Fun stories of hauntings, witches and black magic are relatively new in the literary world, mainly because up until about 100 years ago people believed these things existed and they were genuinely afraid of them. But, when Edgar Allen Poe’s tales of the macabre hit the scene it signaled a new age when it was okay to be scared for entertainment. We live now live in an era where monsters are abundant in entertainment, such as “Walking Dead” zombies and “Twilight” Vampires. But this Halloween it’s time to go back to the stories that made people’s skin crawl before monsters were “cool.”
The Haunting of Hill House, Shirley Jackson – You may know it today as the movie “The House on Haunted Hill.” It is widely regarded as the first supernatural thriller. Three people volunteer to spend their summer in a mansion tasked with helping an investigative team study paranormal phenomenon, or so they are told. The house gets progressively creepier as the story goes on and we learn that there is more to fear in the world than a haunted house.
The Mask of the Red Death, Edgar Allen Poe – This is one of Poe’s short stories. It involves a prince and a masquerade ball. It contains beautiful imagery of seven distinctly decorated rooms which you are moved through along with the party with a mysterious man dressed as a victim of the red death. The conclusion is shocking and the symbolism throughout the story is still debated today.
Northanger Abbey, Jane Austen – This is lighter reading for the Jane Austen set. It is the most gothic of her novels and parody’s other, more frightening works of the time, but it stays grounded in Austen’s world which is rich with romance and class observations but it is relatively safe from the other worldly. It has bits of mystery and danger most of which emanates from the main character having an overactive imagination.
Dracula, Bram Stoker – Everybody knows that a decade ago vampires didn’t sparkle, and they did a lot worse than hunt deer and date high school girls. Stoker’s Dracula was conniving, domineering man who lived the life of an aristocrat and toyed with humans before eating them. Stoker’s Dracula is the ancestor of the Vampires we find so sexy today. He crafted them from a mix of folklore and the real life 1400s ruler Vlad the Impaler. The story of Vlad is explored even more in the modern book The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova.
Frankenstein, Mary Shelly – Let’s start off first by saying that Mary Shelly puts us all to shame in accomplishments. She started writing the cautionary tale of the dangers of science and of human resistance to that which is different at the age of 18. She single-handedly became one of the most important voices in science fiction and horror before she would even be legally able to rent a car today. If you don’t already know the story a scientist named Frankenstein creates a “monster” from the spare parts of the dead. Shelly crafted this story before the days of transplants and organ donations and her insights into the ethics of such practices are still relevant today.
Nicole Loughan is a professional writer and author. She loves mystery, humor and a little romance. Her books are packed with what she loves and are available through her website www.littlespotforstories.com.