Horror Genre, Fact or a Myth?

Photo by Simon Berger on Unsplash

Horror, just from the sound of that one word, sends shivers down our spines. Images of white translucent ghostly figures come to our minds. Stills from horror movies start playing in front of our eyes. I get goosebumps when I think about it. It’s a feeling I’m sure many can relate to. It’s a genre that is not a cup of tea of many. But that does not mean that it is not popular at all.

Literature that has been written by celebrated authors like, Stephen King (author of The Shining, IT, Cujo, etc) Daphne du Maurier (author of Rebecca, Jamaica Inn, etc), Shirley Jackson(author of Haunting of the hill house, etc) are some of the examples of best selling works that got further turned into big movies. Then there have been real-life incidents that have inspired these authors to create a story around it. We will discuss them further.

The genre itself is quite wide and is just not restricted to novels and movies but also there is paranormal paraphernalia such as paranormal games like planchet, haunted mansions, cursed objects, paranormal investigators such as Ed and Lauren warren who have a paranormal museum in Connecticut and have a real-life Annabel doll.

There is a certain allure in the darkness and the mystery which makes a person so curious and attracted to the genre. Of course, there are some non-believers as well who do not believe in such occurrences and prefer scientific explanations for the same.

In 2012 there was a survey that said that about 42% of Americans believe in ghosts. In the following year, there was a similar poll conducted in the U.K and 52% said that they believe in ghosts. Interestingly, about 65% of the Americans said they believe in the supernatural as well. Such stories of occurrences with the supernatural do inspire a writer to spin a story using them as a base.

Regarding this topic, many horror novel authors were interviewed to know whether they believed in ghosts or not. Some of them said that they did believe in ghosts, and had faced frequent paranormal occurrences while writing their respective books; some said that they took inspiration from published articles, rumored haunted mansions, gruesome murders, etc. which gave them, an idea of the plot.

Let us now come back to the earlier topic about the stories which inspired some of the authors to write their best selling works:

Now, who has not heard about the exorcist? All horror buffs have read or heard about this popular novel which was further turned into a hit movie. Its plot touches upon the exorcism(a ritual conducted using Christian customs in which evil spirits are removed from a particular person or an object) of a young girl, claimed to be possessed by a demonic spirit. According to the author, the character of the priest who performed the exorcism in the novel was based on an archaeologist. The plot seemed to be inspired by a real-life exorcism of a young boy.

Interestingly, in the novel, the mother of the possessed girl is shown as an atheist who did not have faith in such rituals and is shown unsuccessfully trying to cure her daughter taking help from various psychiatrists. So in the end, she ends up taking help from a priest who eventually cures the girl. Despite having documented evidence, some people might argue such occurrences to be an illusion of the brain. Now let’s see a few more examples of such novels.

When I say Dracula or commonly called a vampire, a figure who drinks blood and lives in a place called Transylvania comes into mind because that’s how the legend goes. In the novel, the story revolves around this particular character. The plot focuses on a lawyer who is involved, with Count Dracula of Transylvania regarding some properties and gets entangled with other disturbing occurrences which leave him traumatized. The female protagonist who is the lawyer’s fiancé rescues the lawyer and together with some help defeats Dracula.

Here the author takes inspiration from a historical figure called Vlad III who was historically considered a very cruel person and was famous for impaling his enemies. He was also known as Vlad the Impaler. Of course, there were some other medieval practices as well which inspired the author. According to the author, the name Dracula means devil and represents a person who committed barbaric acts and was considered a very cruel person. Again here there is a mixture of fact and fiction. The story might be fictional but the characters and the backdrop are inspired by real people and practices.

Photo by Elti Meshau on Unsplash

This novel is inspired by a real-life incident that occurred in the suburbs of Amityville in 1974, where a person called Ronald DeFeo murdered six members of his family and was convicted. The house where the incident occurred, was later bought by another family but unfortunately had to leave soon because of the disturbing occurrences, they faced while living in the house.

The novel was based on this particular incident and highlights the problems the new owners had to suffer. The author got in touch with them after they left the house and was provided with some tapes which are said to become the base of the novel. This novel was further turned into one of the most terrifying horror movies of all time.

Any article on the horror genre cannot be complete without mentioning Stephen King at least once.

This novel was inspired by a small incident the author had when he rented a house when he was working as a writer in residence at The University of Maine. His family cat was killed by rushing trucks on the road opposite his house. So they buried the cat and a few days later the idea of this particular novel struck him. And he wrote the entire novel around these ideas. The plot revolves around a University of Maine professor who buries his dead cat on an ancient burial ground that is rumored to resurrect the dead. The cat returns and is different from before.

Two years later the professor’s son is also killed in an accident and despite warnings, he is buried in that cemetery and returns terrorizing the town and ends up killing the professor’s wife and his friend and then, in the end, the professor is forced to get rid of both the child and the cat. The novel ends with the professor trying to revive his wife. Here the story is completely fictional. The only fact that remained, was the name of the university where both the author and the protagonist worked and the fact that both their cats died.

These four novels are few examples of how real incidents become a base for the authors to create these literary masterpieces. Other popular works by Indian authors include Little occult affairs- untold mysteries unfold compiled by Yash Runwal, A Face in the Dark by Ruskin Bond, Afterlife: Ghost Stories from Goa by Jessica Faleiro, and many more.

In the end, I don’t know whether ghosts or spirits exist or not, but according to the research, which points me towards a force that cannot be explained scientifically and laws of nature do not apply to them. But I can’t see or feel that force that makes it harder to believe in it. Thus, I would like to know about our readers, what do you think about this particular topic?

ADITI PANDIT is a blogger from LUCKNOW. She loves to read since childhood and has a passion for writing. She also blogs on the MOMSPRESSO app as ANUSHKA PANDIT.

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