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Tuesday, October 31, 2017

HALLOWEEN: Why Are We Drawn to the Dark?

Why are we drawn to horror? Why are good girls drawn to bad boys?


1.) The allure of the forbidden.

That is one of the reasons horror beckons to us from out of the shadows.

Why is that boy, that deserted mansion, forbidden?

It is as old as the blood which pulsed cold and tingling through Eve's veins as she reached for that forbidden fruit on that hauntingly lovely tree.


2.) Curiosity.

It is human nature to want to know what lies over the horizon. It's what drove the pioneers across wild, hostile lands.

What does that locked door conceal? That chained chest. Why those heavy links, that rusted lock?

Is this all there is? Or is there more beyond mere line of sight? We know there is more.

Science tells of us of dark matter piercing the cosmos with light-years long strands of matter invisible to the human eye. 

We are likewise blind to the world of germs. What other worlds are we blind to?

Give a nugget of uranium, a tiny stone really, to an aborigine. Tell him it is a good luck charm. Tell him to drop it in the village well.

What harm could one tiny stone do? 

Visit his village two months later. View the many corpses laying strewn like dead dreams all across the ground.

3.) Identification.

We watch and imagine what we would do in like situations. 

The world dissolves into chaos as random individuals descend slowly into madness.

You are picked up by the local sheriff as you are doing your morning walk with your dog. 

He orders you and your dog into the back of the car. 

He presses his gun to your dog's head and rambles on about brains looking like wet oysters. Do you want to see?

What would you do? What could you do?

Life is frightening: 

Global warming. Diseases that eat the very flesh of your body. 

We watch horor on the screen to encapsulate the horror of real life. It is not us up there.

We would be smarter, faster, more in control of our emotions.

We like the adrenaline rush sudden scares give us. 

Safer than driving fast, dating inappropriate guys or gals, and with the thrill of saying mentally, "It's not real; I'm still safe."


4.) The Darkness Within.

Terror versus Horror. 

Is one more physical; the other more mental? 

Does revulsion and squriming terror pierce through our mental barriers to stab deep into our unconscious fears ... and desires?

(Take the public fascination with the trilogy of the girl with the dragon tattoo:

she is repeatedly brutalized, raped, shot, and beaten. 

The books and movies are bestsellers. 

Is there a darkness in us that wants to roll around in sadism like a cat does catnip?)

You are horrified by the news of the floods in Pakistan. 

You are terrorized when you wake up one New Orleans morning to the news that the dams have burst, 

and you look out your front door to see rushing waters swallow your neighbor's home ... then your very own.    
Horror is realizing the monsters are real and are out there to get you. 

Terror is looking into the mirror, seeing yourself becoming one -- but still enough you to scream silently at the sight.

Stephen King said horror literature is a means for us to take out the monster, play with it for a while, and put it back.

But who is the monster?

Is he some squirming presence waiting on the other side of the dimensional wall waiting for a crack to appear? 

Is he the beloved president whose wife is slowly going insane at the awful reality of who he truly is?

Or does his/her eyes stare back at you from the mirror?

Carl Jung:
"Everyone carries a shadow, 

and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is. 

At all counts, it forms an unconscious snag, thwarting our most well-meant intentions."

Why do you think we read horror? 

Why are we so drawn to dressing up as monsters or as our secret identities? 

Why do you write the genres you do? 

And what role does "control" or "lack of control" play in horror/scary movies and literature?***


  1. There's an old quote -- I couldn't find the exact quote or who said it online -- that says that horror is when you see a violent act, and terror is when you realize that the perpetrator of said act is now headed for you.

    Ray Bradbury opined that people dress up for Halloween to celebrate life by mocking death.

    When I was a boy, I tended to imagine scenarios that were more "monster stories" than true horror, but I haven't done anything approaching real horror stories since high school, with the notable exceptions of one (unfinished) vampire novel and a vampire story my former writing partner and I had plotted for the unpublished second issue of a comic book on which he and I collaborated.

  2. Knowing there is darkness confirms there is also light.

  3. Knowing I can face the terror is traceable for me to early childhood nightmares, and I'm definitely curious! I love the Ray Bradbury bit, and its true, without the dark there is no contrast for light.

  4. I'm not drawn to horror, so only the milder Stephen King stuff for me. Then again, I love the Halloween-type ghost story, lore of witches, and other ancient fairy tales. The truly dark horrors we can see all the time in the real world.

  5. Horror was my number one choice as a kid, maybe because my life was so dull and predictable. These days, I need deep character conflicts and impossible crucibles--monsters are optional. Although I must admit, as I watch the series, The Mist, I find myself waiting for the monstrous, gory parts. Maybe that's a sign of weak writing perhaps?