In college, I was required to take a Senior Seminar class. It was titled in that manner because there was never a set teacher or subject that was to be taught. It just depended on which professor volunteered and the subject he/she chose. At least that’s what I was told.
For mine, it was Gothic Literature. I was very fortunate because this topic was probably the most interesting one I studied that year. As defined by Dictionary.com, Gothic is of or relating to a literary style characterized by gloom, the grotesque, and the supernatural, popular especially in the late 18th century.
Therefore, Gothic didn’t always mean those obvious answers of ‘demons’ and ‘witches’ like you might assume. But rather, involving something that you might say is ‘just slightly off’. For example, there might be a way a building looks that gives you the heebeegeebees but you can’t quite put your finger on it as to why. Perhaps someone looks at you a certain way that sends chills up your spine but you don’t exactly know why.
Those moments can be considered Gothic as well.
The selected reading included the usual ‘The Turn of the Screw‘, ‘The Haunting of Hill House‘, ‘The Shining‘, etc. The first listed, ‘The Turn of the Screw’ is a very short read but is quite interesting. The main topic is that of children. Children, who are supposed to be so innocent and naive, can also be a quite Gothic subject as well.
There is ‘The Children of the Corn‘ after all. ‘The Omen‘ also centers around a child. So the question asked during class was ‘why’. Why does the author take something so pure and turn it ‘evil’? Perhaps because it’s unexpected? You don’t expect children to be harmful. But in certain stories, they are… and it’s creepy.
The next set of stories, ‘The Shining’ and “The Haunting of Hill House’ are about buildings. They are ‘haunted’ and have a sort of ‘energy’ about them. Spirits might roam their halls or the building itself might be its own ‘entity’ containing its own ‘powers’. What about a building makes it so scary or grotesque? Sure it might have gargoyles to sort of encourage it but… I don’t think the hotel in ‘The Shining’ had anything of that sort of… decoration. ‘Amityville Horror‘ definitely takes place in a rather unfriendly home. But again, it’s just wood and some paint that really make up a building. Nothing else. Well, I mean, there’s other supplies used as well but you get my point.
But the question remained of why something scares you? For some, hospitals scare them. A hospital. A place where you’re supposed to be healed can be quite a scary place for some. It might be a learned fear: their mother died in the hospital or it might be innate: they just are – no reason given.
Darkness is a common fear because you don’t always know who or what lies in the darkness. It could be something friendly… or maybe not.
The obvious answers are those of supernatural beings: ghosts, witches, demons, etc. Things that can do or cause harm to someone else is something to be feared by most.
Another obvious fear is that of the disturbed: unimaginable acts performed on someone or something else. If anyone watches any horror movie, I’m sure a few things come to mind here.
But yet we are drawn to it, I mean, horror movies and thrillers are still being written and produced. Is it that we are all sick and twisted that we can’t help but see those movies?
I know I personally try to avoid them for the most part… except for Halloween… then, I almost want to be scared to sort of ‘celebrate’ the festivities. Doesn’t that sound twisted?
Maybe we enjoy being scared? Haunted tours are quite popular. If you aren’t familiar with it yet, you can check out Nightmares Fear Factory if you’re ever in Niagra Falls.
So what makes being scared so attractive? What scares us? Why does it scare us?
There are thrill seekers out there who just LOVE to be scared. But why?
Is it something we just create in our minds? The fact that children can be ‘evil’ or that homes can be ‘possessed’? Most fear death because it’s left so open; there are no definitive answers as to what happens after we expire.
Whatever the reason, we all have fears. Some are rational, others not so much. But for Halloween, you can most definitely try to face and overcome your fears… if you want. For me, I’ll take my Halloween movies and be scared of ghosts, zombies, and witches.
For the rest of the year; however, I’ll still always fear spiders.