Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Scary Books, Scary Movies, Scary True History

I freely admit I'm not a huge fan of horror, though I Am Legend (2007) rates in my top [out-of-my-typical-favorite-genres] movies of all time. Scared the living daylights out of me. I saw it at least eight years ago, yet I still find myself thinking about powerful scenes, nuances, and the premise.
Poster Design by Crew Creative Advertising. [Source]
Another movie that scared me--and I loved it!--was The Sixth Sense (1999). I don't know that I've ever been so spooked. What a thrill! Remember how YOU reacted upon discovering the shocking twist?
The Sixth Sense, Theatrical Release Poster [Source]

Don't we read to experience everything?...all from the safety of an armchair (or commuter train seat or hammock)? Powerful fiction transports the reader to another place, another life, another set of circumstances. I think people read scary stories and watch scary movies to safely experience the thrill-ride of spine-tingling fear.

I can't say I read horror (or scary stories) on a regular basis, though I have read some. Far more often, I come across horrific (and probably true) incidents in my constant research of Victorian-American history.
True (at least as far as the viewpoint of the then-current news reporter) history can be every bit as scary, disturbing, nightmare-inducing...and heartbreaking.

The following newspaper clipping, published in Shelby County Herald of Shelbyville, Missouri on October 1, 1890. Yes, some newspaper 'articles' in the late nineteenth century were fictionalized, but this one doesn't seem to be anything but the sad truth--mental illness likely brought on by grief and heartache.

Horrible and sad all at the same time. I think every parent everywhere can imagine the agony experienced by this mother, can identify with her loss...and realize the slip into insanity could happen to any one of us. Isn't that what makes some stories (whether factual or fictional) so scary?

Why do you read scary stories?

Hi! I'm Kristin Holt.
I write frequent articles (or view recent posts easily on my Home Page, scroll down) about the nineteenth century American west–every subject of possible interest to readers, amateur historians, authors…as all of these tidbits surfaced while researching for my books. I also blog monthly at Sweet Americana Sweethearts (first Friday of each month) and Romancing the Genres (third Tuesday of each Month).

I love to hear from readers! Please drop me a note. Or find me on Facebook.

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Sarah Raplee said...

I LOVED The Sixth Sense! Like you, I seldom read or watch horror stories. I think you hit the nail on the head when you said we do it "to safely experience the thrill ride of spine-tingling fear."

Most of the time, real life is scary enough for me.

Kristin Holt said...

Thank you, Sarah, for your supportive and kind comment. I agree--real life is plenty scary (for me).

Anonymous said...

Wow, what a sad story about the mother who lost her baby. Like you, I loved Sixth Sense, which you recommended to me. Good to see you on the Net, my friend.

Kristin Holt said...

Hi Charlene {waves!}
That sad story caught my eye _and_ my heart. So sad.
I'm glad you enjoyed Sixth Sense! (especially on my recommendation)
Thanks for stopping by and contributing to the conversation.

Judith Ashley said...

Kris, I was never brave enough to watch Sixth Sense or I Am Legend. I think the scariest movie I've ever watched was Psycho. My mom wanted to see it and we went together. Nightmares for weeks afterwards. The Godfather was also scary but I not only watched it but also bought the boxed set. That movie series and the original Star Wars affect me to this day because of the themes and messages within the story.

I do believe that real life has enough horror and scary events in it that I do not seek it out in books or movies much less television. I always wonder how someone, especially someone who deals with daily horror and drama, spend off duty time watching/reading scary stuff.

Kristin Holt said...

Dear Judith--

You're so very right. I think compassionate, caring human beings have a threshold of how much violence, horror, and "scary" they can tolerate. My first career choice was nursing and I'm still an RN (though I don't practice). My husband knows me so well; he gently 'banned' me from watching the news when we were young parents and I often bawled after learning of real horrors affecting children and parents and lives cut tragically short.

I'm definitely one of those whose approach to a good scare or terror (in real life) is to hide in fiction (and generally a romance). Characters in books can struggle, face seemingly insurmountable odds...but I need resounding joy at the conclusion. I need to know that despite life's horrors, people can be stronger together than they ever might have been apart. I need to know survivors exist. I also tend to wish horrible events were limited to the pages of fiction--but that's not how life is, nor do I believe, how it's meant to be.

When all else fails, dive into quality fiction. (That's my motto.)

Thank you so much for contributing to the conversation!

Warm regards,