Edgar Allan Poe, the Father of Gothic Horror

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Featured Horror Books
Edgar Allan Poe
Edgar Allan Poe

Dark and mysterious in life and in death, Edgar Allan Poe is most famous for the Gothic horror genre, was a master of macabre poetry and short stories that are the stuff of nightmares. As an American writer, he made a surprising number of enemies through his harsh literary critique of their work. His abundant well of imagination and creative abilities directly enabled him to create a new genre and he has long been considered the father of the modern detective story. While that alone is impressive enough, he is also often regarded in literary history as the architect of the modern short story. As a creative individual, he was also a principle forerunner of the Art for Art’s Sake movement within nineteenth-century European literature.

Edgar’s life, just like his profound short stories, is largely shrouded in mystery to this day. The substantial confusion between the facts and the falsehoods is a direct result of the blatant misrepresentation in a biographical piece written by one of his enemies—in an attempt to smear the dead author’s name. As a result of these widely distributed beliefs, Poe’s image has formed into one that is a morbid, macabre, and mysterious figure who dabbles and lurks in spooky cemeteries has contributed to his legend.

This horror icon grew to become such a renowned author due to his ingenious and profound stories, poems, and critical theories, which proved in time to be influential within their respective fields. He began to be the author everyone associated with tales of murderers and madmen, the prospect of being buried alive, and revenants returning from the dead. He is most widely known for poems like “The Raven,” “The Black Cat,” and “The Tell-Tale Heart,” but that’s not even close to the extent of his most famous works.

Poe managed to produce such compelling literature that he has remained in print since 1827. A man who led an incredibly dark and dreary life and somehow managed to produce these works of literary horror art that was consistently beautiful and haunting.

Early Life

Edgar Allan Poe was born in Boston, Massachusetts on January 19, 1809; his parents were both traveling actors who Edgar was never able to truly get to know. His father was David Poe Jr. Who was originally from Baltimore, his mother Elizabeth Arnold Poe was British in descent. Both died before Poe was even three years old, while his father’s cause of death is unknown, we do know that his mother succumbed to tuberculosis which officially left Poe and his siblings as orphans. At that point, Poe was separated from his brother William and sister Rosalie and he alone was sent to live with John and Frances Allan—a successful tobacco merchant and his wife who lived in Richmond, Virginia. While Edgar seemed to develop a bond with Frances Valentine Allan, Poe’s relationship with John remained unsteady. Allan would never legally adopt his foster son Edgar, but he did send him to the best schools available where he was always a good student.

Despite butting heads, Allan raised Poe to be a Virginian gentleman, as well as a businessman; unfortunately for Allen, Poe was drawn to writing. By the time Poe was a mere thirteen years old, he was already a prolific poet, inspired by the British poet Lord Byron. Unfortunately for Poe, his efforts and literary talents were highly discouraged by his foster father and his headmaster at school. Since Allan raised Poe to be a businessman, he of course did not approve of the fact that Poe preferred to write poetry. He would also allegedly draft poetry on the back of some of Allan’s business papers—needless to say, this was frowned upon by Allan.

Adulthood

Education

Poe was admitted to the University of Virginia at Charlottesville in 1825, where he once again demonstrated his scholarly abilities. Unfortunately, a miserly John Allan sent Poe to his university with less than a third of the funds he would have needed to finish and he quickly accumulated debt. As a result, Poe turned to gambling to raise the money he needed to pay his expenses. By the end of his first term, Poe was rumored to have been so poor, that he had to burn his furniture to keep himself warm. This left him humiliated for being impoverished and furious with Allan for putting him in that position.

Forced to drop out of school, Poe returned to Richmond, Virginia where things went from bad to worse. When he arrived in Richmond, he went to visit his fiancée Sarah Elmira Royster, to the shocking discovery that she had become engaged to another man. After hearing this dismal news, a heartbroken Poe returned to Boston,

Military Service

Poe decided to join the U.S. Army in 1827, the same year he had published his first book—after serving for two years, Poe received news that Frances Allan, his foster mother, was dying of tuberculosis. Sadly, Frances passed away before Poe was able to return home to say his goodbyes. Heartbroken once more, he moved a few hostile months spent living with Allan drove him back to Baltimore to follow his dreams of writing, but also because he was able to call upon relatives for assistance. One cousin ended up robbing him blind, but fortunately for Poe, he met Maria Clemm, another relative who welcomed him with open arms and became a surrogate mother to him. In 1929, Poe was honorably discharged from the army, after having attained the rank of regimental sergeant major.

West Point Military Academy

Two years after meeting Clemm, he entered the United States Military Academy at West Point and continued to write and publish poetry. Poe once again demonstrated his ability to excel in any class but was thrown out after only eight months of attendance. It’s speculated that Poe intentionally got himself expelled to spite his foster father, by ignoring his duties and violating regulations.

In 1831, after moving to New York City, Poe published his third collection of poems, then to Baltimore to live with Clemm, before finally ending up back in Richmond, where the relationship between Poe and Allan had finally deteriorated.

Career

Poe began to follow his dream of being a writer when he published his first book Tamerlane (1927) at the age of eighteen. Later on, Poe was in Baltimore when his foster father passed away, leaving him completely out of the will and instead, witnessed an illegitimate child whom Allan had never met inherit everything. Poe was still living in poverty, but publishing his short stories when he could. One of these submissions won him a contest which was sponsored by the Saturday Visiter. Poe made valuable connections through winning this contest, which allowed him to publish more stories, and eventually, he grabbed an editorial position at the Southern Literary Messenger in Richmond. This would be the first of several journals that Poe would direct over the following decade, through which he would rise in prominence as a critical writer within America.

While his writing continued to gain attention in the late 1830s and the early 1840s, his income from this work remained minimal and he was only able to truly support himself through his work editing Burton’s Gentleman Magazine and Graham’s Magazine in Philadelphia as well as the Broadway Journal in New York City.

Short Stories & Poetry

In 1935, Poe began to sell short stories to magazines—this was also when he began to establish himself as a poet—his best-known works and poems were made during these years, the years when he was happily married despite already being a depressed alcoholic.

Literary Critic

The Southern Literary Messenger was the magazine where he ultimately obtained his goal to become a magazine writer. Before a year had passed, Poe helped to make the Messenger the most popular magazine in the south—it was his sensational short stories and his absolutely ruthless book reviews. Poe ended up developing a reputation for being a ruthless critic who would not only attack an author’s work but also insult the author themselves as well as the northern literary establishment. This job led to Poe writing reviews that were meant to target some of the most famous authors in America—one of which was Rufus Griswold, the anthologist who would become Poe’s worst enemy in life and death!

Married to his Cousin

Clemm’s daughter, Virginia, began carrying letters to Poe’s love interest at the time, but soon after became the object of his desire. He began to devote his time and attention to her and when Poe finally moved back to Baltimore he brought both his aunt Clemm as well as his twelve-year-old cousin, Virginia. The couple was married in 1836 while she was still only thirteen and Poe was twenty-seven. The age difference, as well as the marrying of a cousin, was still considered a normal thing during this era, even though by modern standards, it would be inappropriate for a child to become a bride. The marriage proved to be a joyful one and it’s likely that it was one of the happiest times during his life, but finances were fairly tight throughout despite Poe’s gain in acclaim as a writer.

Taken by Tuberculosis

Virginia was tragically taken in 1947, at the young age of 24, which happened to be the age that Poe’s mother was when she also died of tuberculosis. Poe was devastated by Virginia’s death, so much so that he was unable to write for months—his critics assumed he would die soon after and they weren’t wrong. Yet, it’s also rumored that he became involved in a number of romantic affairs before he was engaged for the third time. This time to his original fiancée, Elmira Royster Shelton, who had recently become a widow just as Poe had become a widower.

Mysterious Death

While in preparation for his second marriage, Poe arrived in Baltimore in late September of 1849. He was discovered in a semi-conscious state on October 3 and was taken to a hospital. He ended up dying four days later of “acute congestion of the brain,” without regaining consciousness to explain what had happened to him during his last days on earth. Neither Poe’s mother-in-law Mrs. Clemm nor his fiancée Elmira knew what had become of him until they read about it in the papers. Medical practitioners later reopened his case and hypothesized that Poe could have been suffering from rabies at the time of his death, but the exact cause still remains a mystery.

Libelous Obituary

Only days after Poe’s death, one of his main literary rivals—he had several due to his moniker “The Tomahawk Man,” when he wrote his scathing literary reviews—Rufus Griswold, decided to write a libelous obituary about the dead author. This was done in a misguided attempt to get his revenge against Poe for some offensive things that Poe had written and said about him. Griswold attempted to smear Poe’s image by labeling him a drunken, womanizing, madman, who possessed neither morals nor friends; his hope was that these attacks on Poe would cause the public to dismiss his works and cause Poe to be forgotten completely. Unfortunately for Griswold, his libelous attack on Poe had the opposite effect on audiences and immediately caused the sales of Poe’s books to skyrocket, higher than they had ever been during his lifetime. The joke was truly on Griswold, however, who instead of being recognized as a writer is only recognized (if vaguely) as Poe’s first biographer, even if he intentionally botched the whole thing.

Work Cited

Edgar Allan Poe. (2020, September 03). Retrieved November 14, 2020, from https://www.biography.com/writer/edgar-allan-poe

“Edgar Allan Poe.” Poetry Foundation, Poetry Foundation, www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/edgar-allan-poe.

Poe’s Biography: Edgar Allan Poe Museum. (n.d.). Retrieved November 14, 2020, from https://www.poemuseum.org/poes-biography

Enoch’s Fruit

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Featured Indie Horror Indie Horror Creation Indie horror writers Short Horror Stories
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Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him- Genesis 5:24


Noah raised the fruit to eye level. Its translucent color sparkled like a diamond in the sun. It’s
shape, oval, fitting in the palm of his hand. Its skin was smooth and mellifluous.
“What is this,” Noah asked, his sun worn face scrunched in curiosity.
A loud thunderclap echoed across the black sky.
Michael the archangel glanced up at the menacing clouds, then back at Noah. “It’s the only
surviving fruit of the tree of life. You must guard it, and guard it with your life.”
Noah’s eyes widened. “So, the legend is true? But I thought Shamsiel destroyed all the fruit?”
“Ah yes, Shamsiel,” Michael nodded in remembrance as his face soured. “The guardian cherub.”
His eyes met Noah’s. “We thought he did. His rage over Lilith being cast out knew no bounds. If
it hadn’t been for Seth,” Michael’s voice trailed off as he stared at the ark.
“What, Michael?” Noah lowered the fruit and cupped it in both hands.
“If it hadn’t been for Seth rummaging through the rubble, we wouldn’t have known either.”
Noah sat on the ground watching Shem struggle to get a sheep up the ramp to the ark. “Tell me
more, Michael.”
Michael sat down by Noah. “Your ancestor Seth found it. He passed it down and eventually
Enoch, the man of God, took the fruit.”
“Yes, and legend says God took him up to the heavens.”
“Indeed, he did. Do you know why?”
Noah shook his head.

“Because Enoch took a bite of the fruit.”
Noah’s hand felt the indention on the backside of the fruit. He flipped it over and his mouth
gaped. “Indeed, he did.” Noah looked at Michael, his face begging him to continue.
“God had to take Enoch. Enoch wasn’t supposed to happen. A fallen man from Adam’s race now
endued with eternal life in his sinful state.”
“Was God angry,” Noah asked.
Michael smirked, “No, he wasn’t angry. He loves Enoch. He enacted a plan.”
Noah raised his eyebrows. “What kind of a plan?”
“Well, “Michael pursed his lips in thought. “Enoch dug up Eve’s grave and buried the fruit with
her.” He gave Noah a sly smile. “Proved to be a remarkable hiding spot.”
Noah nodded in agreement.
Michael said, “After Enoch hid the fruit, Yahweh took Enoch to heaven. Enoch has now been
placed as guardian over the fruit. If the fruit is in danger of falling into the wrong hands, Enoch
will come, ready to fight and ensure the fruit remains safe.”
“So, you’re giving it to me? So, it will not be lost in the grand deluge?”
“You catch on fast, old man,” Michael patted Noah on the back.
Noah gave a half-smile then studied the fruit. “I will guard it well, Michael.” Noah’s gaze met
Michael’s. “I make an oath to Yahweh on my very life.”
“Very good. I know you will not fail us.”
A deafening thunder shook the heavens, and Noah felt the first drop of rain graze the top of his
ear.

In the years following the flood, as Noah’s descendants spread across the land, the secret of the
fruit remained with Noah. Before he died, Noah entrusted this knowledge to his sons, Ham, Shem,
and Japeth. The three brothers guarded the fruit well, and as they aged, the trio sought a prudent
man to entrust with their family’s secret.

But none could be found.

Nimrod thrust his dagger into the stomach of the lion. He had killed the beast not even five
minutes ago. The cold months were approaching, and he needed warm hide to cover his massive
frame.
He slid the dagger down and the blood ran. He pushed his hand into the warm liquid and the
copper smell hit is nostrils. He grabbed a chunk of innards and began to gut the lion. As he
worked, he thought about Ham, the head of the clan. He was on his deathbed. Maybe he should
make the hide into a covering for him?
No, he thought. Let the old bastard die.

Nimrod dragged the carcass back to his clan’s camp. He walked in and heard Ham’s faint voice
calling for him from within his tent. Nimrod sighed, dropped the lion, and stepped into Ham’s
tent.
“Yes, my lord.”
“Come see, my son.” Ham’s voice was a wheezing whisper.
Nimrod eased over to Ham’s bed and knelt beside him.
“Take my hand,” Ham demanded.
Nimrod reached out and held Ham’s hand. It was cold and slick. The hand of a dying man. “I’m
here, my lord.”
“Nimrod, my time on this earth is about to expire. I need you to gather my brothers and my sons
and daughters.”
Nimrod went to release Ham’s hand and obey his orders, but Ham squeezed tighter.
“Wait my child. Before I die, there is something I need to tell you. It’s a secret. A secret of grave
importance. I’ve held this secret because there has been no one worthy to pass it on to. But you,”
Ham coughed and wheezed. “But you are a great warrior, and a great warrior is needed to
protect,” Ham’s words were cut short with more coughing.

Nimrod’s brow furrowed in confusion. “My lord, I don’t understand.”
“Come closer my child, and I will tell you.”
Nimrod leaned in and Ham revealed to him the knowledge of the fruit.
Shem and Japeth entered the tent. Shem held a bowl of stew, ready to feed Ham his lunch.
“And the fruit is buried in the mountains of Ararat, where Noah built the first altar to Yahweh
after the flood.”
Shem’s hands grew weak and the bowl of stew fell to the ground with a sloshing thud. “Dear God,
Ham. What have you done?”
Nimrod smiled over his shoulder at Shem and Japeth, an insidious gleam in his eye.
Ham breathed his last breath and his spirit left to join his ancestors in the bosom of Yahweh.
Japeth licked his lips and swallowed hard. Cold chills twisted up his spine. “Nimrod…no.”
Shem and Japeth knew what kind of man Nimrod was. Ham had always refused to see.
Nimrod stood to his feet. “Well, brothers. I think it would be wise of you to tell me where this
altar is.”
Shem’s wrinkled, old face contorted with anger. “I would rather go to Sheol than tell you where
the fruit is buried!”
“Very well, “Nimrod nodded. He drew his sword which was attached to his waist. With one fluid
motion, he lopped Shem’s head off. A blood rainbow geysered from his neck, decorating the
inside of the tent. Shem’s body toppled to the floor and Nimrod turned his attention to Japeth.
The old man went down on both knees and shook his head. “I will not tell you either.”
“So be it!” Nimrod swung and decapitated Japeth. As his headless body hit the dirt, blood flowed
around Nimrod’s feet. Nimrod stepped over the body and poked his head out of the tent. When he
was sure no one had heard the commotion, he sneaked out the camp, leaving the lion carcass, and
traveled to the mountains of Ararat.
Lucifer sat in the shadows, watching the entire scene, a sinister plan stirring in his dark heart.

Enoch approached Yahweh’s throne, his face shrouded in the darkness of his gray, hooded cloak.
His body burned with the fire of Yahweh. He drew his sword and knelt before God.
“Yes, My Lord.”
“The secret of the fruit has been jeopardized.”
Enoch lifted his head. “I know. I felt it.”
“And Lucifer prowls about.”
“Lucifer…” Enoch growled.
“Go,” Yahweh commanded. “Release Azazel and the other watchers from prison- Amazarak,
Baraqel, and Suriel. They will aid you in your quest.”
“It will be as you will,” Enoch said, then rose to his feet to go to Tartarus and release the
watchers.

A cool breeze flowed through the mountains. It entered a cave and rolled over the sleeping body
of Nimrod, awakening him with a shiver.
“I should have kept the lion,” he mumbled to himself. Nimrod sat up to stoke the fire he had
built. His eyes detected movement in the corner. Nimrod drew his dagger. As the embers of the
fire danced up in the air, he saw a figure in the shadows.
The entities eyes glowed orange. Its skin was onyx, with a sapphire breastplate covering its
chest. The figure extended charcoal wings with singed feathers, gleaming like the embers of
Nimrod’s fire.
“Put the blade down, Nimrod,” the being said and stepped out of the shadows. “It won’t do you
any good.”
It had been years, but Nimrod recognized the creature. “Lucifer?”
Lucifer smiled, revealing jagged, opaque teeth which also reflected the dim light of the fire.
“Yes. And I’m sure you can guess why I am here.”
Nimrod returned his dagger to its sheath. “Oh, I can take a wild guess. The fruit.”

Lucifer gave a slow nod. “I’ve been waiting all these years for Noah and his family to stumble,”
Lucifer chuckled. “I always knew it would be Ham.”
“What do you want with the fruit, Lucifer, “Nimrod asked, his voice lacking amusement.
“To make you like the mighty men of renown. The mighty men of old. The Nephilim. Then you
shall devour the fruit, and we shall live forever, and be the rightful rulers of this creation.”
Nimrod smirked. “Tell me more, brother.”
Plans were made, and Lucifer entered Nimrod. Nimrod’s body twisted and contorted, his features
taking on those of Lucifer’s, except his skin remained its olive color. His torso expanded and his
limbs elongated. A pair of singed wings emerged from his back. Nimrod grew so large, he had to
get on all fours to crawl out the entrance of the cave.
“Go,” Nimrod heard a voice in his head saying. “I know where the altar used to be.”

Enoch sank his sword into the rocky ground of the mountain. It split open, and he saw the
shimmering of the fruit of the tree of life. His emerald eyes glowed under the darkness of his
hood as he glanced over his shoulder at Azazel, Amazarak, Baraqel, and Suriel.
“The fruit is still here. We are not too late,” Enoch said
Azazel threw off his cloak. His wine-colored scales refracted the light, causing it to sparkle like a
gem. Eight tales like a scorpion aligned his back- four on each side running vertically. The tails
outstretched like wings, hovering over his body. Powerful reptilian legs supported the frame, and
one of its massive arms formed into a blade at the hand. Azazel’s face had been peeled back,
revealing bulging eyes and a black skull with the red sinews still attached. He breathed in deep.
“He is close,” Azazel turned to the other watchers. “Prepare yourselves.”
The other watchers removed their cloaks. They resembled Azazel in appearance except
Amazarak was a light blue, Baraqel a golden yellow, and Suriel a deep red.
Enoch removed his sword from the rock and stood in front of the watchers. The ground began to
shake, as a figure in the distance rumbled towards them. A few moments later, the Lucifer-
Nimrod hybrid loomed over them.
“Stand aside Enoch. The fruit is mine,” the creature’s voice flowed deep.

Enoch threw his hood back. Black spikes covered his pale head, which was aligned with various
tribal markings. His green eyes darkened. “You cannot kill what cannot die.” Enoch bared his
teeth and made the first move.
Nimrod swung his sword and blocked Enoch’s attack. The blow was so forceful, Enoch flipped
in the air and crashed against the side of the mountain. The watchers moved in fast. Their blade
arms flailing and connecting with Nimrod’s flesh.
Nimrod cried out in anger and pain. While he was preoccupied with Suriel and Baraqel, Azazel
was able to slip in behind him. Azazel leaped onto Nimrods back. As he did, he sank all of his
scorpion legs into Nimrod’s sides and chest.
Amazarack saw his opening and thrust his blade arm into Nimrod’s stomach. Blood flowed from
Nimrod’s wounds and his body grew weak. With a show of strength, he brought his sword
crashing down on Amazarack’s arm, severing it. Amazarack retreated in pain, and Nimrod
removed the blade, then fell to his knees.
Azazel released his grasp, and Baraqel kicked Nimrod in the chest, collapsing him to the ground.
By this time Enoch was on his feet. He approached Nimrod and stood over him.
“As I said,” Enoch raised his sword. “You cannot kill what cannot die.” He brought the blade
down like a bolt of lightning into Nimrod’s heart.
Nimrod breathed his last, and Lucifer ascended out of him and flew into the heavens. Enoch and
the watchers looked on until Lucifer was out of sight. They inspected the fruit one last time, then
sealed the crevice. Enoch and the watchers returned to heaven, leaving Nimrod’s body to decay
in the mountains.

Shamsiel saw the entire thing. He descended the mountain and stood where Enoch had split the
ground. Shamsiel’s head resembled a gigantic, black goat skull with long horns. His black and
red feline body gripped a flaming sword in its human hands. His tail, a viper, slithered around his
feet. He raised the sword above his head and then slammed it into the rock. The ground split and
Shamsiel saw something sparkle.
He reached into the crevice and took hold of the fruit. Shamsiel brought the fruit to eye level and
inspected it. His grip around it tightened. His voice echoed as he talked. It was a low, guttural
voice that rolled like thunder. “It’s not over Lilith. Not at all.”

Epidemic Based Horror Movies See Biggest Spike Since Release

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Featured Lifestyle Scary Movies and Series

Viral outbreak horror films such as Outbreak – 1995, 28 Days Later – 2002, Contagion – 2011, 12 Monkeys -1995, Resident Evil series are all seeing the most searches since each one was released independently.

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But why would we watch these with a real-life threat staring directly at us?

The answer might lay in the Amygdala or the “primal brain” as many psychologists call it. This is the old brain, the subconscious parts of us that in a fear or anxiety scenario helps us survive. There is a concept of instinctual memories that we inherit these fears in order to learn to avoid danger. Why do infants inherently react to snakes even when first seeing them? Why do so many people fear spiders even though they have never had an incident involving spiders? We are simply wired for it based on many years of learning the hard way, which often meant death. Famous psychoanalyst Carl Jung stated that horror films “tapped into primordial archetypes buried deep in our collective subconscious” which is another way of saying that we have these fears already on call, we just don’t have direct access to them in our conscious thinking.

So why watch something that we are already afraid of? If we look at these movies there are several outcomes and even chemical reactions that happen that draw some of us in.

  • Cathartic release – The fight instinct says go towards this scary event and beat it. In each of these movies, there is a hero who survives, a hero who “fights” and that appeals to us. It shows us we may be able to survive, even in a zombie apocalypse. That unto itself is a relief!
  • Hypervigilance – This is a reaction to trauma and well these are traumatic times for many people. We stand on guard and watching these films can reinforce that behavior, which might feel like we are actively preparing ourselves somehow.
  • Exposing ourselves to the “Worst Case Scenario” – We get the opportunity to experience how bad it really could be and maybe that will make what is happening right here today feel less scary.
  • Watching horror movies, in general, can also trigger some pretty good chemicals in the brain. In fact, it might even be good for you if you can handle it!

Below is how the movies stacked up state by state. The darker the color the more searches they had for the film.

While we navigate these difficult times some of us will turn directly into the fear while some might find it more traumatizing. We don’t recommend one way or the other as it really comes down to how you handle fear and stress. But it makes sense why so many people want to watch these films while the world continues to prepare for the virus. Stay safe and be well.

Etchison Through Film, Screen, and Radio

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Featured Horror Books

As a professional writer for fifty years, not only was Dennis Etchison successful with his short stories, novels, and editorial work, he also had a prolific career with film, screen and radio work. This of course simply works as an overview of what he was most known for in these fields—in respect to him as our honored Dead Author Dedication of the month of May, we felt it was fair to mention how he contributed to the field of film, screen, and radio.

Screenplays

In his time writing screenplays, Etchison wrote a fair few that he could be proud of, although his own humility would not allow it later in life. Whether it be a screenplay based on the works of others, or his own—sadly his screenplays were not as widely received as his short stories and novels. In 1998, Etchison’s story, The Late Shift was adapted to film by Patrick Aumont and Damian Harris into the film Killing Time.

Ray Bradbury

One author that Etchison greatly respected was Ray Bradbury and he displayed this in many ways during his career, by paying homage to the classic American author. One screenplay that he was said to have created, but has thus far not been produced, was The Fox and the Forest.

Teaming Up With the Greats

John Carpenter

1986 brought in the opportunity for Etchison to team up with director John Carpenter to write the script for Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers; unfortunately, when Etchison finalized the script, producer Moustapha Akkad rejected it, saying that it was “too cerebral,” and that it would not have been right for the direction of the franchise.

Halloween was banned in Haddonfield and I think that the basic idea was that if you tried to suppress something, it would only rear its head more strongly. By the very [attempt] of trying to erase the memory of Michael Myers, [the teenagers] were going to ironically bring him back into existence.

Dennis Etchison on his idea for Halloween 4

He was informed via telephone with an explanation that his script would not become part of the deal during the sale of the pitch for Halloween 4; that is not to say that the fourth installment of the Halloween franchise was unsuccessful, but once Akkad had gained ownership of the franchise, he returned it to a more original idea that brought the fan-base back.

Stephen King

In 1983, Etchison first worked with King to be the film consultant and historian for King’s Danse Macabre. His work with Stephen King, perhaps is the most impressive, having teamed up with the prolific writer to create the screenplay for The Mist which was adapted in 1984 fir a ZBS Media production as a 90-minute radio rendition.

Television

Etchison was a staff writer during the year of 1985, when he contributed to the television series The Hitchhiker.

The Ogre originally written by Colin Wilson, was rewritten by Etchison—he also co-wrote one of the stories for the television series Logan’s Run, entitled “The Thunder Gods,” which was later printed.

Radio Work

As an author who could seamlessly cross platforms, Etchison adapted almost one hundred episodes of the original The Twilight Zone television series for a CBS radio series which was hosted by Stacy Keach in 2002. Later on this radio series was released commercially on audio CDs. This was definitely not the only time that Etchison did writing for radio work, as he also worked as one of the writers on the audio series for Fangoria’s Deadtime Stories which was hosted by Malcom McDowell—also something that was later released on CDs and digital downloads.

Exploring the Roots of Folk Horror

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Defining the term “folk horror” and tracing its trajectory throughout history is somewhat of a Herculean task. For a term that sounds so simplistic, it is an incredibly complex and ever-expanding genre. Entire books have been written on the subject (such as Adam Scovell’s 2017 film criticism Folk Horror: Hours Dreadful and Things Strange), and there’s even a three hour long documentary about it titled Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched: A History of Folk Horror, which itself features over one hundred examples from film.

Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched cover

And while much of the emphasis surrounding the conversation is placed on British movies, there are plenty of overlapping examples in film, TV, and literature from around the world. Not to mention the actual elements that make up the genre are diverse, and range from folklore to the occult to witchcraft. 

Simply put, it’s complicated.

To that end, this article is not going to be an exhaustive look at the genre (that’s what the books and documentaries are for), but rather a brief overview of the term, its tropes, and popular examples. Think of it as a primer; a starting place in the shallows of the vast ocean that is folk horror. Ready to wade in?

Origins of the Term

The British music scene experienced something of a folk revival in the 1960s, and that, coupled with the rise in Neopaganism, led to a general infatuation with and exploration of older belief systems. Bands like Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin explored occult themes in their songs, and the writings of famous occultist Aleister Crowley gained popularity. It wasn’t long before the fascination with folk and occult themes found its way into the world of cinema. And that’s not to say that music was the only vehicle for introducing folk horror, as disillusionment with modernism and outrage at governing bodies engendered in many a desire to return to nature and the simpler, older ways of life. At the same time, our post-industrial life has made us unused to rural life and uncomfortable with isolation.

When cult classic The Blood on Satan’s Claws came out in 1971, the Kine Weekly referred to the film as “a study in folk horror”. The movie’s director Piers Haggard also used this term when describing his film. Later the term received renewed attention in 2010 when writer/actor Mark Gatiss interviewed Haggard during a section of the BBC documentary A History of Horror. These two moments, 1971 and 2010, appear to mark the emergence and then subsequent revitalization of the expression “folk horror”.

The Blood on Satan's Claws cover

Elements of Folk Horror

Though it can be difficult to pin down the exact definition of folk horror, there is a general agreement that it is more of a mood, an atmosphere, than anything else. You know it when you see it, though it may be hard to explain why. Even common tropes can vary widely depending on geographic region and time period, and movies with very dissimilar plots can still fall under the folk horror umbrella. But for the purpose of simplicity, we will highlight what writer and filmmaker Adam Scovell (owner of the Celluloid Wicker Man blog) describes as the “Folk Horror Chain”, or the four basic thematic/aesthetic tenets of folk horror: Rural Location, Isolated Groups, Skewed Moral and Belief Systems, and Supernatural or Violent Happenings.

Rural Location: This was a big one for movies in the 60s and 70s because it saw a move away from filming in studios and out into the natural world. This element typically involves a fascination with pastoral landscapes and locations outside of urban life. Often there is an outsider who stumbles upon or is forced into a rural community, and who usually becomes some sort of scapegoat or sacrifice to traditional/pagan beliefs. Some argue that this element also encompasses ideas of psychography and location being a “state of mind” in more urban communities, such as in Roman Polanski’s film Rosemary’s Baby (1968).

Isolated Groups: This element typically takes one one of two meanings – either an individual is isolated from their normal physical environment or they’re isolated from those who share their same moral beliefs. For example, the characters in David Bruckner’s The Ritual (2017) find themselves stranded in the forest but also in discord with people who worship much different gods than they. This element is a link between the previous one and the next because isolation usually happens in rural environments, and it’s made even more upsetting because the antagonistic forces don’t act or think the same as the protagonist.

Skewed Moral and Belief Systems: In Robin Hardy’s The Wicker Man (1973), Sergeant Howie finds himself in a community whose religious beliefs and practices are at odds with his own. Across other examples there is a common thread of “modern” or “Christian” beliefs finding themselves in direct conflict with occult or pagan beliefs. This collision of morality and religious belief leads into or is specifically connected to the final element of the chain.

folk horror ritual

Supernatural or Violent Happenings: Folk horror stories are often steeped in, or at least influenced by, folklore of the particular region they’re set in, and this final piece of the chain usually involves either supernatural beings or some form of ritualistic violence (or both) related to that folklore. Invocations of demonic entities, horrific sacrifices, occult practices, and pagan idolatry are all par for the course. 

British Folk Horror

The current popularity of folk horror, at least what our primary audience would be familiar with, owes a lot to British cinema, and in particular the Hammer Films production company. A group of films from the 60s and 70s, known affectionately as the “Unholy Trinity,” is what many point to as the birth of the genre. These movies are Witchfinder General (1968), the aforementioned Blood on Satan’s Claw (1971), and The Wicker Man (1973). These three films helped distinguish some common characteristics of folk horror, namely the picturesque landscapes, the isolated communities, and the emphasis on sacrifices and supernatural summonings. And yet, showing how intangible the genre is, these are also three very different movies in terms of plot.

BBC's Ghost Stories for Christmas cover

Strong examples of the genre can also be found in British television from the same time period. There was the BBC’s Ghost Stories for Christmas series, which adapted several of M.R. James’s short stories with folk horror elements, such as Whistle and I’ll Come to You (1968), A Warning to the Curious (1972), and The Ash Tree (1975). There was a drama series from the BBC, titled Plays for Today, with standout hits like Robin Redbreast (1970) and Penda’s Fen (1974). And there were still other enduring examples of the genre like Children of the Stones (1977), a miniseries made for children but still incredibly terrifying.

Though the British rise in folk horror began in the 1960s and 1970s, there was something of a resurgence in the genre in the 2010s. Some of these newer British films (and in the UK more widely) took the tropes and themes from decades previous and put their own modern spin on them, while others sought to return to folk horror’s roots, so to speak, with their emphasis on ritual, folklore, and mankind’s connection to nature. While there are many examples to pull from – folk horror appears to be trending right now – several standout movies include David Keating’s Wake Wood (2009), Paul Wright’s For Those in Peril (2013), Elliot Goldner’s The Borderlands (2013), and Corin Hardy’s The Hallow (2015). Another prolific filmmaker in the genre is Ben Wheatley, whose canon of folk horror movies includes Kill List (2011), Sightseers (2012), A Field in England (2013), and In the Earth (2021).

Kill List cover
Sightseers cover
A Field in England cover

Most of the common examples in British folk horror are from film, however there are many books from Britain that include plots and tropes from the genre. In fact, as it goes, some of the oldest examples of the genre are found in literature, from authors such as Arthur Machen, Algernon Blackwood, and M.R. James. Some shining examples in more modern literature include Adam Nevill’s The Ritual (2011) and The Reddening (2019), Andrew Michael Hurley’s The Loney (2014) and Devil’s Day (2017), Thomas Olde Heuvelt’s Hex (2016), and Stephanie Ellis’s The Five Turns of the Wheel (2020) – as well as numerous comics, such as Simon Davis’s Thistlebone (2020) from 2000AD. 

American Folk Horror

Though the term originated in the British imagination, the evolving genre of folk horror has set roots in American cinema and literature as well. In some cases this involves American filmmakers creating movies very much influenced by the British tradition, such as Avery Crounse’s Eyes of Fire (1983), Robert Eggers’s The Witch (2015), Gareth Evans’s Apostle (2018), and Ari Aster’s Midsommar (2019). These films have strong similarities to their British cousins in regards to their emphasis on British landscapes and lore. The Blair Witch Project (1999) is another movie that could be included in this group, though it doesn’t fit the mold quite as well.

There are also many crossover elements between the genres of southern gothic and folk horror, and these commonalities can be seen in films such as Charles Laughton’s Night of the Hunter (1955). There is also a sub-genre of film called “hicksploitation” or “hillbilly horror” which spawns from the southern gothic tradition and which, upon first glance, may not seem to have much to do with folk horror. Yet, when one applies Scovell’s folk horror chain theory, the similarities begin to arise. Films that would fit in this category include movies like John Boorman’s Deliverance (1972), Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), and Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes (1977).

Old rusty tools in a toolshed

In American literature, elements of folk horror can be seen as early as the works of Nathaniel Hawthorne and Washington Irving. Other popular novels and short stories in the genre include Thomas Tryon’s Harvest Home (1973), Stephen King’s “Children Of The Corn” (1977), Shirley Jackson’s “The Summer People” (1984), Raymond E. Feist’s Faerie Tale (1988), Elizabeth Hand’s Wylding Hall (2015), John Langan’s The Fisherman (2016), and Victor Lavalle’s The Changeling (2017).

A Genre Diverse and Divergent

As we continue to reevaluate and redefine what folk horror is, we begin to notice a few common truths: the genre has existed in some form or fashion long before the 60s and 70s, and some version of it can be found in almost every country around the world. Beowulf, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, early forms of mystical poetry, and even some of Shakespeare’s plays all have folk horror elements. The earliest example in film comes from the Danish-Swedish fictionalized documentary Häxan: Witchcraft Through The Ages (1922). Sweden has Ingmar Bergman’s Hour of the Wolf (1968). Australia has Peter Weir’s The Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975). Japan has Kaneto Shindo’s Onibaba (1964) and Kuroneko (1968). And on and on it goes.

Scene from Haxan movie

Also the more we explore the foundations and tenets of folk horror, the more we find examples which lie outside of the commonly accepted cannon, but which end up fitting the mold in diverse and interesting ways. Some titles here would include Sam Peckinpah’s Straw Dogs (1971), Bernard Rose’s Candyman (1992), Guillermo Del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth (2006), Edgar Wright’s Hot Fuzz (2007), Jordan Peele’s Get Out (2017), Ari Aster’s Hereditary (2018), and even the Paranormal Activity franchise. 

As it should be clear by now, attempting to box the folk horror genre into an easy-to-digest definition is simply not possible. We didn’t even get into the various histories of folklore and dark fairy tales around the world and their individual influences and appearances in the genre. We also didn’t get into the overlapping traits in genres such as science fiction and cosmic horror. What we did accomplish, hopefully, is to give you a taste of the world that you will carry with you into your own exploration of this wonderfully diverse genre known as folk horror.