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Featured Haunted Places Horror Mystery and Lore

La Mala Hora – Urban Legend Explored

Mexico has enough folklore and urban legends to make HP Lovecraft cancel his flight, though none are as menacing and confrontational as the dreaded La Mala Hora.

The Legend

La Mala Hora relates to The Devil’s Hour; a time many know as 3am, and a time at which one may wake suddenly for no perceptible reason with an acute sense of dread wallowing in their stomach. This uncanny hour has been associated with practice of witchcraft, imbued with great satanic significance and even held accountable for the true story of The Amityville Horror, though residents of Mexico know it as something rather more tangible, and far more horrifying. 

In 1910 the phenomenon was described by Aurelio Espinosa as a malicious entity that stalked crossroads around Mexico at night. It would hunt, torment, and even kill anyone brave enough to ignore the tales and travel home alone at such an hour. If these individuals were unfortunate enough to come across the dreaded La Mala Hora and gaze headlong into it, they would be driven hideously and irreversibly insane. Sounds like Mexico has been reading a little of Lovecraft’s work after all.

And because of this, this particular spirit is said to be more feared than the devil himself. Most of Mexico flat-out refuses to talk about it, changing the subject or simply referring to it as “an evil thing”.  

La Mala Hora takes great pleasure in driving its victims mad. Not only this, but it will often attack helpless travelers, paralyzing them in their tracks and brutalizing their weakened forms. After being suffocated by the fiend their bodies are left at the side of the road.

La Mala Hora Lady in White

In Chiapas, the southernmost state of Mexico, the insidious entity is told to take the form of a beautiful woman, sometimes dressed in white, sometimes in black. This incarnation and its diversely gruesome behaviours come across like some demented video game enemy gone rogue. When dressed in white La Mala Hora is said to be gentler and more graceful. She hypnotises weary travellers who, if they don’t notice the space between her feet and the ground, or the fact that her toes are backwards, or the fact that their lanterns have stopped working and all sense of direction seems lost, will follow her obediently into wherever peril she chooses. Perhaps this will be off the edge of a ravine, or perhaps in front of the next passing car. 

When dressed in black, La Mala Hora is more aggressive. She will stop a traveller by any means and attack directly with her pointed nails. The strong-willed should hope to meet her on a “white night,” while no one should hope to see her in black. 

One particular story has been circling the internet for quite some time, earning La Mala Hora its creepypasta certification along the way. In this story a woman goes to stay with her friend who is experiencing marital troubles. On the way she almost hits a woman in the road who, when the car stops, begins scratching fiercely at the windows in an attempt to get in. After driving away as quickly as possible, our protagonist reaches her friend who tells her frantically that she has seen La Mala Hora, the spirit who only appears when death is close. The woman then calls her husband, who she finds has been mugged and shot to death in another area. 

New Mexico Legend

On the southern border of the United States, in the state of New Mexico, La Mala Hora seems to appear much closer to Espinosa’s original description. Usually it’s seen as a black abstract form, like a fleece of wool which expands and contracts, changing size and shape and seemingly floating along the roadside. A widely feared omen, this incarnation is only told to be seen when death is soon to befall a loved one. I would imagine a lot of concerned yet apologetic phone calls taking place around 3am in Mexico. 

One thing is for sure; if I lived near any of the places that La Mala Hora is said to appear, I would doubtfully ever go out after midnight. 

References

10 Fascinating Facts About The Devil’s Hour, 3AM – Listverse

Mexican Monstresses: La Mala Hora – Multo (Ghost) (wordpress.com)

La Mala Hora: From Scary stories at Americanfolklore.net

Urban Legends And Ghost Stories: La Mala Hora (urbanlegends66.blogspot.com)

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Featured Horror Books NA Scary Movies and Series

Let’s Talk About Survival Horror

The differences between some horror games are like the differences between a haunted house ghost ride and being chased by an actual deranged killer. Being startled is one thing, but the feeling of being pursued by a genuine threat is as hellishly exhilarating as it is difficult to simulate. Horror video games such as Resident Evil (1996) and Silent Hill (1999) laid foundations for the concept of ‘Survival Horror’ as much as later titles like Amnesia: The Dark Descent (2010) and The Forest (2014) branched out and developed what it meant, finding new ways to milk the formidable dread of being stalked. The feeling could arguably translate to many mediums of art and entertainment, none however finding it nearly as easy to achieve as video games. When a player can digitally embody a character’s perspective, or further still, make a character to look just like them, then immersing the common individual shouldn’t be all that hard.

Friday the 13th movie poster

Films, on the other hand, must rely on a variety of tricks to achieve the fight-or-flight-tickling survival horror sensation. This can include stylistic choices, core concepts and often exploitation of the setting and the themes buried within it. Slasher flicks like Friday 13th (1980) commonly include a group of people desperately trying to escape a killer with their lives which, when done well, forces the viewer to consider their own mortality over and over. Apocalyptic horror films like I Am Legend (2007) can portray a single individual as the last surviving human, posing questions of society and seclusion to its audience while basking in the heavy dread of pure isolation. 

It is within this isolation that many horror films thrive, and setting is one of the more common tools to make it work. Of course the true requirement for audience immersion is quality acting, though setting can often act as a character itself, becoming in some cases the ultimate source of terror. Many horror films such as Backcountry (2015)Willow Creek (2014) and arguably The Revenant (2016) (the latter featuring one of the most savage bear attacks in film history) take place within vast wildernesses for this very reason. When things go wrong, there aren’t many places to go, and chances of survival decrease drastically. One of the most effective of these films, especially for the general British public, is Eden Lake (2004). When a couple retreat to the idyllic titular spot in the woods for a quiet weekend, their worst nightmares manifest in the form of a group of troubled youths. Armed with a capable cast and a believable plot, this violent thriller consistently raises question after horrible question of morality and group mentality, right up until its hair-raising finale. Not a lot of us will have come across bigfoot or even a grizzly bear in our lives, though trouble at the hands of ‘hoodies’ is something many are accustomed to. 

Of course isolation does not necessarily depend upon setting, and the plot of a film can have just as much bearing on this effect. Many stories tell of an apocalyptic age, one taking place after much of humanity has been wiped out, and focus on the exploits of a few survivors. Within films such as The Crazies (1973/2010), Doomsday (2008)I am Legend (2007) and Mad Max (1979) are insights into the psychology of people forced to outlive their species, along with a lot of wacky violence. When characters are thrown into a lawless world of gangs and deadly viruses, new and often brutal measures of survival are employed. Frank Darabont’s The Mist (2007) centres around a small town overrun with, you guessed it, an insidious mist. Within this mist, however, are terrors beyond which they have ever known, and the only hope for a modest group is to lock themselves into the local supermarket. As the story progresses, antagonists become more numerous in the form of other survivors, and what follows is a potent and nightmarish surmise into what religion and mob mentality could achieve in such a situation. The story is told through the eyes of David Drayton as he tries to protect his son Billy from the gospel-preaching insanity of Mrs Carmody, and poses a harrowing choice between a world of monsters and the company of his neighbors as they slowly become monsters themselves. 

One must not necessarily wait for the apocalypse to explore the volatile chaos of a group of isolated people. This idea provides the base concept for many horror films from the prolific Saw series to smaller flicks like Await Further Instructions (2018) and Would You Rather (2012) wherein a congregation are held by some sinister means and forced to endure some psychological or physical torture. These films are an excellent vehicle for exploring the psychology of different groups when faced with a life or death situation. While a common trope is to bring a group of (supposed) strangers together for some hellish game, Await Further Instructions pits a British family at Christmas against some unseen, unknown threat that has contained them within their house. It is a brilliantly executed exercise into paranoia, xenophobia and the true meaning of family values when said family is pushed to the brink by an otherworldly threat. 

Alien horror movie poster 1979 showing an alien egg in space

Things not-of-this-earth have been a source of terror for centuries. Being lost in wooded wilderness is one thing, however space is arguably the ultimate setting for claustrophobia and pure hopelessness. Alien (1979) teased us with the idea that an extraterrestrial threat could reach earth while gleefully exhibiting the effects of just one of these organisms on a spaceship’s crew. Where it thrives is within the tight, winding corridors and vents of The Nostromo, where the crew are mercilessly picked off by the ultimate killing machine. Coupled with this internal threat is the vastness of space only sheet-metal’s width away. When properly considered, the extinction of the human race wouldn’t be all that hard (look at how we handle a virus outbreak) and the horror writers and directors who know this will always hit harder at our baser survival instincts. Stay safe, and stay alive. 

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Featured Horror Books Women in Horror

Lois Duncan–Making Waves and Winning Awards

Lois Duncan
MAY 6 1981 Duncan, Lois (Author) – Ind. Credit: The Denver Post (Denver Post via Getty Images)

If you haven’t been following the Dead Author Dedication for the month of July, you might not be aware of Lois Duncan or what she contributed to the literary community. If that’s the case, then here’s the short of it: she was a warrior of literature who pioneered the Young Adult horror genre, something that has been continued on by well-known authors such as Neil Gaiman and Cassandra Clare.

Her life was no cakewalk though and despite her proclivity for writing horror fiction for young adults, that ended as abruptly as her life was changed when one of her daughters was murdered and her killer was never caught. If you’re interested in reading more about Lois Duncan and her hard-worked life, then take a look at our article where we discuss The Trials and Tribulations in the Life of Lois Duncan.

Duncan never stopped writing, even throughout her grief and suffering and she left behind a legacy in print, on film, and within the hearts and minds of the people who related to her body of work. This is discussed in greater detail in our article about The Legacy of Horror Writer, Lois Duncan–it’s worth a read, just like all of the books she contributed to Young Adult horror fiction.

Lois Duncan's Books
Lois Duncan’s Various Books

She Won Awards?

Considering the skill and history-making work Duncan contributed to the world of Young Adult fiction–especially in the genres of horror, thriller, and suspense–she was undoubtedly deserving of all (if not more) of the attention and acclaim that she received. We’ve compiled a list of the awards that Lois Duncan received during her lifetime, with the intention of promoting another amazing author.

The Randolph Caldecott Medal

In 1963, Duncan received the Randolph Caldecott Medal–an honor that is bestowed upon writers for the preceding year’s “most distinguished American picture book for children”. She received this award for best children’s book for her publication Silly Mother (1962)–a first edition of which is now worth nearly a thousand dollars!

The Edgar Allan Poe Award

In the spring of each year, the Mystery Writers of America (MWA) present the Edgar Allan Poe Awards (usually referred to as The Edgars)–the Edgars are considered to be the most prestigious awards that an author can receive in the genre. MWA is the premier organization for mystery and crime writers, professionals allied to the crime-writing field, aspiring crime writers, and people who simply love to read crime fiction. What is really spectacular about knowing how prestigious it is to win this award, is the fact that Lois Duncan has actually won six of them! As an author of Young Adult fiction, five of these awards were for the category of “Best Juvenile” fiction, for Ransom (1966), They Never Came Home (1969), The Third Eye (1984), Locked in Time (1985), and The Twisted Windows (1987). While it may seem strange that she didn’t receive any more after the eighties, it becomes less mysterious when her daughter’s murder is factored into it–Duncan no longer had a taste for writing fiction within the crime and horror genre after that.

Summer of Fear by Lois Duncan
Summer of Fear by Lois Duncan

Dorothy Canfield Fisher Award

The Dorothy Canfield Fisher Award is based out of Vermont, it’s an amazing accomplishment and an enormous honor within the world of Young Adult literature, simply due to the fact that the winner is voted for by students across the entire state. In the spring of each year, the eight-person committee for the award carefully selects and nominates thirty books for students to consider. Students are required to read at least five of the books from the list before they are able to vote for their favorite titles. The winner is then invited the following spring to speak with the students of Vermont about their experience as a writer and how they have contributed to the literary world. In the year of 1978, Lois Duncan happened to be nominated for the Dorothy Canfield Fisher Award for her book Summer of Fear (1976) subsequently received the award and was able to speak to the students of Vermont.

Margaret A. Edwards Award

Established in 1988, the Margaret A. Edwards Award honors an author in addition to a specific body of their work, for their significant and lasting contribution to young adult literature. A subdivision of the American Library Association (ALA), the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) annually awards the Edwards to recognize authors whose work addresses the issues that adolescents face as they become aware of themselves, as well as what their role and values within relationships, society, and the world. In 1992, Duncan received the Edwards Award from the ALA for her contribution to writing for teens and being able to relate to them through her literature. They include six of Duncan’s books, citing several of her novels and added, “whether accepting responsibility for the death of an English teacher or admitting to their responsibility for a hit and run accident, Duncan’s characters face a universal truth–you actions are important and you are responsible for them.”

The Edgar Allan Poe Grand Master Award

In 2015, a year before Duncan’s death, she did however receive what can be considered an achievement of a lifetime. The MWA awarded Lois Duncan the Edgar Allan Poe Grand Master Award, something that any author would consider themselves lucky to receive.