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Interview with Horror Author Marie Batiste

Tell me a bit about yourself and what got you into writing supernatural detective horror? 

Well, I have loved all things supernatural since I was in elementary school. I remember checking out R.L. Stine books from the library every week, first Goosebumps and then Fear Street.  Reading has always been an escape for me and the creepier the story the better.  This is why I write what I write. People say you write what you love to read. I love mysteries, I love the supernatural and I love horror. So naturally when I sit down to write that’s what my mind steers towards. 

You have detectives, undead, necromancer, spirits, and a living sculpture all tied together. What inspired that and did it take a lot of research to get all the pieces to come together? 

I would love to say that this was all planned from the beginning, but it wasn’t.  Honestly, I just added the things that I like, and what I thought would be cool and make sense. Introducing magic and the supernatural into the real world can be tricky.  I didn’t want it to be too cliché and I didn’t want it to be too out there.  I wanted the magical creatures to have a role in this world that fits their nature. Vampires need blood so them being a blood analyst in the Medical Examiner’s office makes sense. Necromancers deal with death magic so working in the Medical Examiner’s office makes sense. When possible, they resurrect victims so the detectives can interview them.  Using water dragons as ferries make sense.

What I had to research were serial killers and different types of magical and mythical creatures. While my serial killer has some magic, he doesn’t use it when he murders his victims. He does this by torturing them and then removing their eyes while they are still alive and then their organs. I researched different serial killers and tried to understand why they did what they did. Or what could make a person decide that the only true joy in life is killing people. I still don’t have any kind of understanding of what would make a person do it but this research did give me some insight into my character and his friends. I am not a budding serial killer, I just wanted to point that out. 

I also had to research poaching. I figured if some people find joy in poaching rhinos and elephants then those same people would probably find the same joy in poaching unicorns, firebirds, and other mythical creatures. I wanted to show that just because our world has magic now doesn’t mean that everything is magical.

Is the second book the finale or do we have more in store here?

The second book, which is much darker than the first, is not the end.  I have ideas for several more in the series and it is only going to get darker.

Last Thing You See Book Cover - Horror Author Marie Batiste

What has been the biggest challenge in writing this story?

I would say the biggest challenge was writing from the killer’s point of view. He also has serial killer friends.  Being in their heads was particularly draining but it was also a little fun. I don’t know what that says about me, but it was.  I think writing dark characters can be both challenging and interesting. Their attitudes towards what they do were by far the creepiest part of the book for me.

You’ve published a few books now, any advice for new horror writers? 

I have two different series. One (Rachel Dixon series) is new and the other (Moon Investigations) I am republishing.  I find it hard to advise anyone on `writing because writing is one of those things that changes with every book. Also, what works for one person may not work for another. My one piece of advice is to finish. Whatever you are writing finish it. It might be crap and if it is the first draft it will be crap, but you need to finish it. You can fix it when you’re done.  Also, if you want to write in the horror genre then you should read in that genre and not just the popular horror. Read popular horror, obscure horror, good horror, and bad.  If you don’t read in the genre you want to write, then you aren’t going to be very good at it and you probably won’t finish it. Also, don’t be so hard on yourself.

You must be a horror fan? What are some of your recommended readings and movies? 

In horror, there is something for everyone depending on what you like. If you like comedy, Ash vs The Evil Dead and Shaun of the Dead is something you’ll like. The Haunting of Hill House is amazing and the book by Shirley Jackson is something every horror writer should read.  I loved every movie based on the case files of the Warrens which include: Insidious, The Conjuring, and Annabelle. If you love zombies, iZombie is funny, and the zombies eat brains in interesting ways. Dawn of the Dead is a good one along with my favorite 28 Days Later.  American Horror Story, Supernatural, and Chilling Adventures of Sabrina have a really good story and character arcs that may inspire you to write something new.

-Where can we get the first book and where and when can we get this second in the series? 

The first book, The Last Thing You See is available on Amazon. It will be available on other platforms in July. The second book One by One is basically about a murder circus and a house infused with magic and blood lust. More of the serial killers are introduced and it is much darker than the first book. It will be available on October 30th, 2020.

Finally, where can we find and follow you? 

I can be found on Instagram @mariebatisteauthor or my website mariebatiste.com.

Thank you for doing this. I have gotten a few ideas from going through your site so thank you.

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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.

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Mary Shelley: How a Teenager Changed the Literary World

Growing Up in a Literary Household

Born in London, England on August 30, 1797, as Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin–Mary was the daughter of famed feminist Wollstonecraft as well as the philosopher and political writer William Godwin. Her mother Mary Wollstonecraft authored The Vindication of the Rights of Woman in 1792, but she died shortly after Shelley was born, and consequently, they were never able to develop a relationship.

There is some warrant for seeing Mary Shelley as a reflection of her parents, for both mother and father were extraordinary. Her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, published the classic manifesto of sexual equality, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792). Her father, William Godwin, established his preeminence in radical British political thought with his Enquiry Concerning Political Justice (1793) and won a permanent place in literary history with his novel Caleb Williams (1794), often considered the first English detective novel. The toast of radical social circles, the two were bound to meet. When they did, in the summer of 1796, an immediate mutual attraction began, and they were married on 29 March 1797. On 30 August of that year Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin was born. Complications from her birth resulted in her mother’s death 10 September.

Shelley and her older, half-sister Fanny Imlay (a child her mother had through an affair with a soldier), were raised by Shelley’s father William Godwin until he remarried in 1801. Shelley’s stepmother brought two of her own children into the marriage and she and Godwin would later have a son together. Although she provided Shelley with a mother figure, they were never exactly fond of each other–Mary Jane Clairmont would end up sending her own two daughters away to school, but decided that Shelley had no need of a formal education. Despite Mary Shelley’s lack of a true formal education, she educated herself through her father’s own extensive library and she could often be found reading by her mother’s grave.

As a child, I scribbled; and my favourite pastime, during the hours given me for recreation, was to ‘write stories’.

Mary Shelly in The Life and Letters of Mary Wollstonecraft

Her First Publication

The Godwin household was no stranger to many distinguished people of the time, their household visitors included Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsworth; it’s no surprise that Shelley found a creative outlet in writing, as her escape from her often overtly challenging life at home was being able to delve into her imagination through daydreaming. Her first publication was a poem called, Mounseer Nongtongpaw; or The Discoveries of John Bull in a Trip to Paris which was made official through her father’s publishing company in 1807–stunningly showing her prowess as a writer at the young age of ten.

Mounseer Nongtongpaw; or The Discoveries of John Bull in a Trip to Paris

Illustration for Shelley's Poem
Illustration for Shelley’s Poem

John Bull, from England’s happy Isle,
Too Bold to dread mischance,
Resolv’d to leave his friends awhile,
And take a peep at France.

He nothing knew of French indeed,
And deem’d it jabb’ring stuff,
For English he could write and read,
And thought it quite enough.

Shrewd John to see, and not to prate,
To foreign parts would roam,
That he their wonders might relate,
When snug again at home.

Arriv’d at Paris with his dog,
Which he for safety muzzled,
The French flock’d round him, all agog,
And much poor John was puzzled.

The rest of the poem can be found at wikisource.org, as it is a work within the public domain.
Mounseer Nongtongpaw; or, The Discoveries of John Bull in a Trip to Paris

How a Teenager Changed the Literary World

Just five years after she published her first poem, during the summer of 1812, Mary blossomed into a young woman–one who resembled her late mother far too much for her step-mother to bear. It was for this reason that Mary Jane Godwin, Shelley’s step-mother, forced her to travel to Scotland to stay with an acquaintance of her father–William Baxter and his family. It was during this stay with Baxter’s family, that she found a sort of serenity in the daily domestic lifestyle and she returned the following year to recapture the bliss she had captured the year before. The two years in Scotland may have nurtured Mary’s literary imagination, but it also further isolated her from her much-loved father.

They were my eyry of freedom, and the pleasant region where unheeded I could commune with the creatures of my fancy. I wrote then—but in a most common-place style. It was beneath the trees belonging to our house, or on the bleak sides of the woodless mountains near, that my true compositions, the airy flights of my imagination, were born and fostered.

Preface to the single-volume, Standard Novels edition of Frankenstein in 1831

A Scandalous Affair & the Birth of a Monster

In 1814, Percy Bysshe Shelley, a poet under the tutelage of Mary’s father, but soon focused his attentions solely on Mary. She soon began a relationship with the still-married Percy Shelley; when she was nearly seventeen years old, the two ran off to England together, along with Mary’s stepsister Jane. Despite the close relationship she had with her father, Mary’s actions alienated her from them, who would go a long time before speaking to her again. The couple traveled through Europe for quite a time, struggling financially and facing the loss of their first child–a baby girl, who lived only for a few days–in 1815.

The summer of 1816, Mary and Percy were in Switzerland with Jane Clairmont, Lord Byron, and John Polidori–the story goes that the group were entertaining themselves on a tumultuously rainy day by reading ghost stories. It was this day that Lord Byron suggested that they make a game out of each creating their own horror story and see who could come up with the best one. This is how Mary began her work on what would become her most renowned novel, Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus–so in many ways, when Mary began to write this infamous tale, she was showing off to what she considered her peers in the literary community.

Two Suicides & A Wedding

Late in 1816, Mary’s half-sister Fanny Imlay committed suicide and a short time later, Percy Shelley’s first wife also committed suicide by drowning herself. Instead of taking this time to mourn, Mary and Percy Shelley seized the opportunity to officially marry one another in December 1816. During their escapades in Europe, Mary Shelley published a travelogue entitled History of a Six Weeks’ Tour (1817), while continuing to work on the monster tale that she had begun in Switzerland.

When she finished her famous monster story, Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus, she did so anonymously in 1818. Since Percy Shelley wrote the introduction to the book, it was mistakenly believed that he was the author of the book, but as the novel continued to be a huge success, the Shelleys moved to Italy and Mary devoted herself heavily to her marriage which was rife with infidelity and heartache. Two more of the children that Mary birthed died and the only child they bore that survived to adulthood, Percy Florence Shelley, came about in 1819.

Later Years

The most devastating tragedy that affected Mary was when her husband drowned in a boating accident with a friend in the Gulf of Spezia, in 1822. She was made a widow at the young age of 24, but she continued to work diligently to support herself and her son. Despite having lived a full, scandalous and tragic life before she was even a quarter of a century old, Mary didn’t give up. After her husband died, she wrote several more novels, including Valperga (1823), as well as another science fiction tale The Last Man (1826). A devoted wife, even after her husband passed, she continued to promote his poetry to preserve his place in literary history, despite facing opposition from Percy’s father who had always disapproved of his son’s unorthodox lifestyle.

Death

Shelley continued to live until the age of 53–she passed away on February 1, 1851 from aggressive brain cancer and was buried at St. Peter’s Church in Bournemouth with the remains of her late husband’s cremated remains. Shortly after her death, her son Percy and daughter-in-law Jane had Shelley’s parents exhumed from St. Pancras Cemetery in London and had them place next to Mary Shelley within their family tomb.

Fact or Fiction?

Sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction, but considering the traditions we maintain to this day–keeping cremated remains in urns on our mantles, as one example–what we know about what Mary did is actually not all that strange! After Percy Shelley’s remains were recovered from his boating accident, his remains were cremated–oddly enough, his heart refused to burn and it is speculated that this was due to a disease which slowly calcified his heart. Instead of burying Percy’s heart along with the rest of his cremated remains, she kept it as a valuable possession in a silken shroud and carried it with her wherever she went. It wasn’t until a year after her death that Percy’s petrified heart was found wrapped in the pages of one of his last poems Adonais. It was eventually buried in the family vault with their son, Percy Florence Shelley when he died in 1889. It was wrapped in the pages of one of his last poems, Adonais. The heart was eventually buried in the family vault with their son, Percy Florence Shelley, when he died in 1889.

Mary Shelley (2017)

Mary Shelley (2017)
Mary Shelley (2017)

With the recent trend of classical authors having their tales told, it was about damn time that Shelley got the credit she deserved. Somehow it still took well over a century and a half for Shelley to be recognized on the big screen in a biographical sense, although the movie is rife with inconsistencies comparatively with how she has been historically represented. If taken at face value, however, it is an excellent movie–we highly recommend it if you’re a fan of Shelley at all–it is not at all within the genre of horror, despite her status as the famed mother of sci-fi horror fiction.

Index of Sources

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On the Verge: Folk Horror Authors – Part 2

The “On the Verge” series at Puzzle Box Horror is all about highlighting horror authors who are standouts in various genres. Some of these authors are bigger names in the industry, but many of them are indie writers who publish through small presses or self-publish. The point is to emphasize these fine folks and their contribution to a specific genre, enlightening the reader while also bringing attention to the authors and their work.

In our last post in the series we focused specifically on authors who write in the folk horror genre. Because the genre is such a favorite of ours, and because there are just so many great stories in this category, we decided to put together a second article featuring additional authors. So prepare to dive back into the realm of isolation, folklore, and supernatural mystery as we present six authors of folk horror you need to be reading!

Adam Nevill

Adam Nevill folk horror author photo

Adam L.G. Nevill was born in Birmingham, England, in 1969 and grew up in England and New Zealand. He is an author of horror fiction. Of his novels, The Ritual, Last Days, No One Gets Out Alive and The Reddening were all winners of The August Derleth Award for Best Horror Novel. He has also published three collections of short stories, with Some Will Not Sleep winning the British Fantasy Award for Best Collection, 2017. Imaginarium adapted The Ritual and No One Gets Out Alive into feature films and more of his work is currently in development for the screen. The author lives in Devon, England. 

1. Tell us a bit about yourself and what got you started in horror writing?

I’m a British writer of horror. This year’s novel, Cunning Folk, will be my tenth novel published and I have three short story collections available too. Since my Dad read me the ghost stories of M. R. James when I was a child, horror has always been the fiction I’ve wanted to write and the field that I’ve wanted to contribute to. I’ve been writing horror since 1995 and my short fiction was first published in 2003, my first novel, Banquet for the Damned, in 2004. I’m a horror lifer and an enthusiast for horror in fiction, film and comics. I pretty much set my goal on becoming a horror writer in my mid-teens, way back in the 1980s.

My break to the next level from the underground of small presses and series fiction to the international publishers happened in 2009, when my second and third novels were taken on by Pan MacMillan in the UK. They were Apartment 16 and The Ritual. Horror had been out of vogue for a long time in publishing, but when it returned to favour, a door opened.

I am now in my third decade as a writer of horror. It took me ten years to complete the first three novels so it’s been a slow, steady evolution for my career. I now have my own imprint for some of my titles, Ritual Limited, and two of my novels have been adapted into films. No One Gets Out Alive will be out this year on Netflix. The Ritual was the first film adapted from my novel of the same name.

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No One Gets Out Alive book cover with dark house

2. We talk to a fair amount of new writers. What tips would you give yourself if you could go back to when you started based on what you know now?

I developed as a writer within the old, traditional route: you had to get an agent to even get a publisher to read a line of your work. It took me 11 years to find an agent. There was no indie publishing as we know it today, or Amazon KDP, hardly any small presses, the internet was small or non-existent etc. But I guess, I’d tell my younger self not to despair so much during the first 15 years, nor to be so extreme about my mission. My endeavours seemed futile for a long time and yet I remained driven – the way of angst. Flipside, I never gave up and focused on what was important – reading, studying writing and, of course, writing more.

I’d mainly insist that my younger self be better informed about publishing and the book trade and how the business works. I didn’t really start figuring that out until 2005, when I became a fiction editor. But the basics of becoming a writer I’d mercifully grasped in adolescence: to read the best writers in the field and to read widely beyond horror. Learning to rewrite early on was transforming for my work too.

3. What are some of your favorite aspects of the folk horror genre?

I’ve always found elements of folk stories, folk culture and pagan mythology equally enthralling and grotesque – it’s that combination of mystery and the ghastly that drew me in imaginatively. Particularly certain details that seem almost credible, as if folklore has a basis in something intangible but genuinely supernormal.

In Great Britain we’ve no end of ghost stories and a long tradition of believing in witchcraft, hauntings and curses. I’m surrounded by inspiration; a sense of ancient presences, pagan deities, charmed locales that can influence the human mind and even whole communities. So much of a strange and unknowable past is buried in this island. Much of it no one understands so it’s enigma is appealing; so the idea of the present being affected by what is hidden or misunderstood or obscured by time appeals to me.

I live by two cave systems that contained treasure troves of prehistoric artefacts; I can see the scars of the last ice ages on the landscape around my home; and almost anywhere you go in Britain, you will see vestiges and relics of a darker and more superstitious time. This really distilled in my novel, The Reddening.

So, I guess my favourite aspect of folk horror would be its aesthetic, be it ancient or modern.

The Wicker Man movie poster
Midsommar movie poster
Blair Witch movie poster

4. What are your top three favorite folk horror books (and/or films)?

I’ll go with film: The Wicker Man, Midsommar & The Blair Witch Project.

If you’re interested in learning more about Adam Nevill, check out his website at www.adamlgnevill.com. You can also follow the author on Twitter (@AdamLGNevill), Instagram (@adamlgnevill), and Goodreads (@Adam_Nevill). Finally, to purchase books check out the author on Amazon.

William Meikle

William Meikle folk horror author photo

William Meikle is a Scottish writer, now living in Canada, with more than thirty novels published in the genre press and over 300 short story credits in thirteen countries. He has books available from a variety of publishers including Dark Regions Press, Crossroad Press and Severed Press, and his work has appeared in a number of professional anthologies and magazines. He lives in Newfoundland with whales, bald eagles and icebergs for company. When he’s not writing he drinks beer, plays guitar, and dreams of fortune and glory.

1. Tell us a bit about yourself and what got you started in horror writing?

I write to escape.

I grew up in the sixties and seventies on a West of Scotland council estate in a town where you were either unemployed or working in the steelworks, and sometimes both. Many of the townspeople led hard, miserable lives of quiet, and sometimes not so quiet, desperation. I was relatively lucky in that both my parents worked, but I spent a lot of time alone or at my grandparent’s house.

My Granddad was housebound, and a voracious reader. I got the habit from him, and through him I discovered the Pan Books of Horror and Lovecraft, but I also discovered westerns, science fiction, war novels and the likes of Mickey Spillane, Ed McBain, Alistair MacLean, Dennis Wheatley, Nigel Tranter, Arthur C Clarke and Isaac Asimov. When you mix all that together with DC Comics, Tarzan, Gerry Anderson and Dr Who then, later on, Hammer and Universal movies on the BBC, you can see how the pulp became embedded in my psyche.

When I was at school these books and my guitar were all that kept me sane in a town that was going downhill fast. The steelworks shut and employment got worse. I -could- have started writing about that, but why bother? All I had to do was walk outside and I’d get it slapped in my face. That horror was all too real.

So I took up my pen and wrote. At first it was song lyrics, designed (mostly unsuccessfully) to get me closer to girls.

I tried my hand at a few short stories but had no confidence in them and hid them away. And that was that for many years.

I didn’t get the urge again until I was past thirty and trapped in a very boring job. My home town had continued to stagnate and, unless I wanted to spend my whole life drinking (something I was actively considering at the time), returning there wasn’t an option.

Operation Congo book cover
Operation Syria book cover
Operation North Sea book cover

My brain needed something, and writing gave it what was required. That point, back thirty years ago, was like switching on an engine, one that has been running steadily ever since.

It’s been a slow and steady progression, from UK small press pay in copies markets for much of the nineties, to getting a novel published in the USA in 2001, then starting to hit the pro short story market, and finding a home for novels with the higher end small presses. I went full time in 2007 and I’ve now got over 30 novels, a whole load of novellas and over 300 short stories in print, including a success story in my current S-Squad series where a bunch of sweary Scottish squaddies fight a ‘monster of the week’ in each book. (I’ve managed to shoehorn in some folklore, Scottish stuff in particular)

2. We talk to a fair amount of new writers. What tips would you give yourself if you could go back to when you started based on what you know now?

Two things:

I’d have started earlier. I didn’t get going until i was 34ish, and now regret leaving it so late. If you want to be a writer, you have to write. That’s the simplest yet best advice you’ll get.

The other thing is to develop a thick skin. Rejection doesn’t mean you’re crap, just that you sent the wrong thing to the wrong editor at the wrong time. Keeping your bum in your chair and keeping going is the best way to cope with it.

3. What are some of your favorite aspects of the folk horror genre?

I love the sense of deep time. It’s something I miss since leaving Scotland. I have a deep love of old places, in particular menhirs and stone circles, and in the past I’ve spent quite a lot of time travelling the UK and Europe just to visit archaeological remains in places like Orkney, Salisbury Plain, Carnac, Malta and Crete.

I also love what is widely known as “weird shit”. I’ve spent far too much time surfing and reading Fortean, paranormal and cryptozoological websites. The cryptozoological stuff that’s embedded, particularly in Celtic folklore with its tales of kelpies, selkies, black dogs and lake monsters especially fascinates me, and provides a direct stimulus for a lot of my fiction.

The Ceremonies book cover
The Owl Service book cover
Night of the Demon movie poster

4. What are your top three favorite folk horror books (and/or films)?

Books:

  • The Ceremonies by T.E.D Klein – the masterpiece of the genre. I learn something new from it with each reading
  • The Owl Service by Alan Garner – fifty years plus on from my first reading and it’s still as tight and unsettling as ever
  • “Sticks” by Karl Edward Wagner – OK, it’s a short story, but its just about the best folklore related fiction there is

Films:

  • The Wicker Man – oft imitated, never bettered
  • The Witch – my favorite of the recent bunch purely for the consistency of vision. A remarkable work.
  • Night of the Demon – my all time favorite, and the thing that hooked me on the genre all those years ago.

If you’re interested in learning more about William Meikle, check out his website at www.williammeikle.com. You can also follow the author on Twitter (@williemeikle), Instagram (@williammeikle4595), and Goodreads (@William_Meikle). Finally, to purchase books check out the author on Amazon.

Tracy Fahey

Tracy Fahey folk horror author picture

Tracy Fahey is an Irish fiction writer. In 2017, her debut collection The Unheimlich Manoeuvre was shortlisted for a British Fantasy Award for Best Collection. She has published two further collections; New Music For Old Rituals (2018, Black Shuck Books) and I Spit Myself Out (2021, Sinister Horror Company) and one novel, The Girl in the Fort (2017, Fox Spirit Books).

Fahey’s short fiction is published in over thirty American, British, Australian and Irish anthologies including Stephen Jones’ Best New Horror, Nightscript V, and Uncertainties III, and her work has been reviewed in the TLS and Black Static. In 2019, her short story “That Thing I Did” received an Honourable Mention from Ellen Datlow in The Best Horror of the Year Volume Eleven.

Fahey holds a PhD on the Gothic in visual arts, and her non-fiction writing on the Gothic and folklore has appeared in Irish, English, Italian, Dutch and Australian edited collections. Her writing has been commissioned by visual artist Marie Brett and the Crawford College of Art. She has been awarded residencies in Ireland and Greece.

1. Tell us a bit about yourself and what got you started in horror writing?

Horror has always fascinated me; even as a child I was enthralled by stories my grandmother told me about local dark folklore—tales of the banshee, ghosts and other supernatural occurrences. My very first job (when in school) was writing and doing readings of my own short stories on a local radio station. Those stories borrowed heavily (and unapologetically) from authors who intrigued me, Edgar Allan Poe, Guy de Maupassant, Ray Bradbury…and the writers of Misty, the British paranormal comic for girls. So my roots in horror came from folklore, storytelling, reading and writing.

However, life intervened, and for a few decades I focused on work, teaching and writing on visual arts and design. But my allegiance to horror deepened, and after a severe illness which left me in recovery mode for about a year, I started to tentatively write. I was drawn towards one of my obsessions, the idea of the dark home and its roots in Irish culture. And from this source I began to write short stories which found homes in several anthologies by Fox Spirit Press, Hic Dragones, Dark Minds Press and other small presses. Three years later, I had finished my PhD (on the Gothic home in Irish visual art) and my first collection, The Unheimlich Manoeuvre, which was published in 2016 by Boo Books, and has been reprinted twice by the Sinister Horror Company; in 2018 and again, in a deluxe edition, in 2020.

Five years later, I’ve written several more books, two of them explicitly exploring folk horror – my YA novel The Girl In The Fort (2017, Fox Spirit Press) and my second collection, New Music For Old Rituals (2018, Black Shuck Books) – and a third collection on female body horror, I Spit Myself Out (2021, Sinister Horror Company).

The Unheimlich Manoeuvre book cover with house
New Music for Old Rituals book cover
I Spit Myself Out book cover

2. We talk to a fair amount of new writers. What tips would you give yourself if you could go back to when you started based on what you know now?

Read everything. Although the primary genres I write in are the Gothic and folk horror, I have very catholic tastes. I read omnivorously, and always have. It’s through reading you find what you admire, that you find new ways to write. And because I read across genres, it gives me a bigger lens through which to analyse the writing of others—seeing what works and what doesn’t.

Write without fear, and write what you love. Tap in to what obsesses you. For me it this continues to be ideas of liminality, the uncanny, the body, and dark folklore. Explore it. Write authentically. Write what you’d like to read. Find your comfort medium; poetry, short stories, novellas, novels. And when you find your narrative, your medium and your voice, just experiment with writing out these passions and finding different ways to do it.

Submit. I can’t emphasise this one strongly enough. Although you start writing for an audience of one—yourself—it’s so wonderful to have your writing read by others. You learn so much from editors, from reviewers. Sure, it takes courage to send work out (and stamina to deal with rejection) but the simple joy of being published and having your work in the public eye is magical. And when you submit, always be mindful of what editors want, how they want it formatted, and be polite and gracious whether work is accepted or not. There are some excellent websites out there such as Submissions Grinder and The Horror Tree which advertise upcoming submission genre opportunities.

Go to conventions. Another game-changer for me was discovering the British genre scene through conventions. It’s where I met my tribe, people I have subsequently worked with, edited with, written with, and, most importantly, become friends with. It’s not only where you network but where you genuinely connect with others who are on a similar mission.

3. What are some of your favorite aspects of the folk horror genre?

That’s a difficult question, as this is one of the genres I’m most drawn to and researched most fully. In 2020 I taught a seminar programme on the Folk Horror Revival in Limerick School of Art and Design. This winter I’m delivering a workshop on Crafting Contemporary Folk Horror at the forthcoming UK Ghost Story Festival which will run in Derby this November 26 th -28 th (for more information on this follow @UKGSFestival on Twitter).

But as a writer, and as an Irish writer, my favourite aspect of folk horror is the idea of reinventing and reinterpreting the folklore of my home country. I have a huge interest in my native Irish folklore since I was a child, and through my academic research I’ve spent a lot of time researching legends, customs and superstitions to do with the home. In my own work I borrow from folklore as inspiration, but the twist I take on it is contemporary. I believe that folklore teaches us a lot about values and community, and I welcome the current folk horror revival which brings a renewed focus to the idea that stories have value, that stories can act as warnings, cautionary tales.

I’m interested primarily in my own cultural history and the idea of connecting to my heritage through folk horror. Although the legends and stories of other cultures fascinate me, I’m aware that I don’t want to appropriate or misuse tropes from other histories. But within my own culture I’m continually learning more about the way folklore changes and reinvents itself. And because Irish folklore is one of the richest in the world due to its flourishing under colonial rule, it’s a never-ending source of inspiration.

I’m also fascinated by ideas of transmission and legacy through storytelling. I’m living proof of how folklore operates in that regard; many of my seminal influences date back to a childhood spent listening to stories. As I don’t have children, writing my interpretation of folklore is one of the ways in which I feel I can actively contribute to the continued growth and diversity of the Irish contemporary folk tradition.

The Hole in the Ground movie cover
To Drown in Dark Water book cover
The Fiend in the Furrows book cover

4. What are your top three favorite folk horror books (and/or films)?

One of my favourite folk horror movies is Ari Aster’s 2019 Midsommar. I’m very interested in contemporary takes on folk horror, and I found this movie intensely satisfying. It keeps true to the tropes of folk horror – outsiders come to a remote community that operates under its own moral imperatives, the importance of tradition, and the necessity of sacrifice for the greater good – but this movie is also outstanding in the way that it becomes an avenue to explore themes like loss and the importance of community. Unlike many horror movies it doesn’t rely on the helpful adjuncts of darkness or jump-scares, instead utilising precepts of the uncanny to create an evocative and intense viewing experience. Furthermore (and without spoiling the movie) it also speaks to ideas of redemption and reconnection. And every time I watch it, I find a different layer, deeper resonances. In terms of folk horror film, also I love Robin Hardy’s 1973 The Wicker Man, and the work of Ben Wheatley – especially Kill List (2011). Special mention also for the 2019 low-key Irish folk horror movie, directed by Lee Cronin, The Hole In The Ground.

Next up on my list is a 2017 non-fiction book by Adam Scovell, Folk Horror: Hours Dreadful and Things Strange, which looks at the roots of folk horror and explores ways in which folk horror has expressed and continues to express itself in different media. It’s a fascinating primer on what the genre is and how it has been explored by various creative practitioners. In terms of non-fiction collections of Irish dark folklore, I’d strongly recommend Meeting The Other Crowd by Carolyn Eve Green and Irish storyteller Eddie Lenihan.

In terms of fiction, we’re spoiled for choice, but I’m going to single out Eden Royce’s 2015 Spook Lights: Southern Gothic Horror. Eden draws upon her rich Gullah/Geechee heritage to craft visceral horror stories through her lyrical writing and use of sensual language. I’m very much looking forward to reading her 2021 Root Magic, which takes the same source but focuses on ideas of childhood, tradition and, of course, root magic. I also love Steve Toase’s excellent 2021 folk horror collection, To Drown In Dark Water, which showcases his own background and interest in archaeology and folklore, and Priya Sharma’s beautiful collection, All The Fabulous Beasts, which deftly plays with international folk motifs and archetypes using her trademark evocative prose. Special praise also for Nosetouch Press and their folk horror anthologies, The Fiends in the Furrows (2018) and The Fiends in the Furrows II (2020).

If you’re interested in learning more about Tracy Fahey, check out her website at www.tracyfahey.com. You can also follow the author on Twitter (@TracyFahey) and Goodreads (@Tracy_Fahey). Finally, to purchase her books check out the author on Amazon.

Catherine Cavendish

Catherine Cavendish folk horror author picture

Catherine Cavendish is a writer of horror fiction – frequently with ghostly, supernatural, Gothic and haunted house themes. Her latest novel – In Darkness, Shadows Breathe – is published by Flame Tree Press, as well as the two previous novels The Garden of Bewitchment and The Haunting of Henderson Close. Her latest novella – The Malan Witch – is now out from Silver Shamrock Publishing. Catherine’s Nemsis of the Gods trilogy is out now from Kensington-Lyrical, and she’s had numerous novellas and novels published by Crossroad Press. She lives with a long-suffering husband and a delightful black cat who has never forgotten that her species used to be worshipped in ancient Egypt. When not slaving over a hot computer, she enjoys wandering around Neolithic stone circles and visiting old haunted houses.

1. Tell us a bit about yourself and what got you started in horror writing?

I have been writing since I could hold a pencil in my chubby toddler paw. Then it was mostly utter rubbish and balderdash – well, if I’m entirely honest, mainly squiggles. Then I learned how to read and write properly and we had these English lessons at school where we were required to write essays. Now, the other kids used to groan when faced with an essay to compose. Me? I would have shouted “Bring it on” if people did indeed shout that at the time. I settled for the more commonly used “Groovy” instead. (Yes, I am THAT old).

The years passed, I left school, went to work, read loads. Found my favourite fiction genres were Historical, Crime and… you guessed it…Horror. I continued to write, but essays had long given way to short stories and novels. I went through the gamut of romance, children’s, historical, and crime but found increasingly that everything I wrote tended toward the ghostly, supernatural and horror. From there it was a short step into writing my first horror novel. Ironically it could be described as folk horror as it centred on the ancient stone circles at Avebury in Wiltshire. This story was never published and has been lost along the way, but I learned a lot from writing it – significantly that of all the genres I had attempted, horror was my far and away favourite.

Some years later, an editor agreed with me, and I signed my first publishing contract.

The Garden of Bewitchment book cover
The Malan Witch book cover

2. We talk to a fair amount of new writers. What tips would you give yourself if you could go back to when you started based on what you know now?

Read. Read, Read. Now this is a lesson I learned very early on. If you want to write in a particular genre, make sure you’ve read extensively in it. Make sure you know what works and what doesn’t. Focus on authors who you admire and read their work critically. What is it that hooks you in? What keeps you reading? How can you make your dialogue sound realistic (quick tip – read it out loud as if you are rehearsing a play). Look at how they manipulate the rules of language to improve the story, quicken or slow down the pace. Also read other genres. In other words, learn your craft.

Remember a first draft is merely that. The first draft. Once it’s down on paper, that’s when the real writing begins. Whoever said “novels aren’t written, they’re rewritten” knew their stuff.

Get a first-class beta reader (or more if you prefer). This should be someone who is literate, knows how to craft a good story and is a reader in your genre – in other words, your target market. When they offer constructive criticism, take it on the chin. You’re going to need the hide of a rhino so might as well start now.

And of course, be tenacious. If you are writing what you love and loving what you write, as well as continuing to grow as a writer, chances are that one day someone is going to like what you do enough to take a chance on you.

3. What are some of your favorite aspects of the folk horror genre?

The sheer breadth, scope and variety out there. So many wonderfully different stories have been woven around the folklore myths and legends surrounding Mothman, Big Foot , the Green Man, Salem, Pendle and much, much more. I particularly find myself drawn to Asian tales handed down through generations and involving some pretty gruesome creatures and ghosts. Myths and folklore from around the world have provided the inspiration for a host of films such as The Curse of La Llorona, The Ring, The Wicker Man and a host of others.

I also love the way that, with such a wealth of extraordinary material existing out there, it is still possible to successfully create your own folk horror myth. The Babadook is but one example of this and Adam Nevill’s The Ritual and The Reddening are others. As a folk horror writer, you are never short of ideas once you tap into folklore and let your imagination do the rest.

The Hungry Moon book cover
Those Who Came Before book cover
The Ritual book cover

4. What are your top three favorite folk horror books (and/or films)?

This is a tough one because there are so many. I’ll stick with books because the minute I add films into the equation, my head explodes.

One of my favourite horror authors is the great Ramsey Campbell who has the ability to craft superb folk horror tales of which there are many examples throughout his long career to date. It’s tough to choose just one but I’ll settle on The Hungry Moon.

J.H. Moncrieff is a Canadian writer who has been emerging as a real talent, taking a creepy folklore tradition and turning it into a scary, twisted folk horror tale. One outstanding example I have loved recently is Those Who Came Before.

I couldn’t leave Adam Nevill out. His writing and ability to weave a twisted, frightening tale keep me awake at night. As with the other two, he has a number of examples of great stories within the folk horror tradition. I know I’ve mentioned it before but I’ll pick The Ritual which, if I were also to include folk horror films, would almost certainly make the cut. Read the book first though!

If you’re interested in learning more about Catherine Cavendish, check out her website at www.catherinecavendish.com. You can also follow the author on Twitter (@Cat_Cavendish), Instagram (@catcavendish), and Goodreads (@Catherine_Cavendish). Finally, to purchase her books check out the author on Amazon.

Tony Evans

Tony Evans folk horror author photo

Tony Evans is a crafter of horror and dark fiction, father, wildlife biologist, and member of the Horror Writers Association. Originally from the Appalachian foothills of eastern Kentucky, Tony grew up listening to stories about mountain monsters and holler witches, and his love for these folktales shows in his writing. While he enjoys all types of horror, he definitely has a hard preference for stories about dark entities, demons, witches, and boogeymen. Tony has published over twenty short horror stories in various online and print anthologies and magazines to date. His debut short story collection – Better You Believe – was released in February of 2019, and his debut novel – Sour – was released in October of 2019. He currently lives in New Albany, Indiana where he spends his time coming up with bad story ideas and trying to entertain his wife and two young daughters – his favorite little monsters.

1. Tell us a bit about yourself and what got you started in horror writing?

Well, my name is Tony Evans (not the preacher…haha) and I was born and raised in Eastern Kentucky in the foothills of the Appalachian mountains. When I was about four years old, my dad started telling me stories about “holler witches”, Bloody Bones, and mountain monsters and I guess those stories just kinda stuck.

As I grew older and started traveling outside of the area, I found that people not familiar with the region really seemed to enjoy when I would retell all of those old tales from the mountains, and so I decided to start writing them down. I guess I just wanted to tell the stories that my dad told to me as a child in the hopes that someone else found them just as fun and fascinating as I did and still do.  

2. We talk to a fair amount of new writers. What tips would you give yourself if you could go back to when you started based on what you know now?

If I could go back in time, I think I would give myself two pieces of advice regarding writing.

First, I would tell myself that rejection is not a bad thing. It happens to EVERYONE who writes. No matter how good you think that story you’re writing is, and no matter how much you work on it and do everything you can to get it in the best possible shape it can be in before you submit it…chances are that it, or another one you send, will get rejected. It’s just a part of the game. I’ll never forget the first short story I ever did. I was absolutely sure it would be a huge hit. I’d send it in (to a very well known small press, actually), the editor would fall all over themselves trying to buy it from me, and I’d get rich! Boy, was I wrong! However, the editor was kind enough to give me some pointers on my mistakes, and there were many,  free to sort of help me along. Since then he and I have become pretty good friends. I’ve still not sold that story, come to think of it…but it’s going in a collection I’m putting out in a month or so. Point is, rejection happens to everyone, and it helps you grow as a writer.

Better You Believe by Tony Evans cover
Sour by Tony Evans cover

The second piece of advice, and this one I’ve found to be very important, I got from a talk given by one of the masters of short fiction, Ray Bradbury. During his keynote address of the Sixth Annual Writer’s Symposium by the Sea, Bradbury said, and I quote, “Get rid of those friends of yours who make fun of you and don’t believe in you. When you leave here tonight, go home, make a phone call, and fire them. Anyone who doesn’t believe in you and your future, to hell with them.”. To this day, this quote makes me cry. It’s so important to surround yourself with people who believe in you and want you to succeed. I think a lot of writers are pushed away from what they love because someone in their family or some of their so called friends say things like, “that’s a fun little hobby, but…”, or “well, that sounds cute, but what do you do for a real job?”. So, as Ray Bradbury said, I’d tell my younger self to hell with them!

3. What are some of your favorite aspects of the folk horror genre?

I typically look at folk horror as something rooted in folklore/local urban legends and/or something that’s sort of derived from traditional religious backgrounds, magic, or witchcraft in general. The way that folklore, even in today’s modern age, persists in spite of all the technological and scientific advances is just amazing in my opinion. I always tell people that I don’t believe in any of that stuff, and I consider myself agnostic…but I can remember that even as a child I was scared to death that I’d walk through my house and see Jesus standing there. Very irrational, I know, as Jesus is supposed to be a symbol of good. It’s the thought of seeing something I can’t explain that scared me, and still kinda does. I guess that means that I have to believe in something, deep down, perhaps.

So my favorite aspect of folk horror is how the stories linger, the way they persist throughout the years no matter what, and the fact that the whole genera sort of falls in a realm where science can’t prove or disprove the content’s existence…kinda like the twilight zone. That has always fascinated me.

The Witch movie poster with raven
Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt cover

4. What are your top three favorite folk horror books (and/or films)?

  • The VVitch – hands down one of my favorite movies of the last 50 years.
  • The Ritual by Adam Nevill, both the book and the movie – a fantastic modern-day folk horror story.
  • HEX by Thomas Olde Heuvelt – one of the best witch books written. This novel is a fantastic blend of aged traditions and modern-day society.

If you’re interested in learning more about Tony Evans, check out his website at www.tonyevanshorror.com. You can also follow the author on Twitter (@TonyEvansHorror), Instagram (@tonyevanshorror), and Goodreads (@Tony_Evans). Finally, to purchase books check out the author on Amazon.

Mary Rajotte

Mary Rajotte folk horror author pic

Canadian author Mary Rajotte has a penchant for penning nightmarish tales of folk horror and paranormal suspense. Her work has been published in a number of anthologies and she is currently querying her first novel. Sometimes camera-elusive but always coffee-fueled, you can find Mary at her website http://www.maryrajotte.com or support her Patreon for exclusive fiction at patreon.com/maryrajotte.

1. Tell us a bit about yourself and what got you started in horror writing?

As one of the resident Goths at my high school, it’s no surprise that my first dark writing was poetry. In my last year, I took a Writer’s Craft class where I wrote a vampire story inspired by Anne Rice and that’s when I realized I wanted to write for a living. My paternal grandmother was a writer. Her stories were more literary tales about her life growing up, but I’ve always been inspired by her and her drive to continue writing, even after her health declined. 

Thicker Than Water book cover with house
Women of the Woods book cover with bird

2. We talk to a fair amount of new writers. What tips would you give yourself if you could go back to when you started based on what you know now?

Don’t be afraid to experiment and let go of the reins a bit. I still have trouble with that myself. I’m a plotter by nature but I sometimes feel I can be a little too rigid so I’m trying to follow my writerly instincts more and allow myself to have more fun. I also encourage new writers to continue honing their craft by trying new things and embracing their interests. Now that I have fully embraced my own love for folklore, superstitions and darker themes, I feel I have found my voice. 

3. What are some of your favorite aspects of the folk horror genre?

I love superstition and folklore not just for the stories but the reasoning behind them. I’ve come across some of the strangest tales that make me wonder why people believed them. And there’s pretty much a superstition for everything! Like, who ever came up with the idea that taking a tooth from a dead man’s skull and wearing it on your person would prevent toothaches? Or burying the hair cut from the head of an ill person in the ground would cause their sickness to molder away in the earth and they would be cured? These little seeds are just the thing to inspire the types of strange tales I love to tell. 

The Witch movie poster
Gwen movie poster
Pyewacket movie poster

4. What are your top three favorite folk horror books (and/or films)?

One of my favorite modern anthologies is The Fiends in the Furrows from Nosetouch Press. It had all the classic folk horror elements – isolation, strange arcane rituals and paranoia, all with a modern twist.

For movies, I loved The Witch, Gwen and Pyewacket. They all have a similar tone, that sense of dread that lurks over the characters, and misfortune that they can’t seem to escape. The cool thing is that even though the first two are similar, Pyewacket is a great example that folklore and the occult can take place in a modern setting and still be unsettling.

If you’re interested in learning more about Mary Rajotte, check out her website at www.maryrajotte.com/blog. You can also follow the author on Twitter (@MaryRajotte), Instagram (@maryrajotte), and Goodreads (@Mary_Rajotte). Finally, to purchase her books check out the author on Amazon.

Categories
Featured Reviews Scary Movies and Series Women in Horror

Rosemary’s Baby Review: Terror in Plain Sight

Rosemary's Baby (1968) movie poster
Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

Roman Polanski’s 1968 disturbing film, Rosemary’s Baby can technically be counted within the supernatural horror sub-genre. In truth, the horrific nature of this film lays within the details. The deeply disturbing psychological trauma, sexual assault, and domestic imprisonment that our pitiably petite Rosemary endures is what is horrifying. After all, what is psychological horror if not a gut-wrenchingly elongated and personally traumatizing?

We summarized Rosemary’s Baby last January when it was featured on Netflix, but we never explored this psychological horror show. There are many different topics to focus on as they exist within the walls of Rosemary’s bourgeois prison. Women face danger as the direct result of the history of inequities between men and women. Therefore, I decided to analyze the grotesque nature of these inequities as they existed as little as sixty years ago.

As a woman who has experienced domestic violence, I feel uniquely qualified to dissect this movie; one in three women will experience domestic violence at one point or another in their lifetime. The horrors that Rosemary faces in her own domestic prison hit so close to home for women everywhere. My own experience with an abusive husband taught me the code of red flags. When it comes to identifying them as they present themselves, I could spot them at sea with a spyglass. Rosemary has one up on me; I’ve never given birth to the antichrist and I only joke with my daughter that she’s demon spawn.

The Psychological Horror Show and the Slow Burn

From the offset, we see what is effectively being masked as a happy and healthy marriage. The relationship between meek and dreamy Rosemary and her D-List actor husband is pruned for the public. She nearly swoons every time someone asks what he does for a living; recalling every role he’s played as if to impress upon others how successful he is. I recognize this as a coping mechanism they use to convince themselves that, “he’s actually a great guy!” Guy, Rosemary’s husband, is definitely charming when there is company around—abusers usually are. Domestic strain isn’t visible from the outside looking in, instead we see it in the details—after all, that’s where the devil usually lies.

Rosemary's Baby (1968)
Mia Farrow as Rosemary in Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

Satanic Cults and the Antichrist

We’ve talked about Satanism and the religions that are associated with the image of Lucifer and Baphomet; we’ve discovered how they aren’t actually evil, or dark as might be suggested by modern media or popular culture. You can find more about them in our article here.

I decided to start the discussion here because it’s arguably the least horrifying thing that Rosemary actually experiences. In fact, this movie is about as supernatural as a park bench; any supernatural elements that are present within the movie are seemingly confined to drug-induced dream states—until the end…

Rosemary: Mother of the Antichrist

Early on in the film, Rosemary befriends a woman around her age by the name of Terry. They two share an innocent interaction where Terry, still under the spell of the Castevet’s elderly charm, sings their praise. Before they are able to speak again, Terry’s skull is cracked open on the sidewalk; in a disturbing mystery of how she fell from the apartment she shared with the elderly couple. It’s never fully explained in the movie and I haven’t read Ira Levin’s novel; so, I’m unsure of the reason behind her death according to canon. There are, however, several different theories to go along with her death. All of which are quickly swept under the rug as characters continue on, relatively unmoved after Terry’s apparent suicide.

Paranoia, Superstition, and the Unlikely truths

Whether Terry killed herself instead of submitting herself to the Devil for the benefit of the cult, or she was killed because of her unwillingness to comply, it’s clear that she was previously designated to be the host for Satan’s child. The Castavets had kept their distance from Rosemary and Guy prior to Terry’s death, having only made an appearance through their voices carrying through the shared walls. Luckily for the Castavets, they have a new host who consistently puts the interests of others before her own, Rosemary made the perfect candidate for their cult to impregnate.

Domestic Abuse and Rape Culture Explored

There is the age-old argument that marriage makes any intimacy automatically consensual—this certainly would have been the attitude of the time in which this film was created—or the years directly preceding its creation, since the time it was based in was the mid-1960s, versus the late 1960s. Fortunately for women, this attitude has changed dramatically and consent is what establishes whether or not rape has been committed.

There is an incredibly disturbing moment within the film, however, where anyone who has been taken advantage of sexually might feel their skin crawl. It’s the morning after Guy and Rosemary have a romantic dinner at home, complete with desert courtesy of their neighbor Minnie Castevet. This is not discounting of course the scenes that stretch the span between the desert and the next morning—where Rosemary notices that her chocolate treat “has a chalky undertaste,” and Guy coerces her into eating it by guilting her into believing she’s an awful person if she doesn’t. He leaves the room long enough for Rosemary to dump most of her cup into her cloth napkin, which she later dumps into the trash, and then she pretends she’s eaten the rest by the time he comes back into the room.

Drugging Rosemary for the Purpose of Rape

As Rosemary is getting rid of the evidence in her napkin, she nearly falls over—she’s clearly drugged—and Guy comes to her rescue. What a gentleman. When she finally collapses as he’s helping her down the hall, he scoops her up and hurries to the bedroom with her. What follows is, the half-drugged waking dream sequence where Rosemary has lost all control of the situation—a horror for any woman—and she as well as the audience is unsure of whether or not what she’s seeing is real. It is and it isn’t—at this point we’re not sure, but one thing we are certain of is that her neighbor drugged her desert so that her husband could get her into a vulnerable position.

Why would this be necessary if they were already trying to conceive a child you might ask? Well, as her dream sequence reveals, it’s so that her husband Guy can be assured that his wife won’t wake up as he and the residents of the apartment building perform a satanic ritual in which she becomes pregnant with the antichrist. It makes you wonder, if she had eaten all of the pudding (chocolate mousse) would the following paranoia and suffering have occurred at all?

There are some moments of clarity for Rosemary as it’s all happening where she realizes, even in her drugged state, that what is happening to her is not right and that she has not consented to what is being done to her. When she wakes up the next morning, she assumes that she’s just had a bad dream until she notices the scratches that run down the length of her side—the ones that the Devil gave to her in her waking nightmare. Guy, already aware that they’re there, immediately tells her not to be upset that he scratched her, that it was an accident because he was in too much of a rush to take advantage of her.

Rosemary: What time did I go to sleep?
Guy: You didn’t go to sleep. You passed out. From now on you get cocktails or wine, not cocktails and wine, hm?
Rosemary: The dreams I had.
[Rosemary notices the scratches]
Guy: Don’t yell. I already filed them down. I didn’t want to miss baby night. A couple of nails were ragged.
Rosemary: While I was out?
Guy: It was fun, in a necrophile sort of way.
Rosemary: I dreamed someone was raping me, I think it was someone inhuman.
Guy: Thanks a lot. Whatsa matter?
Rosemary: Nothing.
Guy: I didn’t want to miss the night.
Rosemary: We could have done it this morning or tonight. Last night wasn’t the only split-second.
Guy: I was a little bit loaded myself, you know.

Rosemary is outwardly upset about the fact that he openly admitted to having sex with her while she was passed out, but even more disturbed when Guy jokes that “it was fun, in a necrophile sort of way.” She is obviously bothered by the whole thing but doesn’t press the issue further—evidence of the abusive silence and gas-lighting that must regularly occur in their relationship already.

Paranoia, Superstition and the Unlikely Truths

The tumultuous whirlwind of paranoia, superstition, and wild theories that follows her rape and impregnation by the Devil is more than a little difficult on Rosemary—physically, emotionally, and psychologically it’s almost like she’s carrying the child of Satan. I kid, of course, because obviously she’s carrying the child of Satan. She doesn’t know that though, she chalked the dream up to be nothing more than an alcohol-addled nightmare and upon finding out she was actually pregnant was as happy as she could possibly be. The weeks and months that followed her impregnation were spent being taken under the wing of her controlling and abrasive neighbors Minnie and Roman Castevet. They get her to go to a doctor of their choosing, by saying they’re doing her a favor—he’s the best doctor, after all, plus he’s a life-long friend and won’t charge her as much as he usually does.

More Gas-lighting and the Final Reveal

Her obstetrician, doctor Saperstein dictates that her neighbor Minnie will be providing her all the prenatal vitamins she needs through herbal remedies in drink and cake form—he demands that she doesn’t read any books or talk to any of her friends about her pregnancy because “every pregnancy is different,” at first he seems to be a little domineering, but well-meaning. Eventually it becomes clear to Rosemary that something is wrong, after finally speaking to her friends—they tell her she looks awful and when she indicates she’s been in pain for a length of time, they suggest that she get a second doctor’s opinion. This doesn’t go over well with Guy. Luckily for Guy, the Castevets, and Dr. Saperstein, just as Rosemary is about to get a second opinion the pain suddenly vanishes and the rest of her pregnancy is generally problem free. That is, until she receives a book from her friend Hutch, which explains how they are all witches that have formed a plot to take her baby. Rosemary misunderstands though, they’re witches of course, they definitely want to take her baby, but not to use as a sacrifice—that’s their dark lord and savior growing in her womb.

This is where she once again is gaslit by all of the people in her life—the only people in her life—the ones who control every second of every day and have become a living prison for Rosemary. Rosemary’s paranoia has amped up, at this point, to such a degree that she tries to escape the clutches of those around her—eventually getting to the office of her one-time obstetrician Dr. Hill and explaining how there is a plot against her. Dr. Hill pretends he is on her side, puts her in one of his birthing rooms and has her take a nap. When she awakes, Dr. Saperstein and Guy are there to take her home. We learn through all of Rosemary’s paranoia and investigation that her husband became complicit in this plot as a means to achieve fame and fortune—a price he has to pay now that the role he lost to another man was suddenly given to him after the other man suddenly and mysteriously went blind.

When Rosemary finally has the baby, they continue to sedate her and when she finally starts hiding the pills and is coherent enough to question what happened to her baby, she’s told that her child died shortly after birth. Cool story bro, except why is there suddenly a baby crying in the Castevet’s apartment? Rosemary tells them all that they can miss her with that bullshit when she forces her way into the room with the crying baby and discovers her child as well as “his eyes.”

Rosemary’s baby is the son of Satan and when the film ends, we see her warming up to the idea of actually mothering the antichrist.

Feminism and Women’s Rights in the 1960s

It’s frightening to think that less than sixty years ago, women in the United States still didn’t have the basic freedoms that we take for granted today. Unmarried women couldn’t have credit cards,—what’s more is that 1960s scientists and psychiatrists often believed that a man beating or raping his wife while under the influence could actually be considered a good thing. They considered it, “violent, temporary therapy,” that remedied a man’s insecurities over letting his wife run the house and remedied a woman’s guilt over emasculating her husband. This of course is complete and utter bullshit.

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Unfortunately for Rosemary, having grown up in an era of repression, she does what she’s told (for the most part, without question). It’s only when she’s encouraged by her less repressed group of friends that she begins to think for herself. Even after being clued into what is really going on by her girlfriends and her former landlord, Hutch, she still doesn’t leave until the last possible moment. When she does eventually try to escape, it’s not for her own well-being, but for that of her child. Just as we fear, the one person she believes she can trust, her former obstetrician Dr. Hill chalks her fears up to paranoia and hysteria from pre-partum stressors. In the end, he betrays her trust and hands her back to her abusers.

Rosemary’s Baby Explained: Realism and Control

Final Thoughts

There are more disturbing elements in this movie than could ever possibly be discussed in one article. However, since I’m an overachiever, I dug at all of the issues that I found pertinent to the conversation. If you think I’ve missed something and you’d like to discuss it further, feel free to leave a comment! If you disagree with anything I have said here, I encourage you to share your opinion! I would love to discuss this movie further with fans of the genre.

All of that being said, there are a couple of things that I wanted to address about this particular movie. These things don’t necessarily have to do with the content of the movie itself, but they’re worth mentioning.

Polanski—The Predator

There are very few people who are not aware of the criminal background of Polanski, but Rosemary’s Baby was actually filmed before the scandal ever came to the forefront of public knowledge—so viewing this film with the knowledge of Polanski being a predator might not be the best lens through which to focus.

The Backstory—Our Disclaimer

At the time of the film’s release, Polanski had only been married to Sharon Tate for about five months and it’s alleged that Polanski wanted to cast Tate for the part of Rosemary, but Maurice Evans—the man who played Hutch—insisted upon Mia Farrow for the role. A little over a year after the film’s release, in August 1969, Tate and her friends were stabbed to death by the followers of Charles Manson. Tate, at the time, was over eight months pregnant with Polanski’s child.

Less than a decade after all of this, Polanski was charged and convicted of drugging and raping a thirteen-year-old girl. Polanski fled the country before he was able to be incarcerated. To this day, Polanski is still alive and well, with dual citizenship in France and Poland. Since his conviction and subsequent identification as a pedophile and child rapist, Polanski has continued to be a celebrated name. Disturbingly, he’s been nominated for over fifty awards and won quite a few of them since his conviction. Some of the nominations and awards were received as recently as 2020. Needless to say, this gross corruption of the entertainment industry is far from an isolated event; the last thing Polanski should be remembered for is his creative “genius,” when “child rapist” is a more suitable title.

Fuck Roman Polanski.

Work Cited

Dockterman, Eliana. “Domestic Violence: 50 Years Ago, Doctors Called It ‘Therapy’.” Time, Time, 25 Sept. 2014.

“The Horror Film BIRTH TRAUMAS: PARTURITION AND HORROR IN ROSEMARY’S BABY.” Cinematernity: Film, Motherhood, Genre, by Lucy Fischer, Princeton University Press, 2014, pp. 73–89.

Huntley, Chris. “MenuDramatica® The Next Chapter in Story Development.” Dramatica, dramatica.com/analysis/rosemarys-baby.

McElhaney, Joe. “Urban Irrational: ROSEMARY’S BABY, POLANSKI, NEW YORK.” City That Never Sleeps: New York and the Filmic Imagination, by Murray Pomerance, Rutgers University Press, 2007, pp. 201–213.

McLaughlin, Katie. “5 Things Women Couldn’t Do in the 1960s.” CNN, Cable News Network, 25 Aug. 2014.

Sharrett, Christopher. “The Horror Film as Social Allegory (And How It Comes Undone).” A Companion to the Horror Film, by Harry M. Benshoff, Wiley Blackwell, 2017.