The Beleaguered Buckner Building of Whittier, Alaska

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Featured Haunted Places Horror Mystery and Lore

The Buckner Building stands in Whittier, Alaska—the gateway to Prince William Sound—as a relic to a forgotten past. It is tucked away in the hidden port town of Whittier, a town that can only be accessed by boat, plane, or through a single train tunnel that moonlights as a passage way for big rigs, and automobiles. The bay area that surrounds Whittier is solely deep-water ports that stay ice-free year round and the railroad port is one of two, all-weather ports that supplied Anchorage with military necessities and during times of war was of key importance in order for it to stay functioning and safeguarded. The climate that the port operates under is one of nearly constant cloud coverage, which is beneficial in the respect that it protects the port and its facilities from air strikes. With all aspects of this port town taken into consideration, Whittier was possibly the most perfect place to have a military base of this caliber.

The Buckner Building in Whittier, Alaska
The Buckner Building in Whittier, Alaska Photography by Mary Farnstrom
The Buckner Building in Whittier, AK
The Buckner Building in Whittier, Alaska
Photography by Mary Farnstrom

The Construction and Function of the Buckner Building

Early in the course of World War II General Simon Buckner, the commander of the defensive forces of the state of Alaska was highly concerned that the state would be vulnerable to air attacks. Buckner also believed that the best type of facility would be one that autonomous, with its own power plant, sufficient storage space, and bomb-proof. The Cold War began two short years after the end of World War II and in 1953, six years into the second red scare, the construction of the Buckner Building was completed, and having been cast in place by reinforced concrete on a bedrock of slate and greywacke the building was on stable ground not susceptible to seismic shifting from earthquakes, or from thawing of any remaining permafrost.

The building was once listed as one of the largest in the state, it stands six stories tall, is approximately 500 feet long and between 50-150 feet wide (depending on which part of the floor plan it is)—all of this adds up to around 275,000 square feet of space. This massive concrete building was built in seven sections, each section having been separated by eight-inch gaps—as a means to have the structural flexibility to ride out large magnitude earthquakes and concussive forces.

In its heyday, The Buckner Building once housed the entire city of Whittier, Alaska—within its walls were also all of the relevant services were located. There was a small hospital, a 350 seat theater, four-lane bowling alley, six-cell jail, church, bakery, barbershop, library, radio station, rifle range, photography lab, commissary, officers’ lounge, as well as a mess hall, and innumerable sleeping quarters for military personnel and their families.

The Earthquake of 1964

In March of 1964, Alaska was hit by the most powerful earthquake in the history of North America (second most powerful throughout world history)—registering at a magnitude of 9.2 and lasting a full four minutes and thirty-eight seconds, the Great Alaskan earthquake caused multiple ground fissures along south central Alaska, but it also collapsed structures and caused multiple tsunamis—all of this resulted in an estimated 131 deaths. Whittier itself was not immune to the natural disaster, with thirteen people dead and damages to private and federally owned property that were over five million dollars. The Buckner building itself was also slightly damaged, although the structural integrity was not compromised due to the foundation upon the bedrock—the rest of the town received considerably more in damages due to the unconsolidated sediment that it rests on.

The Abandonment of the Base

The building was in operation until 1966, when the military finally pulled out of the Port of Whittier, the building was then transferred to the General Services Administration; after being vacated by the military, however, the ownership of the building changed hands several times. At one point Pete Zamarello, a man dubbed as the “Anchorage Strip Mall Czar”, obtained ownership of the Buckner Building with ideas of turning it into the state prison—but his deal with the state fell through and it was purchased by the citizens of the new City of Whittier in 1972. By the 1980s, the building had fallen into disrepair, windows and doors were missing, so the building began to decompose—being exposed to the elements allowed water to begin accumulating, and the building itself being in a constant state of freeze and thaw.

By 2014, nearly every inch of the building, inside and out, had been vandalized—the floors were covered in at least an inch of water, and was riddled with asbestos, mold, and mildew—suffice it to say it was no longer a safe environment for people to go exploring in. The problem was, was that there was hardly any regulation in place to keep people out of the building—so they began to crack down on trespassers on the property.

The city of Whittier came under the ownership of the Buckner Building in 2016 when the building officially went into foreclosure, it was at this point that a fence went up around the building to keep trespassers out. While the Whittier Department of Public Works and Public Utilities has done work on the property, and the city continues to express their desire to maintain it in order to preserve history, the Alaska Department of Environment Conservation has recommended demolition. While there have been many discussions to demolish the building, it has been ruled as being cost-prohibitive—this is due to the sheer amount of asbestos that is in the building and that the only land route in and out of Whittier. This route is through the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel, a two and a half mile railroad tunnel which allots thirty-minute windows for cars to travel through at certain times during the day—the only other option to remove debris would be on ships.

Having been abandoned for over forty years has taken its toll on the interior—where the ceilings are falling in, the light fixtures are and some parts of the exterior of the building which is tagged and degraded. The Buckner Building does still stand as of July 2020—it stands as a crumbling, darkened, cracked, and adulterated monument of an era of military and government ambition that has not since returned.

A Look Inside the Abandoned Buckner Building

Is the Buckner Building Haunted?

While this enormous abandoned building in Whittier looks incredibly spooky against the typically overcast, grey dreary skies of this hidden port town, there are also rumors of the building being haunted. While this writer’s personal investigation didn’t result in the capture of any evidence of the paranormal, other people have reported encounters and experiences that they have been more than happy to share. The Buckner Building is closed to the public, so going into the building itself is a no-go unless you want to risk health complications (mercury, lead, and asbestos poisoning is possible), injury, death, or–most likely, a hefty fine from the local police. Locals of Whittier are pretty vigilant to keep people away from and out of the building, but it doesn’t mean people haven’t ventured in to get an up-close and personal experience inside of these reportedly haunted walls. There are believed to be multiple presences within the building, although there are no records to explain these hauntings.

Due to the dilapidation of the building, the first basement is only accessible through a hole in the wall now, where the second basement is now only accessible through a hole in the floor. These two rooms are said to house an entity of “pure evil,” and people are warned to stay away from the area completely, especially the stairwell that has red, detached wiring hanging from the ceiling. Far southwest stairwell, the second corridor on the second floor, the jail, and the third floor are all haunted by apparitions–in particular, an entity that is witnessed hanging from water pipes on the second floor, and a little girl who is seen wandering the third floor crying. Room three to the right of the mental ward of the hospital, within the corridor right before the jail is reported to be especially haunted, to the point that the entity within will only allow certain people to enter the room. If this entity does not accept the person trying to enter, the door will slam shut before they can enter and seems to be locked from the inside.

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The Ghost Soldier of Battery Russel, Fort Stevens in Astoria, OR

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Featured Haunted Places Horror Mystery and Lore

In the Historic Fort Stevens State Park, you can probably expect to run into the ghost of a soldier who patrols the area at night with a flashlight. There have been so many stories recounting the encounters that witnesses have had with this fallen soldier, who, when approached ends up disappearing into thin air.

The History of Battery Russel in Fort Stevens

It doesn’t really matter if you have a love for history, architecture, relics of the past, or the supernatural—Battery Russel seems to have it all. While this battery is no longer an active site, it was once of enormous importance in the defense of the Oregon coast during the Second World War. Fort Stevens was originally built around the time of the Civil War—this was when Battery Russel and other ramparts were constructed. It wasn’t until nearly one hundred years later that these ramparts and other structures of Fort Stevens were revived in order to fortify the defense of the Columbia River from a possible invasion during World War II.

Located on-site at the far end of the battery is the Pacific Rim Peace Memorial, which commemorates the American and Japanese soldiers that were involved in the attack on Fort Stevens and called for everlasting peace between these two countries. Despite its importance in the defense of the Columbia River, it was never a favored station of the soldiers who ended up there; it got the unfortunate name of Squirrelsville, due to the fact that many soldiers didn’t want to stay there, possibly because of the quickly built soldiers quarters, and because of the rotations in and out every few days. It wasn’t until after the attack on Pearl Harbor in World War II that Battery Russel was manned full-time.

The Attack on Fort Stevens During World War II

In 1942 on June 21st, at 11:30 pm, an enemy Japanese I-25 submarine attacked Fort Stevens, it had somehow gotten through the mouth of the Columbia River and resurfaced just ten miles offshore. It began its attack by firing haphazardly towards the fort. Fortunately for the soldiers who manned Battery Russel, only a few of the submarine’s missiles landed near to their station, they held their ground and their fire—while the missile fire didn’t injure anyone, it did scare the local population. This led the local communities to set up a citizens patrol, they strung barbed wire up and down Clatsop Beach and even through the Wreck of the Peter Iredale. Oddly enough, this unsuccessful attack was the only action that Fort Stevens saw during the Second World War. This also made it the only mainland military base in the United States to be fired upon since the War of 1812 in which Canadians burned down the White House.

The Function of Battery Russel

One of nine batteries at Fort Stevens, Battery Russel was active for forty years, from 1904 to 1944, where Fort Stevens itself was in active service for eighty-four years, from the beginning of the Civil War all the way through World War II. It was named after Brevet Major General David Russel who fought during the Civil War. While it once protected the mouth of the Columbia River, it was one of three forts that created the Triangle of Fire—the other two being Fort Columbia and Fort Canby in Washington. This three-sided defense made it nearly impossible for enemy boats to go undetected into the Columbia River.

Battery Russel, Fort Stevens in Astoria, Oregon
Photography by Gary Halvorson, Oregon State Archives

While there are many batteries at Fort Stevens, Battery Russel is one of the few that is open to the public to explore—literature is available on location that educates anyone, who is willing to look into a piece of our past, about the purposes of each of the rooms, as well as the history of the battery itself. There are two levels to this particular battery, the lower of which contains old ammunition rooms, offices, guardrooms, as well as storage facilities. The upper level is where the old gun pit is located, it housed two 10-inch disappearing guns; these guns would retract from view while soldiers reloaded, which provided ample cover from attacking enemies and each gun required a thirty-five man team in order to run.

Even though Battery Russel is an entirely unsupervised location it is well maintained, people are free to explore the historic battery; there is no electricity, so visits during the day are well-light by natural sunlight, but the lower level can become quite dark, so you’re better off carrying a flashlight if you insist on exploring for ghosts.

The Haunting of Battery Russel

The haunting that is described at Battery Russel isn’t exactly one to be feared—because the well-intentioned ghost soldier doesn’t mean any visitors harm, in fact, he was stationed at Battery Russel in defense of the nation and its people. The unidentified army soldier has been seen by many visitors to the Fort, where they report him showing up in several different places in the battery. If the tales are to be believed, this uniformed soldier walks the area—he’s seen wandering around the park, the campgrounds, and more often than not, the concrete battery. Those who have encountered him in the campground report the crunching gravel as he passes the area outside of your tent.

Another commonality between separate encounters is that the apparition of this soldier is that he simply disappears after being spotted. One recollection of an encounter told to the Oregon Coast Beach Connection, was that the witness was walking along the Seaside’s Promenade one night when he saw the army man in a uniform that was reminiscent of the forties. The two men nodded to each other, but when the witness turned to inspect the dated uniform, the army man had mysteriously vanished. To be sure that he hadn’t psyched himself out, the witness even went into the nearby hotel lobbies and asked the reception clerks if an army man had come into their lobby, but after having no luck in locating where the man had gone, the witness was convinced what he had seen was a specter.

Other legends that have popped up about this mysterious soldier are centered around the old guardhouse which is located in a now-residential neighborhood. Residents in the area have caught plenty of, what they believe to be, spirit orbs on camera, while others claim that they have seen him pacing the yard where the museum now stands. Whether this apparition is holding a flashlight and walking the grounds, or he’s holding a knife within the battery itself, no one has ever reported feeling any malicious intent from the spirit.

What is truly curious about this haunting is that no soldiers actually died at Battery Russel, Fort Stevens during World War II, but seeing as it was active during the Civil War, it is believed that he could have been a soldier that passed during that time.

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The Ghosts of 274 Charming Forge Road

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Horror Mystery and Lore

Built in 1749 on roughly forty-eight acres of land the Charming Forge mansion is nothing short of that, charming. Originally under the ownership of Baron Stiegel, a well renowned glassmaker and ironmaster in Pennsylvania, the mansion features seven bedrooms, four bathrooms, seven different fireplaces, original colonial woodwork, and a history of paranormal encounters within the property.

Charming Forge Plaque

Snesnig Family

In August of 1976 Charming Forge came under the ownership of Luther Sensenig Womelsdorf and her sister Lewis Everline. Sensenig said her family experienced paranormal encounters very frequently. The first phenomenon Sensenig and her family recall happened on the lengthy stairs leading from the entry way of the mansion to the top of the third floor. Sensenig was in the kitchen and heard footsteps. She called out to whoever was running on the steps, but there was no answer.

As she made her way into the hall she arrived in time to hear the footsteps turn at the first landing of the stairway. Nobody was in sight even though she could see the opening of the stairway up to the third floor. What made it all the more odd was the phantom footsteps continued to be heard as if someone were running up to the third floor. She followed the sounds up the stairs . Once the unknown footsteps reached the third floor they immediately stopped. No one was there.

Over the course of the Sensenig families’ residency at Charming Forge footsteps were heard occasionally throughout the house as well as unexplained clunking and scraping of chains, screams, bumps, doors creaking and loud crashes. Sensenig also recalled a day walking through a hall directly next to the main hall and noticed a black cloud was floating just above her head. As soon as she noticed the apparition it quickly disappeared. On separate occasions Mr. Sensenig and his daughter Peggy had both hear the screen door slam shut, but no one was there. There wasn’t any wind according to Sensenig and the spring on the screen door was locked.

The Ghost of the Weeping Lady

Another legend surrounding Charming Forge includes the “Weeping Lady” and her lover “Stiegle.” The story of Stiegel recalls that he galloped up to the Forge on his horse where he saw his beloved on the mansion hill, waving a kerchief at him. He rose on his stirrups to acknowledge her but the action spooked the horse which reared up and threw him from the saddle to his untimely death. Some accounts add the disturbing detail that as he was being tossed the reins wrapped around his neck and severed his head. She is said to roam these halls aimlessly awaiting the return of her lover, crying and weeping. Some say you may even see her deceased lover in the yard at night, a headless ghost.

More Legends of Charming Forge Hauntings

Others say you may hear the sounds of German prisoners from the American revolution that died on these grounds. It is also noted the original owner, Baron Stiegel himself is said to have died in the house while his nephew was looking after him. Some believe Baron Stiegel haunts the house to this day.

Historic Picture of the Haunted Charming Forge Mansion
Outside of Charming Forge

A story from 1926 recounts that while the mansion was undergoing construction, an Indian visited the site and warned crew members and the owner at the time that it was being built upon an Indian burial ground. This is believed to be true as old records of the Forge mentioned the discovery of several human bones  during the renovations. 

The Curse of Charming Forge

As the story goes the ironmaster scoffed at this notion and waved off the Indian. The Indian is said to have placed a curse on Charming Forge. However, seconds after the Indian spoke he was killed by a blow from a piece of faulty ironmaking equipment. His ghost too is believed to roam the yard of Charming Forge.

The last homeowner who lived there for fifteen years before recently selling Charming Forge hasn’t had any paranormal experiences himself, though some guests have felt the presence of the paranormal and have been uneasy in the house. Charming Forge is filled with history of the paranormal, and the attraction to it leaves those interested in the paranormal in awe.

This house just changed owners in September of 2019. As you might imagine it sat on the market before finally selling for the low price of $650,000. Perhaps buying haunted real estate is where the best deals are… if only you can find a brave enough buyer.

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The Gruesome History of the State Hospital in Salem, OR

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Featured Haunted Places Horror Mystery and Lore

Built in the 1800s, the Oregon State Hospital has a reportedly insidious past that went on for years. Once an insane asylum, it is said that terrible malpractice occurred within its walls and that it had a secret tunnel that connected the buildings which shrouded these terrible experiments that were rumored to have been conducted on its patients. Today, part of the hospital has been preserved as a museum, and even now visitors to the hospital claim to have experienced paranormal activity, where they feel as if they are being watched, while on the premises.

The History of the Oregon State Hospital

Located in Salem, Oregon many of the original parts of the State Hospital still remain in use, while other parts are closed off due to severe disrepair. A new wing was constructed in 2011 where most of the patient care takes place now—the grounds look fairly inviting from the outside, there is unfortunately very little indication of the kind of horrors that took place within. When the facility was originally built, it was intended to serve all patients, but it soon became overcrowded and due to this, it became a more specialized facility that served the criminally insane and the mentally handicapped. Visitors are free to tour the campus as well as the interior of the hospital, where they learn that an estimated two-thirds of the population was found to be both mentally insane and found guilty of a crime.

Although these days, the original hospital and asylum are no longer taking patients, the Oregon State Hospital is still in business—but now mostly as a museum, perhaps as a monument to the way we used to treat those who had mental turmoil or abnormal conditions. Taking a tour of the hospital provides those interested with a fairly accurate perspective at the people who were once housed there, as well as the insanity that they actually endured at the hands of doctors who did not have their patients’ best interests at heart. The hospital was built in 1883 and for only having existed for almost a century and a half, the building has a lot of stories to tell. Like any old-fashioned asylum, patients fell victim to things that would never be acceptable by today’s medical practice standards. Over the years that these terrible experiments, abuse, and torture felt at the hands of both staff and fellow patients, it’s estimated that hundreds if not thousands of patients died within the asylum—it’s not incredibly surprising that it has the reputation of housing so many tortured souls.

If you take a tour of the facilities, you’ll find the museum is certain to educate people on the terrifying experiences that patients lived through in their time within the hospital. Exhibits fill the halls that were once filled with patients and the location was made popular when it was used as the filming location for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Surprisingly it functions still as the state’s sole psychiatric hospital. Within the exhibits, visitors can see the entire overview of how procedures for treating mentally ill patients has changed over the years, from its opening in the late 1800s to the present day. Even though the rooms were all remodeled, there lingers an intensely creepy presence throughout the museum.

The Unfortunate Incident of 1942

Can of Cremated Patient Remains
David Maisel, Library of Dust 103-566

One of the more ghastly stories that haunt the walls of this old facility happened in 1942, when forty-seven people were killed and hundreds more were struck incredibly ill after they were served their daily breakfast.

The Real Story…

Nearly eighty years ago now, on November 18, 1942, a terrifying scene unfolded at the Oregon State Hospital; what began like any other day ended in tragedy and confusion. After being served an enticing breakfast of scrambled eggs, patients began to die left and right—they presented with illness by vomiting blood and writhing on the floor in agony. Some patients died in minutes, others succumbed to this mysterious terror hours later, the death toll ended at forty-seven lives having been lost. In the official report, 263 patients fell ill, but the newspapers that ran the story reported that over four hundred patients had contracted this unknown illness.

At first, there was a fear of sabotage—Governor Charles A. Sprague called it a mass murder, where today it would be called a terrorist attack during a time where the country was already in the midst of World War II. With the fear of sabotage on the West Coast, there was a suspicion that the food supply had been compromised, as it was considered a vulnerable target. The eggs that had been served at the state hospital came from the federal surplus commodities that were distributed by the U.S. government and were part of a shipment that had been divided between the state institutions, schools, as well as other programs in Oregon. Governor Sprague immediately ordered that all institutions stop using the eggs which had come packed frozen in 30 lb. tin cans—the federal government followed suit and issued a similar order.

An investigation was immediately launched and officials from the Army, American Medical Association, and Food and Drug Administration were quickly dispatched to the state hospital campus in Salem. Considering the patient occupancy of the hospital was estimated to have been around 2,700 at the time—which is more than five times the amount that it treats today—it was exactly the reaction that we would hope to see. First-hand accounts remain what can be found in newspaper archives and a report submitted to the Journal of the American Medical Association from two of the doctors who worked at the state hospital, and one who worked at the Oregon State Police crime lab in Portland.

One of the doctors to first respond was Dr. William L. Lidbeck, a pathologist who lived in one of the cottages on-site. What he found was a horror show—patients were experiencing abdominal cramping, and severe nausea, which turned into them vomiting blood, having seizures, struggling to breathe, and even some experiencing paralysis. Lidbeck had deduced that they had ingested a virulent poison and believed those who died the quickest had eaten the most of the poisoned eggs, whereas others would have had their death prolonged for hours. The night ended with a full morgue, chapel, and a hallway lined with bodies.

It is said that the death toll would have been worse if not for one heroic staff member, Nurse Allie Wassel, who took one bite of the eggs after the trays were brought to her ward. She immediately noticed the taste wasn’t right, so she refused to serve them to any of her patients. She became ill, but survived and was credited with saving many lives. Those who weren’t lucky enough to be in her ward put their spoons down after complaining that the eggs tasted too salty, or soapy and they began to immediately experience symptoms.

The investigation into the incident was of the utmost importance was conducted swiftly—autopsies were done on six patients, and samples of the poisoned eggs were taken from their stomach contents as well as the patients’ plates. These samples were fed to rats who succumbed within minutes and within twenty-two hours it the poison was identified as sodium fluoride, but it was also only found in the eggs cooked at the Oregon State Hospital. Commonly used as an insecticide for rats and cockroaches, it is a white substance that acts quickly, but could be easily mistaken for flour, baking powder, or powdered milk—even ingesting a small amount could be fatal. The thing they didn’t know, was whether it was intentionally fed to the patients, or if it had been a horrible accident.

According to the reports, the hospital’s assistant cook confessed and told the officials that he had sent a patient to the basement storeroom for powdered milk and the patient mistakenly brought back roach poison and it had been mixed in with the scrambled eggs. Patients in asylums were regularly used to help in the kitchen and around the hospital, as a part of a work-experience opportunity to help them with self-esteem, feeling productive, as well as earning a small wage. Procedures now have changed so vastly that an incident like the one that occurred at the Oregon State Hospital could no longer happen.

The patient who had retrieved the poison instead of the powdered milk? Twenty-seven-year-old George Nosen, who had admitted himself to the hospital as a paranoid schizophrenic. Nosen had been assigned to kitchen detail—washing dishes, cleaning floors, preparing for lines of other patients—and the kitchen was seriously understaffed. That mealtime had been incredibly busy, so Abraham McKillop the assistant cook had sent Nosen to fetch the powdered milk—a violation of the rules established at the hospital in 1908—and Nosen apparently wandered into the wrong storeroom, which tragically opened with the same key he had been given for the food storeroom. The storeroom with the poisons and the storeroom with the food were only eleven feet apart—and it was ruled to have been a tragic accident. While terrible, it did bring about some necessary changes to the way the hospital conducted its safety practices, as well as the labeling, is done by the Food and Drug Administration.

The Tortured Souls That Haunt the Ground

What remains within the walls of the Oregon State Hospital, including the intimidating and creepy underground tunnels, has created an environment where those who have investigated have felt an overwhelming sense of evil. The brave souls who willingly explore the tunnels and other areas of this haunted asylum are undeterred by the stories about patients allegedly being transported in the tunnels below the facility, or the evidence that suggests they were used for immoral, unethical, and barbaric medical experiments; this all took place so deep underground that their screams could not be heard. Phantom footsteps, doors opening and closing on their own, screams, and cries from former patients can all be experienced at the Oregon State Hospital.

A lot of the unrest that can be found here can also probably be attributed to the controversy of the hospital staff having lost over 1,500 cans of patients’ cremated remains.

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The History of Cosmic Horror

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Featured Horror Mystery and Lore

Don’t explain, because the unexplainable is the most frightening thing there is.

H.P. Lovecraft

What Exactly is Cosmic Horror?

Cosmic Horror movies and books are on the rise in the horror community lately—a refreshing turn away from the slashers and gore of the late seventies, early eighties, most of the nineties, and the last two decades. The Cosmic Horror genre is about more than just the copious amounts of senseless violence—it’s beyond its own monsters and dangers—it’s about testing the limits of your own humanity. How connected are you to the world around you? How frightened are you about the dangers of the unknown? When your perception of reality is suddenly pulled out from under you, you begin to experience overwhelming trepidation, anxiety, and an unanticipated creeping loss of sanity.

In stories with a central theme of Cosmic Horror, more often than not, have protagonists that are forced to face things that go well beyond the normal realm of comprehension, which leads to the idea that authors of the genre try to stand behind, “don’t try and over-explain what’s happening, rather let them stew in existential dread.” While this genre of horror contains plenty of gore and violence, it angles more on the supernatural, paranormal, and psychological sides of fear—so there is no reaction of disgust, but rather pure, unadulterated terror.

So, in the simplest terms possible, cosmic horror is a sub-genre of science fiction where horror is derived from the insignificance of our own existence within an often dispassionate universe … easy peasy, right? While Lovecraft is credited as the creator of cosmic (or Lovecraftian) horror, that doesn’t mean that he was necessarily the first person to write within this genre—he was simply the first person to dedicate his fictional writing solely to the genre which now bears his name. To this day Lovecraft remains the most famous writer of the cosmic horror genre, although the genre continues to expand with the works of writers around the world.

Where Did Cosmic Horror Come From Anyway?

A View Of the Cosmos
A View of the Cosmos
Photography by NASA

Now that we know what the genre of cosmic horror is all about, where exactly did this genre come from? As far as literary history has shown, cosmic horror began with one man—Howard Phillips Lovecraft. He is officially credited with being the father of the cosmic horror genre—but was he the first author to write in the genre, or was he simply the first author to be credited for it? Truth be told, Algernon Blackwood, an author out of England was officially the first one to write within the cosmic horror genre, but this subgenre of horror had not technically been established yet. His stories The Willows and The Man Who Found Out have historically been classified as general horror, gothic fiction, and fantasy fiction.

To understand certain types of horror, one must first understand where horror and the subsequent emotion of fear comes from. As has been mentioned many-a-times before, as said by Lovecraft himself, “the oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is the fear of the unknown.” This means that this particular subgenre capitalizes on this reaction to uncertainty (in its simplest form), the bread and butter of cosmic horror, and the inability to tell what is coming and when. This quote represents the spectrum of Lovecraft’s range of fiction—it’s elegant, yet somehow a pathetic representation of what can truly represent the genre as a whole. In no uncertain terms, Lovecraft and other authors of the genre make it increasingly clear that there are multiple ways in which the futility and insignificance of human beings can be frightening. If there is nothing meaningful connection to the purpose of human beings, then are we truly anything more than a plaything for celestial beings?

It’s truly an unsettling thought to acknowledge this nihilistic idea of the modern age—that we base our relevance on the time in which we live, but discount the ancient wisdom and forces that came before us. During the earliest days of cosmic horror, Lovecraft took exceptional influences from the plethora of pagan religions all throughout the world. He took particular influence from the most ancient of these pagan religions and cultures—this is in no small part, due to the fact that Lovecraft was quite reverent to paganism and quite openly rejected mainstream Christianity. Keep in mind, Lovecraft lived in a time and place where having beliefs, or favorable leanings towards paganism was highly taboo—where today it is quite a bit more commonplace. Cosmic horror, however, despite being more widespread isn’t an easy genre to write—not to mention capture on film—well at all.

When Lovecraft first began to write stories that exhibited his creations, he displayed a truth that is often disregarded in the course of our daily lives—that we don’t consider the idea that there is something unknown and completely unrelatable to anything we have ever experienced before in our years of life on this earth. We don’t consider that we might be in a world where we don’t recognize the god(s) that deserve idolization, that there may be a natural way of being that we are unaware of, that there may be some type of fate of the world that we haven’t considered as a possibility. This was something that Lovecraft and his predecessors might not have considered, but it is definitely a possibility that should be considered, even if it is completely alien to what we’re used to.

Dig into more cosmic horror by reading and watching our best of cosmic horror books, comics, and movies lists.

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