Why Ghosts Don’t Leave at Halloween

Halloween night my husband and I sat down to watch a scary movie. It was late and all the trick-or-treaters had retired. A shiver of excitement ran through me as I switched off the porch light and retreated to the couch.  The television screen projected an eerie glow.  I was ready to be scared. And after spending a few hours with my eyes peeking out from behind my fingers, watching stories about evil and death, I started reflecting upon why I write about the same things — zombies, vampires, ghosts, creepy characters, and murders.  I came to the realization, I loved to be scared, and I’m not alone.

My first book, Apocalipstick, explores true evil after humanity is lost in the chaos of a zombie apocalypse. Remote focuses on the horrors of technology replacing people, and No Trouble at All tackles the evils people do to one another in a murder mystery. With all of the books, scenes with blood and gore are often easier to write than the romance. Could it be that horror is more understandable and evident than love in the world and, therefore, easier to translate through the written word? This question left me wondering why people are so happy to be horrified?

Horror, whether on the big screen or in a paperback novel, helps people confront and embrace their fears. By empathizing with others going through terrible, scary situations, an individual can better deal with small fears occurring on a daily basis. Through the horror genre, people can also better understand society’s taboos or at least get a glimpse into them.

Reading and watching something scary gives people the chance to be terrified while knowing they are, in reality, completely safe. Sitting next to my husband, being able to close my eyes against the glare of the television or having the ability to put down a book when it gets too disturbing allows me to feel the thrill of horror and leave it when I need to. My safety net — my home, my husband — lets me to embrace the thrill of fear, but only to the extent I am comfortable with.

Finally, horror is often used to teach lessons.  Think about the urban legends such as Bloody Mary or the Hookman, and, of course, the original Grimm’s Fairy Tales. The Hookman is one example of an urban legend used to teach a moral lesson. It dissuades teens from getting too crazy at lover’s lane.  The version I heard growing up told the story of a boy and girl making out in a car. The girl hears a noise. The boy investigates. A man with a hook for a hand chases him.  In some stories the boy is caught and killed, but in others he and the girl escape.  When they make it back to safety and check the car for damage, they find the hook embedded in the door. Teens, beware the Hookman! He will dice and slice up a car and those inside, if society’s rules are ignored.

The world is a scary place, and by addressing horrors in a movie or story, people can acclimate to and accept the fact that evil exists. So the next time you are purposely pick up a Stephen King novel or slip The Conjuring into the DVD player, consider why you are doing so.

This article first appeared as part of a Bewitching Book Tour.

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