Posted in Blogtober

Blogtober Day 31: HAPPY HALLOWEEN! Spooky Quiz πŸŽƒ

Happy Halloween! I know Halloween looks very different this year but I hope you’re still able to safely fill this spooky day with fun and frights.

This is also the final post of Blogtober so I wanted to do something fun that will bring all the previous posts from this month together. I have written quite a few history and pop culture related posts for Blogtober and I thought I’d take inspiration from them and create a spooky Halloween quiz for you. The answers to all of these questions are splattered across the last 30 posts so if you want to read more about any particular topic, I’ll leave the link to the blog post about it in the answer section as well.

1. What vegetable was traditionally used in Irish Jack-o’-lanterns based on the story of Stingy Jack?

A. Pumpkins B. Turnips C.Aubergines/Eggplants D.Potatoes

2. A giant wolf of Norse mythology is sometimes thought to have played a part in the development of werewolf lore but what was his name?

A. Odin B. Loki C. Tyr D. Fenrir

3. Corpse Bride lost the best animated feature award at the Oscars in 2005 to which other non-scary Halloween movie?

A. The Nightmare Before Christmas B. Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit C. Coco D. ParaNorman

4. Ouija Boards were first patented back in 1891 but which company now owns the trademark?

A. Hasbro B. Mattel C. Sega D. Milton Bradley

5. Which of these famous writers has had their skull stolen from their grave?

A. William Shakespeare B. Charles Dickens C. Edgar Allan Poe D. Emily BrontΓ«

6. Which village was claimed to be the β€œmost haunted village in Britain” in the Guinness Book of Records in 1989?

A. Muker, Yorkshire B. South Pool, Devon C. Pluckley, Kent D. Bibury, Gloucestershire

7. What is the name of the famous vampire from penny dreadfuls that pre-dates Bram Stoker’s Dracula?

A. Francis Varney B. Sweeney Todd C. Dick Turpin D. Sexton Blake

8. Who led the excavations into King Tutankhamun’s tomb but managed to avoid the infamous curse?

A. Howard Carter B. Bruce Ingram C. George Jay Gould D. Richard Bethell

9. The Tarantella dance was created as a cure for Tarantism, a form of “dancing mania” said to be caused by what?

A. Miasma B. A witch’s curse C. A spider’s bite D. A werewolf attack

10. George A. Rumero directed which genre-defining zombie movie?

A. White Zombie B. Night of the Living Dead C. 28 Days Later D. Shaun of the Dead

11. When was the last time the 1735 Witchcraft Act used to imprison someone?

A. 1798 B. 1851 C. 1901 D. 1944

12. Who authored the book The Castle of Otranto and is often credited with inventing the horror genre?

A. Mary Shelley B. Bram Stoker C. Horace Walpole D. H.G. Wells

13. Which of the following figures of urban legend have been said to visit those who have seen aliens or UFOs to keep them quiet?

A. The Men in Black B. The black-eyed children C. Bloody Mary D. The phantom hitchhiker

14. What type of creatures were thought to be witches’ familiars during the European witch craze?

A. Black cats only B. Any type of cat C. Any type of animal D. Any type of animal or demon

15. The last of Burke and Hare’s victims was killed on what annual festival day?

A. Halloween B. Christmas C. New Year’s Day D. Valentine’s Day

Answers
  1. B. Turnips! You’d find the answer to this one and a plenty more details about Halloween in my post on The History of Halloween.
  2. D. Fenrir! To learn more about the origins of werewolf lore, check out my It’s All in the Origins: Werewolves post.
  3. B. Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit! Find more Non-Scary Halloween Movies on my blog.
  4. A. Hasbro! Check out my Thoughts on Ouija Boards post to read my take on this classic spooky board game.
  5. A. William Shakespeare! Check out the theories behind what happened to the Bard’s head in my post all about Shakespeare’s Missing Skull.
  6. C. Pluckley, Kent! You’ll find a full list of spooky spots in my Top 10 Haunted Locations in the UK post.
  7. A. Francis Varney! Discover the story of the vampire in my It’s All in the Origins: Vampires post.
  8. A. Howard Carter! Do you believe in the pharaoh’s curse? Find out all about it in my post asking Is Tutankhamun’s Tomb Really Cursed?
  9. C. A spider’s bite! Find out more Spooky History Facts.
  10. B. Night of the Living Dead! Discover the fascinating history of zombie lore in my It’s All in the Origins: Zombies post.
  11. D. 1944! You’ll find more surprising truths in my Five More Spooky History Facts post.
  12. C. Horace Walpole! Check out my attempt to answer the question Did Horace Walpole Invent Horror?
  13. A. The Men in Black! Learn more about the other possible answers in my Top 5 Urban Legends post.
  14. D. Any type of animal or demon! If this answer didn’t feel familiar to your brain then you can read more about them in my It’s All in the Origins: Familiars post.
  15. A. Halloween! Because you can never have enough, this is from my Even More Spooky Facts post.

Have an amazing Halloween! Stay safe and eat all the sweets this spooky season. I’ll be back very soon, bye for now!

Posted in Blogtober, History

Blogtober Day 30: Even More Spooky Facts

We’re right on the brink of All Hallows Eve and I couldn’t resist sharing a few more spooky facts with you. Check out my Spooky Facts and More Spooky Facts posts if you want to discover more chilling truths to get you in spirit of the season.

  1. Consider the coconut – In Spanish, Hispanic and Portuguese cultures, there is a figure called El Coco or El Cuco, a kind of boogeyman figure used to scare children. As the story goes, El Coco eats children who misbehave so he is often used by parents to get children to do as they’re told. The slightly odd part of this story is the theory on his name. The word “coco” seems to have its roots in the Portuguese and Spanish words relating to the head and skull. When Portuguese explorers found coconuts they decided the three dots on the top resembled a human face and so the name was born. There are also some who believe that El Coco’s name comes from the humble coconut due to the linguistic connections but this has never been proven for certain.
  2. The body of William Burke – William Burke is best known for being part of the murdering duo Burke and Hare in 1820s Edinburgh. These two committed 16 murders and sold the bodies to Robert Knox, a physician, to dissect. The last of their victims was of Margaret or Marjory Docherty, murdered on the 31st October 1828. Witnesses that had seen Docherty with Burke and Hare the night before found her body under a bed where Burke was staying and went straight to the police. After Burke, Hare and both of their wives were caught, Hare entered a deal with the police whereby he revealed the details of all the murders to get both him and his wife off the crime. This led to Burke taking the fall for pretty much everything. If the story wasn’t dark enough, Burke’s body was sent to the same fate as his victims but with some particularly gruesome extras. A letter was written in Burke’s blood which now lives in the University of Edinburgh archives, his skin was used to make a book and a calling card holder and his skeleton is still on display at the Anatomical Museum at Edinburgh University to this day. Hare’s fate is unknown.
  3. Once in a blue moon – Did you know that Halloween 2020 falls on a blue moon? A blue moon is the second full moon in a calendar month. As the saying suggests, they are quite rare, they usually only occur every couple of years. Sadly though, blue moons aren’t actually blue, they just look like a regular full moon – still great to howl at on Halloween though!
  4. Unlucky number 13 – The number 13 is recognised as an unlucky number all the time, there are even hotels that won’t have a 13th floor or room because of the association. The classic reasoning as to why 13 is the unluckiest number or, at least, the reason I’d heard before is that in the Bible, the 13th person to take a seat at the Last Supper table is Judas Iscariot, the one to betray Jesus. Turns out there’s another theory. 13 is an awkward prime number which follows 12, considered a “perfect” number. This might sound a bit odd but if you think about how our whole world runs on the number 12, you might not roll your eyes at this idea. There are 12 months in a calendar year and our days are broken into two sets of 12 hour chunks. There were 12 Olympians, 12 Tribes of Israel, 12 Days of Christmas, 12 sons of Odin, 12 signs in both the astrological and Chinese zodiacs, 12 Christian apostles… the list goes on. We seem to be obsessed! Maybe 13 is just unlucky itself since it has such a tough act to follow.
  5. The Brown Lady of Raynham Hall – One of the most famous ghost photos ever taken is supposed to show the Brown Lady of Raynham Hall, though some claim it’s a fake. However, the Brown Lady has been spotted for three centuries and is believed to be the spirit of Dorothy Townsend. She was married to Viscount Townsend and rumour has it, he locked up her in Raynham Hall after discovering that she had been having an affair with Thomas Wharton. Another little tidbit of interesting info here is that Dorothy was the sister of Robert Walpole, the first official prime minister of the UK and the aunt of Horace Walpole who, arguably, invented the horror genre which you can read more about in an earlier Blogtober post!

I hope you found these facts interesting, I’ll be back for the final Blogtober post tomorrow! Bye for now!

Posted in Blogtober

Blogtober Day 29: 20 Halloween Jokes and Puns

Today’s Blogtober post features 20 of my favourite Halloween jokes, from old classics to new ones I’ve found that really tickled my funny bone.

Why didn’t the skeleton go to the party?

Because Halloween parties were banned due to COVID… lol no, of course he had no body to go with!

What are vampires favourite fruits?

Blood oranges and neck-tarines

What is E.T. short for?

So he can fit in the rocket

Why did the witch ace her English test?

She’s good at spelling

Why are skeletons so calm?

Nothing gets under their skin

Why did the ghost go to the bar?

For the boo-ze

Why did the headless horseman do a business course?

He wanted to get ahead in life

What room will you never find a ghost in?

The living room

What does a witch call their garage?

The broom closet

How does Dracula unlock his castle?

With a spoo-key

How does a monster see into their future?

They read their horror-scope

Why do mummies struggle to make friends?

They’re too wrapped up in themselves

Where do ghosts like to go trick-or-treating?

Down dead ends

Why should you write a story in a graveyard?

Because they’re filled with plots

Why do ghosts hate when it rains on Halloween?

It dampens their spirits

What’s the best way to annoy Dracula?

Make him a little cross

Why are ghosts so bad at lying?

You can see right through them

Which monster is the best dancer?

The Boogieman

Who keeps an eye out for ghost ships?

The ghost guard

What happened to the man who forgot to pay his exorcist?

His house got repossessed

I hope you enjoyed these jokes, even if they made your eyes roll. Bye for now!

Posted in Blogtober

Blogtober Day 28: My Family’s Paranormal Experiences

We’re so close to Halloween now! To honour the fast approaching spookiest day of the year, I thought I’d do something a bit different for today’s Blogtober post. Here are some weird things that have happened to me and/or my family members that are possibly paranormal.

Poltergeist in the house?

This is one that my mum has told me about as it happened before I was born. When my mum and dad first moved in together, for a short while they lived in a house only a stone’s throw from the one we live in now. It was a brand new semi-detached property with nothing obviously spooky about it, except from the wealth of weird things that happened there. One time they went out only to come home and discover all the windows were open when they had been shut when they left, another time they got back to the house to find all the clocks set to different times. Things would move and turn up in places that both mum and dad were sure they hadn’t left them and the kitchen tap turned on by itself. Most spooky of all was when there was a powercut and my mum was carrying a candle up the stairs to light her way in the dark when the candle suddenly went out and she felt a presence right before her. She told it to go away and the presence seemed to move off. Eek, I don’t think I’d have been so brave.

The UFO

This one involves my Nan and again happened way before I was even born but she has told this story the same all my life so I definitely believe her. She was walking home from the shops one day and had to stop on the route to put the heavy bags down for a moment before continuing on the journey. When she did, she happened to glance up at the sky to see a grey cigar-shaped object which then shot off with flames firing out the back. When she made it home no one believed what she had seen until the next day’s local newspaper reported that the teams coming off a nearby football pitch had seen the exact same thing.

A haunted jukebox?

Ok, exciting times for me because I’m actually in this one. This one relates to my Nan, not the one in the last story, my grandmother on the other side of the family. She was a big spirit in life, she loved her family and putting on a spread for us all when we went around, even if she was a bit old-fashioned. After she died, we kept feeling like she wasn’t really gone. We had a few weird electrical faults and the song we were going to play at her funeral seemed to come on the TV or radio every time we mentioned her (it still did for a long time afterwards). Then the funeral happened and we all went to a local function room for the reception. There was a jukebox in the room but obviously they knew no one would be playing tunes at a funeral reception so it was switched off. But, somehow the jukebox burst into life and starting playing, of all songs, Every Breath You Take by The Police. In the end, someone went and unplugged it.

Also, I don’t fully know how to explain this one and this really did only happen to me so I haven’t got anyone else’s words or recollections to help me here so bear with me. One time I was at her house, visiting my granddad and I had a glass of orange juice while I was there. My parents arrived to pick me up so I was going to take the glass to the kitchen and wash it up but as soon as I attempted to take a step into the kitchen, I was filled with an overwhelming feeling. The only way I can describe it is that it was like a wave crashed over in my mind and suddenly I was thinking about her, only her, and it was so sudden and fierce I stopped dead in my tracks and felt frightened – not by her, just by the feeling. I’ve never experienced anything like it before or since. I feel like maybe it was her way of saying to me not to worry about washing up that glass, she was such a keen hostess in life, I know she wouldn’t have wanted to clean up at her house if she was there. I ended up just reaching into the room from the doorway and leaving the glass on the side.

This was a very different post from me as I don’t usually talk about my family on this blog but I hope this was interesting. I know these experiences aren’t nearly as extreme as what some people have seen but I promise they are all true. Feel free to share any spooky experiences you’ve had in the comments because I love hearing other people’s stories. Bye for now!

Posted in Blogtober, History

Blogtober Day 27: It’s All in the Origins: Familiars

This is a bit of unusual edition of my It’s All in the Origins series but I was doing some research into the concept of familiars and thought it was all too interesting not to dedicate a whole post just to familiar folklore and fiction. If you are unfamiliar (pun intended lol), familiars are most often said to be demons that took the form of a creature, whether an animal or some kind of monster, to assist a witch with their evil dealings.

During the European witch craze, the presence of familiars was used as a means of identifying witches in England and Scotland. This was mostly because James I had mentioned familiars in his book on witchcraft, Daemonologie, and Matthew Hopkins, the self-titled ‘Witchfinder General’ of England, ran with the idea in his investigations. As it was believed that familiars were gifts from the Devil and would suckle from those they served, Hopkins would examine the bodies of suspected witches for a “witch’s teat”, a form of witch’s mark that the familiar would drink their blood from.

However, not all familiars, or those they lived alongside, were thought to be evil. Some cunning folk of the time were also known to keep familiars that aided them in their good magic. There is a suggestion that in the case of cunning folk, the familiars were fairies rather than demons.

Boy: A Real-Life Familiar?

Onto one of the most famous cases of a familiar now. Boy was the white hunting poodle of Prince Rupert of the Rhine. Prince Rupert is best known for fighting on the side of the Royalists in the English Civil War and, apparently, so did Boy. The dog was said to accompany Rupert during battles and he soon became a mascot for the Royalist cause. This led to Parliamentarian propaganda claiming that Rupert dabbled in witchcraft and Boy was his familiar. Some even claimed that Boy was the Devil in disguise. A much more bizarre suggestion was that Boy was a “Lapland Lady” reincarnate. However, the strange stories about Boy don’t stop there as he was said to have magical abilities. These ranged from shapeshifting to being able to locate hidden treasure to being able to catch a bullet in his mouth. Ultimately, Boy was to die in battle but his story certainly takes the idea of “man’s best friend” to a spooky new level.

Modern Familiars

Familiars still pop up in fantasy fiction all the time today. From Sabrina the Teenage Witch’s cat Salem to Lyra’s Daemon in His Dark Materials, the familiars are usually presented in a much cuter light, perhaps owing to the fact that so many own pets these days. I’ve had quite a few pets in life, including several dogs, and I have to say there is something about the bond between human and pet that is so unique and quite special. Even though you don’t speak the same language, you develop a weird understanding that allows you to communicate and it’s not hard to see why those unfamiliar with this bond themselves could see it as almost magical, and, just maybe it is in a way. I know I wouldn’t trade my familiar, Rebel the labradoodle, for the world!

Rebel, the world’s best labradoodle
Posted in Blogtober

Blogtober Day 26: Top 5 Urban Legends

Nothing says Halloween like sinister stories that have pervaded our cultural psyche, and there are few that have captured the minds of the masses as much as these five urban legends. Are they just old wives’ tales or is there truly something spooky going on?

1. Killer in the Backseat

This classic urban legend goes a little something like this, imagine you’re driving alone at night on a quiet road when a truck comes flying up behind you, flashing their full beam and indicating for you to pull over. You think there’s no way you’re stopping until you’re safely home but the driver keeps on following you. It’s only when you make it home that you discover the other driver was trying to get your attention because a murderer had snuck onto your backseat. I’ll be honest, this is actually the one on this list that does make me shudder. I have no idea where I first heard this story but it’s clearly got in my head as I genuinely do check my backseat every time I drive anywhere on my own.

2. Bloody Mary

Who hasn’t heard of Bloody Mary?! If you’re not familiar with this particular urban legend, the gist is you go into your bathroom, light some candles and say “Bloody Mary” thirteen times (I think sometimes you have to spin around when you say it but why that would help, I don’t know) and then she is said to appear in your bathroom mirror. What happens then really varies according to different sources on the internet, some versions of the Bloody Mary legend are really brutal, some surprisingly tame.

3. Black-eyed Children

This one is pretty bizarre. Throughout the world there have reports of children with black eyes knocking on people’s doors and asking to go inside their home or car. The key thing here is that no matter what reason they give, you shouldn’t let them instead otherwise something bad will happen. It’s certainly a spooky story and if you want to find out more about them, there are countless tales of allegedly true accounts of Black-eyed Children online.

4. Men in Black

It’s more than a Will Smith movie, the urban legend of the Men in Black goes back several decades. Conspiracy theorists and urban legend fans claim that the Men in Black are either agents from a top-secret strand of the FBI or some kind of alien race. They are said to be men in suits and dark glasses who silence anyone who claims to have seen aliens or UFOs.

5. Phantom Hitchhiker

I feel like this one is more of an odd phenomenon than a full-blown urban legend but I find it intriguing so I wanted to include it in this list. It’s a pretty straight forward myth, a driver picks up a hitchhiker who ends up disappearing at some point along the journey. In the UK, there is a road called the A229 where a fatal road collision occurred in 1965 near the Lower Bell Pub on Blue Bell Hill. Since then, there have been numerous claims of a woman in a white dress hitchhiking along the road only to disappear before she reaches her destination. It’s this classic phantom hitchhiker case that has led to the A229 being named one of the UK’s most haunted roads.

Spooky stuff but what do you make of it? Are you an urban legend fan or are you a total skeptic? Let me know in the comments!

Posted in Blogtober

Blogtober Day 25: Tulleys Farm Haunted Drive In Cinema Experience

Last night, my sister and I headed to Tulleys Farm in Crawley to watch Little Shop of Horrors at their Haunted Drive In Cinema. It was a fun and spooky way to spend an October evening so I thought I’d write about the experience here and recommend it to anyone near enough to head over to Tulleys to catch a movie before they finish up in November.

I’ve been to Tulleys Farm a couple of times before at Halloween because they usually transform the place into a Halloween haven called Shocktober Fest. They have “haunts” which are spooky scream park-style attractions, rides, live music, food stalls and a Halloween gift shop as well as a whole host of actors dressed as ghosts and ghouls to jump out at you. It really is a fun experience but obviously, due to COVID, they couldn’t go ahead with their regular Halloween plans so they’ve created a drive in cinema showing Halloween-themed movies instead. It’s a great idea and a good back-up plan to ensure they are still able to profit from spooky season.

So, on to the experience itself. I’ve never been to a drive in cinema before and it was a really cool thing to get to try out. The Tulleys team had a really well-organised system for ensuring everyone had a good time. When you buy tickets, you pay per car so even though it was only my sister and me in my car, you could really make your money stretch if you have a full car load. You can also get cheaper tickets if you park in the rear section, which we did. Despite being at the back, we had a great view. All the cars were evenly spread out and the screen is high enough so you can easily see it through your windscreen and socially distance from those around you if you want to get out of your car for any reason. You also get given a speaker for your car when you arrive so you can clearly hear the movie, even with your doors shut.

They have a system on-site that allows you to order hot food and film snacks that staff will deliver to your car for you. Although the food isn’t cheap, it’s no more expensive than you’d get at the average cinema and it is good quality. To make it spooky, they also have actors dressed as cinema ghosts hanging around, they don’t disturb you while you’re watching your movie and, as it was raining pretty heavily last night, I think they were probably mostly keeping under cover while we were there. They did serenade everyone with Sining in the Rain as we were all leaving though!

Before the film began, they ran a trailer for next year’s Shocktober Fest which featured clips from previous years accompanied by a light and pyrotechnic show at the sides of the screen which was a great way to honour what would have been their 25th year of Shocktober Fest.

Overall, I’d say it was a really fun experience and Tulleys Farm did a great job of still making the most of spooky season this year. To book tickets, head to the Tulleys Farm website and if you want some ideas of what to watch at home this Halloween, check out my list of horror movies I’ll be watching and some non-scary recommendations as well.

Posted in Blogtober

Blogtober Day 24: Spooky Would You Rather?

For today’s Blogtober post I thought I’d give you some spooky would you rather-style questions to think over. I’ll be sharing my answers as well and feel free to share your answers in the comments or on your blog if you like.

Would you rather spend a whole night in a haunted castle or a whole day in a creepy clown fairground?

My answer: I would love to spend a night in a haunted castle to see what would happen and the idea of being around clowns all day is horrifying so definitely the castle.

Would you rather be turned into a vampire or a werewolf?

My answer: Hmm, I have a fear of blood so I don’t think I’d fare well as a vampire (plus, I’m not really down with the murdering people for their blood thing!) so I think I’d rather be a werewolf because at least that’s a full moon-only gig.

Would you rather keep Halloween to once a year or celebrate Halloween every month?

My answer: I love Halloween but part of the joy of it is that it comes once a year. I don’t think it would be as a special every month.

Would you rather spend your Halloween watching a scary movie marathon or pumpkin picking and baking goodies?

My answer: Probably the movie marathon but most sound good to me.

Would you rather do a seance in a graveyard or get spooked at a scream park?

My answer: Again, both of these are quite tempting. I’ve always been a bit wary of the idea of disturbing the dead in their final resting place though so I might go for the scream park for that reason.

Would you rather dress up as a scary zombie or a superhero?

My answer: Zombie, I prefer Halloween costumes that link to spooky season and aren’t just random personally.

Would you rather go trick-or-treating or stay home and give out sweets to the trick-or-treaters?

My answer: Both of these can be quite fun but I do miss the days when I was young enough to go trick-or-treating so if it was socially acceptable to go trick-or-treating as an adult (and we weren’t living through a pandemic) then I’d probably say I’d rather be doing the trick-or-treating.

Would you rather stay in a lonely cabin in the woods or a swanky hotel reported to be haunted?

My answer: Haunted hotel, to me ghosts are way less scary than the thought of being isolated in the middle of nowhere.

Would you rather watch Hocus Pocus or Saw?

My answer: Hocus Pocus is literally my favourite Halloween movie!

Would you rather hold a live spider or do a skydive?

My answer: I’m way more scared of heights than I am spiders so hand over the spider.

Would you rather live in a haunted house or work in a haunted building?

My answer: As weird and annoying as it might be to have ghosts kicking around when you’re trying to work, I really don’t think I could live in a haunted house. Plus, lunch break ghost hunts sound really fun!

Would you rather have to babysit a haunted doll or do an Ouija Board session?

My answer: Even though I said I don’t think Ouija Boards are evil in another one of my Blogtober posts, I still don’t think I’m brave enough to attempt one just in case. Besides, it could be fun babysitting a haunted doll… or maybe not but it’s what I’m choosing here.

I hope you enjoyed these spooky would you rather questions, bye for now!

Posted in Blogtober, Books, History

Blogtober Day 23: Did Horace Walpole Invent Horror?

If you type ‘Who invented horror?’ into Google, Horace Walpole’s name pops up at the top of the search results. This is due to his authorship of his 1764 novel The Castle of Otranto, a tale of ghosts and an old castle which features the subtitle ‘A Gothic Story’. Although Google seems sure, I wanted to explore whether there were any other people in history who could possibly lay claim to the title of ‘inventor of the horror genre’.

So, what exactly is horror?

The Oxford English Dictionary defines horror as ‘a type of book, movie, etc. that is designed to frighten people’. This is incredibly vague and somewhat subjective. Were there really no works of fiction created with the intention of frightening people until 1764?

The Ancient Candidates

Let’s go back, way way back to the time of gods and monsters. The ancient Greeks had all manner of frightening beasts in their mythology, from Cerberus to the Hydra to the Minotaur. The ancient Greeks are also known for their love of theatre and storytelling. Although horror wasn’t in the classic triad of ancient Greek theatre genres, there were some pretty brutal murders and disturbing taboos explored in the tragedy plays. However, there was rarely anything too graphic or scary on the stage, despite some of the nastiest-sounding murders in fiction stemming from these plays, they were usually described rather than shown. That doesn’t mean the dialogue didn’t conjure up pretty horrific images. There’s a famous speech delivered by a Messenger in Euripides’ Medea that describes a rather brutal poisoning: ‘Her eyes no longer kept their wonted form nor did her shapely face, and from the top of her head blood dripped, mingled with fire, and her flesh dropped from her bones like resin from a pine-torch, torn by the unseen jaws of the poison, a dreadful sight to behold.’

Even without showing these murders on stage, these scenes were likely intended to be frightening. But, if we fly ahead in history and take a look at some of the best-remembered plays of the English Renaissance I think we’ll find a few more examples of pre-Walpole horror seeping into literature. Shakespeare’s tragedies had characters dropping like flies, if they survived to the end, they were in the minority. But, it’s not the murders I want to focus on as much as the supernatural elements. Nowadays, there’s an understanding that good horror speaks to its contemporaneous audiences and plays on the specific fears of their time. One of the most talked about topics and sources of genuine fear for many in the Jacobean period was witchcraft. King James I was obsessed with witches, he even wrote a book about them called Daemonologie. Shakespeare was no fool, he knew that in order to stay in favour with the royals, he had to write about what interested them (hence why the Tudors are bigged up in the history plays) so the Weird Sisters are given full license to be creepy and spooky as Hell in his Scottish play.

However, much as we see with the ancient Greek theatre, true horror and frightening scenes weren’t always portrayed on stage and theatre is naturally a trickier art form to show horror due to the limitations of stagecraft. Maybe it was only a matter of time until someone like Walpole took these theatrical tremors of horror and put them into a book with the rise novel in the 1700s due to technological developments in printing presses. Walpole himself even drew similarities between his novel and Shakespeare’s works, suggesting he didn’t necessarily see what he was doing was particularly original.

Why does it matter?

It doesn’t really. It’s a fairly arbitrary issue. The definition of horror is so vague that pinpointing the first work of fiction to ever intentionally strike fear into its audience is basically impossible. I think Walpole did do something meaningful with his novel but I’m not sure if it’s fair to claim he invented horror.

As a genre, horror is often regarded as not being very high brow. It’s associated with base and popular but forgettable storytelling, from cheaply made movies to Victorian penny dreadfuls. Even Euripides is the often the most criticised of the ancient Greek tragedians.

I personally think there is real skill in being able to scare an audience or reader. It’s not an easy task. Plus, there’s nothing wrong with celebrating what’s popular because sometimes that’s what ends up making history. In fact, if it wasn’t for this line of thinking, Walpole might not have claim to the title at all. In the first edition of The Castle of Otranto, not only did Walpole use a pseudonym, but he put a note at the start of book stating that it was a translation by a William Marshal from a Medieval Italian manuscript. It was only when the book became so popular that Walpole identified himself as the real author and therefore the modern ‘inventor’ of horror.

Posted in Blogtober, Movies

Blogtober Day 22: Horror Films on My To-Watch List

I’ve spoken about my non-scary Halloween movie picks this Blogtober already so I thought today I’ll share the much more frightening picks on my to-watch list. The reason I haven’t watched any of these yet is because I’ve only recently re-discovered that I actually quite like horror movies, I thought I didn’t for years and now I’m playing catch-up.

1. Get Out (2017)

I’ve only heard glowing reviews for this recent horror/thriller so I can’t wait to give this a watch. I’m expecting this to be more of a thought-provoking watch as well as gripping edge-of-your-seat kind of movie and given the hype, I’m sure I won’t be disappointed.

2. Us (2019)

Jordan Peele’s next big horror hit after Get Out, Us, looks truly freaky. All I know is that it’s about dopplegangers, which sounds spooky enough for me.

3. Hereditary (2018)

I wasn’t the biggest fan of Midsommar when I saw it (more on that here) but I really want to give Hereditary a go. I honestly think Toni Collette is one of the best actors of recent years so I’m keen to see her in a horror movie.

4. The Conjuring (2013)

I know there are quite a few movies in The Conjuring series so I’m planning to watch all of them at some point. Of course, that means I need to start at the very beginning. I know The Conjuring is a modern horror classic so it’s one I need to see soon. Also, I’m really curious to see a fictionalised version of Ed and Lorriane Warren!

5. It: Chapter Two (2019)

I liked It. I didn’t love It. I think there were some really strong things about the movie but overall it was a bit long for me and Beverley’s dad ended up scaring me more than Pennywise (though, maybe that was the point). I am interested to see what happens in this sequel though so I’ll give this a watch soon.

6. The Blair Witch Project (1999)

I know right, where have I been? It’s on the list, ok.

7. Halloween (1978)

I’m not sure if I’m much of a slasher fan but I feel like I need to see the film that made them popular to really decide. Plus, the title literally screams spooky season.

8. Scream (1996)

Once I’m done with Halloween the film, I think I need to watch Scream. The main thing I know about this movie is that it subverts slasher movie tropes using black comedy which sounds so good and interesting I just think I need to see more slashers first to really appreciate it.

9. Black Swan (2010)

I’ve been meaning to watch this film since it first came out. I even bought the DVD because I thought it looked so good and everyone was talking about it. The reason I haven’t watched it yet is that I was a bit too scared so now that I’m older and getting more into horror, I think I’m ready to dust off the DVD.

10. The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)

I love musicals and I have no idea why I haven’t watched Rocky Horror yet. I’m going to watch it this year, it’s definitely time (warp lol)!

Do you have a favourite horror movie? Mine might be A Quiet Place right now, though, as I said, I haven’t seen many! Let me know what horror movies you’ll be watching this Halloween in the comments. Bye for now!