How Horror Stories Can Be Good For You
Entertainment

How Horror Stories Can Be Good For You

Scary Stories Which Help Fight the Darkness

529
How Horror Stories Can Be Good For You
Mathew MacQuarrie

There’s a million-dollar question which comes up at Halloween: “Why do people like horror stories?”

In other words, why on earth do people like scary stories about terrible things happening?


I began studying horror stories when I was about seventeen. I did this partly because I was curious about the appeal, and partly because I wanted to be able to scare readers if I needed to. I’ve read or listened to four or five horror writers discuss their work, and three of them have made the same defense: horror stories can be a kind of vaccination.


Stephen King suggested this in his book “Danse Macabre,” commenting that when horror stories have happy endings they reaffirm the belief things will work out in the end.


Dean Koontz, a thriller writer who uses horror elements in his work, said something similar in his essay "Keeping the Reader on the Edge of His Seat," collected in “How to Write Tales of Horror, Fantasy & Science Fiction." He claimed stories such as “Psycho” or “The Exorcist” can “purge us of the psychological muck that is a residue of getting through life’s bad moments,” and that if those stories have well-developed and honorable characters they may even teach people how to face terrible situations.

Essentially, these writers were both arguing horror stories can help you face dark things and deal with them. This is a sound theory -- psychologists use this principle in exposure therapy, where patients gradually expose themselves to whatever frightens them until they overcome their fears. The problem is neither Koontz nor King really gave strong examples; they didn’t explain how a particular horror story helped readers face darkness.

Which brings me to the third author.


Neil Gaiman has written various horror stories, most notably the children’s book “Coraline.” Gaiman began writing “Coraline” as a gift to his daughter, who enjoyed scary stories but couldn’t find many for someone her age. The story follows a young girl, Coraline, who discovers a secret door in her new home. The door leads Coraline to a parallel dimension with a woman who has black buttons for eyes, her “Other Mother.” The Other Mother seems nice at first and Coraline considers staying until she discovers the price involved…


Needless to say, “Coraline” is a scary book and when Gaiman first described it to his agent and publisher, neither thought it was publishable. By the time Gaiman was finished writing it though, book publishing had changed -- according to Gaiman, books series like “Harry Potter” and “A Series of Unfortunate Events” proved that there was a market for darker children’s stories. Ultimately, “Coraline” was well-received and adapted into a 2009 film.


When people ask Gaiman about how scary “Coraline” is, Gaiman often responds that actually kids rarely tell him the book scared them and that he wrote it with a very positive takeaway.

“When I [started writing] ‘Coraline’,” Gaiman explained in one interview, “I thought, ‘I am going to make my villain as bad a villain as I can… and I’m not going to give Coraline magic powers, and I’m not going to make her some kind of special Chosen One, and she’s not going to be a secret princess or anything like that -- she’s going to be a smart little girl who’s going to be scared and is going to keep doing the right thing anyway, and that’s what brave is. And she is going to triumph by being smarter and braver.’”


Over ten years since “Coraline” was released, that takeaway has had some results. Gaiman mentioned in his talk at the 2014 BIL Conference that in a recent book signing tour, he discovered women in their twenties were regularly showing up with copies of “Coraline” for him to sign. They almost always had cheap, battered copies that were printed when those women were still teenagers. The women were always holding those books tightly, and when they finally reached Gaiman they would tell him how reading “Coraline” got them through difficult times.

These young women all mentioned traumatic pasts, usually ones that involved abuse or bullying. But reading a story about a brave little girl who stood up against worse circumstances either motivated them to persevere or provided a necessary escape.

Horror can be instructional. Horror can be illuminating. Horror can help people if horror writers create stories which show truth and light at the end of dark corridors.


Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

-Having struggled with acne prone skin for years, I was cautious to try a new serum on top of the other products I've come to trust.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

Your Social Activism May Actually Benefit From A Cleansing Social Media Detox

In the craziest year of our lives, sometimes there's value in taking a break.

We are living through, unequivocally, one of the most dangerous, unstable, chaotic periods of any of our lives. From COVID-19 to crises of police brutality to the mass exploitation of the poor by mega-corporations, the world outside seems to be looking more dystopic every day. What can be done about it? For many, activism involves heavily posting on social media to keep others aware. However, this comes with a net negative cost — increased levels of anxiety, depression, and hopelessness about the state of the world. Why might this be? After all, in past eras activists have endured comparable and greater levels of abuse and relentless torment from oppressors. Why, now, are people getting so easily burnt out?

Keep Reading... Show less

Reading is a relaxing activity that provides many benefits. Everybody reads books (when they are not watching Netflix, chatting on social media, or making Tik Tok videos) to distract themselves from reality for a while. Many do not realize the positive impact that books have like reducing stress, assisting with sleep, improving cognitively, and strengthening the mind. In honor of National Book Day, there are many great novels that you can read to mark this special holiday. Here are the best ones to check out.

Keep Reading... Show less
Entertainment

5 Things You Need To Know Before You Watch 'Arrested Development' On Netflix

"Her?" Yes, she's an amazing show! (You'll get this joke after you watch the show).

Netflix

"Arrested Development" is an award-winning sitcom that aired for three seasons on Fox beginning in 2003, and then was picked up by Netflix for a fourth season in 2013, and then again for a final season in 2018.

However, it seems to remain one of the world's most underrated and under-appreciated shows of all time. Although this article alone won't be enough to skyrocket the show to Netflix's top 10, I hope that it will open people's eyes to the value and quality of the show.

Keep Reading... Show less

I have always felt left out because of how I look and who I am. I have always felt like the elephant in the room, literally. I have always been shamed for my size. For the longest time, I cared so much about what I wear and who I wore certain things in front of. I never wanted to wear shirts that would show a lot of my arm, located above my elbow. I wouldn't wear shorts that didn't go to the tip of my knees, at least. I never wore anything remotely tight, where you could see every curve, roll, or imperfection. I was so insecure about myself, and not many of my friends knew.

Keep Reading... Show less

Being a pharmacy technician never held as many risks as it does now. Exposure too hazardous conditions were little to none, and garbing up was only conducted in IV compounding. But, now, in order to give nurses the medications they need to help their patients, they need us, pharmacy technicians.

Keep Reading... Show less
Swoon

I Asked My Boyfriend His Opinion On Liking Other Girls’ Pictures, And, Spoiler Alert, It's Cheating

"When you get into a relationship and you're in love, you have to realize that liking photos is for the single lifestyle."

Ladies, listen up. If you are in a relationship with a guy and he is liking other girls' pictures on social media, then it's a red flag. A man who can look at someone else and show interest by liking it means he doesn't care about your feelings AT ALL.

Keep Reading... Show less
Entertainment

Celebrities Stealing Designs From Small Fashion Labels Is NOT A Good Look, And They Need To Pay Up

When larger, more established figures or brands steal from lesser-known independent creators, they are taking opportunities away from these creators while also profiting from someone else's work and claiming it as their own.

Megan Thee Stallion and Cardi B recently collaborated on their new single "WAP," with the music video also being released on Friday. Both Megan Thee Stallion and Cardi B posted photos of themselves on Instagram to celebrate the premiere of "WAP." An independent designer quickly noticed that the rappers' matching tops were copies of a top she had designed last year.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

When You Have A Disability, Finding A Job Is Twice As Hard, Believe Me, I Know

We have got to create a safer work environment for people with disabilities.

"My advice to other disabled people would be, concentrate on things your disability doesn't prevent you from doing well, and don't regret the things it interferes with. Don't be disabled in spirit as well as physically." – Stephen Hawking

Keep Reading... Show less
Lifestyle

7 Books That Are NOT In The Young Adult Genre That Will Change Your Life

Young Adult isn't the only genre that exists, so here are seven books that any book lover wanting to try something new will love.

One of the most popular genres in literature that everyone has read at least one book from is Young Adult fiction. Now, I personally can say that, in the past, I have been one of those people that only read from the YA section of the bookstore.
While there is absolutely nothing wrong with just reading one genre, it's good sometimes to venture out of your reading comfort zone into the other book genres of the literary world.

In a previous article, I discussed the importance and power of words. The perfect example of this is literature and its impact on the world. Books have always played a crucial part in human lives, from how we are able to expand our knowledge to how we pass our time.

Keep Reading... Show less
Facebook Comments