How Horror Stories Can Be Good For You

How Horror Stories Can Be Good For You

Scary Stories Which Help Fight the Darkness
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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.


Cover Image Credit: Mathew MacQuarrie

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To the guy that shot my brother...

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To the guy that shot my brother,

On January 9, 2019 my families entire life changed with one phone call. The phone call that my little brother had been shot in the face, no other details. We didn't need any other details. The woman on the phone who called us in full panic told us where he was so we went, as soon as possible. I don't think it helped that not even 10 min prior I talked to Zach on the phone.. kind of irritated with him, and the ONE TIME I didn't say 'I love you' as we hung up. Could've been the last time we ever spoke.. I remember pulling up to the hospital thinking 'this can't be real' 'it's not our Zach' 'this is just a dream Sarah, WAKE UP' I'd close my eyes really tight just to open them, I was still in the hospital emergency parking lot. I could still hear the ambulance sirens coming. It was all real.

The day our life's changed was definitely a test of faith. A test of how strong we were, as a family. I sat in that waiting room ready to see the damage that has been done to my sweet baby brother. Because at that point we had no idea how lucky he got. That glimpse of seeing Zach will haunt me forever. How helpless I felt in that exact moment frequently wakes me up from these horrific dreams I've been having ever since that day. That is a moment burned into my me and families brain forever.

You always hear about these things in the movies or on the news, a house being shot up, someone shooting another innocent person, not to care if they died on your watch. But we found ourselves on the news.. We have been confined to the hospital since that day. Running on barely any sleep, taking shifts of sleep so we don't make ourselves sick taking care of Zach. Watching him suffer. Undergoing surgeries, to repair the damage you did.

Before I proceed let me tell you a little something about the man you shot.

Zachary Keith Wright. A blonde hair blue eyed boy. Who could potentially be the most annoying human on the planet (possibly coming from his sister). A man who loves his God first, loves his family second. Perfect by no means, but almost perfect to me. A 19 year old who was to graduate high school this month. After graduation he was prepping to leave for Marine boot camp in the summer.. being in the military has been Zach's dream since he could talk. Literally. Running around, playing war with underwear on our heads, and finger guns. Some would say we looked like natural born assassins.. growing up he has been a country boy. Let me tell ya country to the core. He loves this country like he loves his family. He believes in helping people, taking charge in what's right, and never leaving a brother behind. He's lived by that his whole life. Until now....

The day you shot him. The day not only did you change my brothers life, you changed his families life too. The day you almost ripped my brother out of this world... for what? A misunderstanding? Because you've let something take ahold of your life that you can't let go you're willing to kill someone innocent over? Luckily for him, his guardian angels were protecting him in your time of cowardice. There were 3 times that day he should've died, the time you shot him, the time you tried to shoot him again as he stared you directly in the face, (even tho he couldn't talk I know you could read his eyes, and he still intimidated you. That's why you tried to pull the trigger again) and the time he was running out of the house. But he lived. A man who was shot in the face, didn't lay there helpless, didn't scream in agony. That MAN walked to the neighbors to get help. Why? Because he's a MAN, and because he's on this earth for a reason.

It's gonna sound a little strange not only to you, but the audience who is reading this. I must say thank you. Even in this situation, this was the best outcome we could get. He gets to live. He will make a full recovery. He will graduate. And he will go off into the Marines. You united my family together. Closer than ever. Thank you. You tested our faith and brought us closer to our God. Thank you. Because of your moment of weakness, you showed us what prayer could do. Heal anything. Thank you. This was a bump in the road, and a helluva way to kick off our year of 2019. But here we are.. all laying in the hospital. I'm looking around as mom is sleeping in her recliner chair exhasted but still here, Zach his awake playing his xbox all hooked up to machines, fighting to heal and get better. And of course I'm writing this letter to you.

See you in trial,

From the girl whose brother you shot.

'Fight the good fight' - 1 Tim 6:12 🤟🏼💙

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5 Ways You Can Stop Producing so Much Trash

We produce a lot more trash than you think, until you start paying attention to your actions.

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One of my major goals this year is to do more to save the planet as well as animals. I have already been vegetarian for three years. and I'm plan to stay vegetarian, but I want to have a more plant based diet. As well, I want to start reducing the amount of trash I produce. Not only because I realize just how drastically our trash is affecting wildlife, but also because I think having to take out your trash twice a week is way too much trash!

1. Bring recyclables to a recycling center or reuse them around the home!

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This is something I want to start doing! I always get take out food and throw away the containers, when I could be using those containers to carry my lunch everyday! Also, I want to start collecting my plastic water bottles and taking them to the recycling center on campus instead of just throwing them away

2. Invest in a reuseable water bottle

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This would actually fix my water bottle problem. I need to invest in a nice, reuseable water bottle that I can refill, rather than throwing away 3-4 water bottles a day. Amazon has a lot of varieties of these bottles ranging from inexpensive to expensive, cool designs, and even one that holds snacks.

3. Reuseable Straws

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This is a great addition to your new reuseable water bottle! Like trash, you don't realize how much you use (and throw away) straw, until you actually start to keep count. I thought i didn't use straws at all because I never bought them in my life, but then you go out to eat (straw), you go to Starbucks (straw). Having a glass straw is actually really useful to reduce your trash, in cases when you wish you had a straw but don't, and sanitary purposes. Those straw sitting out at Starbucks, are they really that clean?

4. Donate old/unwanted clothes

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This is something I already do. I go through my drawers and closet once a year, and just put all the clothes I haven't worn all year, or just don't want into a garbage bag. I'm usually able to fill at least one (gallon) garbage bag with clothes to take to Goodwill!

5. Use actual plates instead of paper plates

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This is another huge mistake of mine! I hate doing dishes, so I try to buy paper plates to make less dishes, but in the end I'm producing more and more trash! I'm convinced the reason I have to take out my trash so often is because I eat so much! It's time to be a big girl now and start washing my dishes...or start using my dish washer

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