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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Prince Harry's royal wedding is officially over and there won't be another British royal wedding for quite some time now, as Prince George is way too young to start thinking about that. Fortunately, there are plenty of other countries with plenty of other princes that are still eligible bachelors at the moment. Lucky for you, I did my research and compiled a list of all the eligible princes you need to know about know that Prince Harry has tied the knot with Meghan Markle.

1. Prince Louis of Luxembourg (31)

Prince Louis is the third son of the Grand Duke Henri and Duchess Maria Theresa of Luxembourg. He has recently become a bachelor again after his separation with his wife of 10 years, Princess Tessy.

Fun Fact: He graduated from Richmond, The American International University of London with a BA in Communications. He can also speak Luxembourgish (the fact that's even a language is fun fact by itself), French, German, and English fluently.

2. Prince Sebastien of Luxembourg (26)

Prince Sebastien is the youngest child of the Grand Duke Henri and Duchess Maria Theresa of Luxembourg, so if you marry him, you'll probably never actually be queen because he's pretty far removed from the throne. However, he's relatively young and single, so best of luck.

Fun Fact: For some bizarre reason, this prince actually went to college in Ohio. He played rugby and graduated from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2015. Now, he is back in his home country and is an officer in the Luxembourg Army.

3. Prince Phillipos of Greece and Denmark (34)

You read that correctly, Prince Phillipos is the prince of not one, but two countries. He is the youngest son of King Constantine and Queen Anne Marie of Greece and Denmark. Unfortunately, Greece abolished their monarchy, so he's a prince in name only there.

Fun Fact: Like Prince Sebastien, Prince Phillipos also went to college in the United States. He earned his B.A. in foreign relations from Georgetown University in 2008. Fortunately, for us American girls, he is actually still living in the US and he works in New York City as an analyst at Ortelius Capital.

4. Prince Albert of Thurn and Taxis (34)

Ever heard of Thurn and Taxis? No? Me neither. Anyways, Prince Albert is from the House of Thurn and Taxis, which is essentially a very old German aristocratic family. He is the son of Prince Johannes XI of Thurn and Taxis and Countess Gloria of Schonburg Glauchau. His family is well known for their breweries and castles, so unless you're gluten-free, you can't really complain.

Fun Fact: He's not just a prince. He's also a racecar driver and 10 years ago he was ranked 11th on Forbes Magazine's List of The 20 Hottest Young Royals.

5. Prince Mateen of Brunei (26)

Prince Mateen is basically like all the guys you already know, except he's royalty. He's the prince of Brunei, which is a small country on the island of Borneo, south of Vietnam. He is one of the five sons of Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, and he also has seven sisters. Maybe that's a little different than the guys you know, but one thing he takes very seriously, just like most frat guys, is his Instagram.

Fun Fact: Mateen enjoys playing polo, flying in his private plane, cuddling cute wild animals, and keeping up his Insta game with 890k followers. You can follow him @tmski.

6. Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum of Dubai (35)

Sheikh Hamdan also has a killer Instagram with 6.3 million followers. Anyways, Sheikh Hamdan is the billionaire crown prince of Dubai and the second son of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who is the prime minister of the United Arab Emirates and essentially the king of Dubai (Emir). He's actually next in line for the throne because his older brother died in 2015.

Fun Fact: Hamdan's hobbies include skydiving, zip lining, and diving, just to name a few, so if you're an adrenaline junkie, Sheikh Hamdan is the prince for you.

7. Prince Hussein of Jordan (23)

Prince Hussain is the son of the extremely beautiful, Queen Rania and Abdullah II of Jordan and next in line for the Jordanian throne. At 23, he's already a second lieutenant in the Jordanian Armed Forces and he was the youngest person ever to chair a UN Security Council Meeting


Fun Fact: Like Prince Phillippos, Prince Hussain also graduated from Georgetown University in Washington D.C.. Also, like Prince Mateen and Prince Hamdan, he's Insta famous with 1.3 million followers and you can follow him @alhusseinjo.

8. Prince Constantine-Alexios of Greece and Denmark (19)

Like Prince Phillipos, Prince Constantine-Alexios also has two countries. Lucky for us though, he is also living in the US right now attending Georgetown University in Washington D.C. (like pretty much every other prince, amirite?) He is the oldest son of Crown Princess Marie-Chantal and Crown Prince Pavlos of Greece.

Fun Fact: He's Prince William's godson, so that's pretty neat. However, if that wasn't cool enough, you might like to know that this Greek/Danish prince was actually born in New York. Oh yeah, you can also follow him on Instagram @alexiosgreece where he has 88.7k followers.

9. Prince Joachim of Belgium (26)

Prince Joachim of Belgium, Archduke of Austria-Este is the third child of Lorenz, Archduke of Austria-Este and Princess Astrid of Belgium. Although he bears the title, "Prince of Belgium," he is also Archduke of Austria-Este, Prince Royal of Hungary and Bohemia, and Prince of Modena. Unfortunately, he'll probably never actually be king in any of these countries as he is ninth in line to the Belgian throne.

Fun Fact: Prince Joachim has degrees in economics, management, and finance, but he decided to join the Nautical School in Brugge after completing college and is currently an officer in the Belgian Navy.

Hope is not lost for all you girls dreaming of finding a Prince Charming that's literally a prince. After reviewing the data, my best advice is to transfer to Georgetown where princes are basically around every corner.

Cover Image Credit: @meghantheduchessofsussexstyle/Instagram

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