|Posted on April 10, 2019 at 7:35 PM||comments (0)|
Ghosts. Some of us find them scary and some of us long to talk to them because they are our loved ones trying to reach out. Ghosts are beings that are still around after death. Some are good and some are bad, some interact and some are just images reliving their past experiences and cannot interact. So what exactly is the difference between a residual haunting and an intelligent haunting? Well my guest, the operator of the My Haunted Salem site on tumblr is here to explain the difference between the two.
What is a Residual Haunting?
Residual hauntings are somewhat hard to describe, but are fairly common. Also known as “psychic impressions,” residual hauntings are considered by many as the type of haunting experienced most by people. When a ghost (person or animal) or even an event is witnessed over and over again, or doing the exact same thing, this is known as a residual haunting. It is “residual” because it is believe that energy from emotionally-charged events imprint upon our world. It is the release of this residual energy that creates the ghost person, ghost animal or ghostly scene.
Famed paranormal investigator, Frederic W. H. Myers called this type of haunting a “vertical afterimage.” A residual haunting, according to Myers’ definition, would be a memory impression left by individuals, animals or events, especially, it would seem, when under duress or from a time when there was the release of strong emotions, left as pictures in the atmosphere of a particular site.
The ghosts of residual haunting can be both seen or heard repeating the same activity. It is believed that most disembodied footsteps and many ghostly noises that are heard in a haunted place might be residual in origin. The residual sounds can be heard over and over and by different people. For example, it is said that in the Queen Mary’s Second Class Pool Room, one can still hear splashing, though the pool is now empty!
We may think of a residual haunting as a movie being replayed, day after day; and occasionally, someone is lucky enough to see or hear the encore. It is believed by ghost hunters that some events, due to strong emotional energy attached to it, imprint themselves on the environment where the event took place. Sort of “trapped in time,” the event is recorded in the atmosphere of a location. It’s the same with spirits of people – if one were to see a ghost doing the same activity over and over, and with no response to the present environment, it is likely a residual haunting. The person’s spirit is not there, in this theory, but just a phantasm of them exists, like a photograph in time. Residual hauntings are past events playing in the present but with no interaction or connection to the present.
What is a Intelligent Haunting?
Intelligent haunting are those in which the ghost interacts with the present. It is intelligent, in that the ghost may communicate, or interfere in some fashion, with those of us living on the earthly plane. The disembodied person has elected, for some reason, to stay here due to a connection with a person, place or thing. Intelligent haunting sometimes happens due to a spirit’s compelling need to deliver a message from the other side of the grave or to watch over loved ones. In addition, it is also plausible that an intelligent haunting can occur due to attachments the ghostly person feels to memories, trauma, tragedy or any other emotional tie, effectively binding the mind to:
not realizing the deceased person’s body has indeed expired
completing unfinished earthly business
re-living traumatic events, as the mind consistently replays the event in an attempt to comprehend
perhaps remaining with loved ones or persons the ghost finds like company with
not letting go due to some form of fear after death, such as fear of punishment or moving on unto the unknown
Intelligent haunting manifests typically in what some may consider to be “ghost signs.” Hiding or moving objects, doors opening and closing, hearing strange sounds, noticing a spiritual presence (e.g. goosebumps), and the disturbance of electrical devices are all examples of ghosts attempting to gain someone’s attention and communicate from the spirit realm.
One may also experience dreams and visions of loved ones, especially, right before or after sleep when most of us are more open to contact (and the left brain is quieted down). It is also not uncommon to physically see a ghostly loved one, as well, as either an apparition or shadowed form. The best thing one can do is remain open to the contact and listen to what is heard deep within as that is how ghosts primarily communicate. If you encounter a haunting, seek to speak to the spirit, using in words of peace, compassion and love.
A big thank you to my guest for this great thorough explanation on residual and intelligent hauntings. Check out her tumblr page https://myhauntedsalem.tumblr.com/" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">@myhauntedsalem for more on ghosts.
If you liked this than feel free to check out the rest of my blog for more creepy horror posts as well as other topics. Feel free to subscribe to my e-mail list
And check out the novel that inspired this very question, The Wax Factory, a modern gothic horror novel with a dap of paranormal and ghosts.
|Posted on October 24, 2017 at 4:00 PM||comments (0)|
This latest guest post is from author Sara Jane Townsend and how women are not seen as writers of horror. This is a common theme in the writing and horror industry and it's good to see someone taking the time to speak up about it. Here are Sara's thoughts on how women don't write horror.
Many years ago, I belonged to an amateur theatre group. One of the ladies there was also a member of a writing group, and she encouraged me to accompany her to a meeting. I was in my early twenties at the time. A couple of things became immediately apparent – the first was evident when I first walked in, and realised I was at least twenty years younger than everyone else in the room.
The next thing took a little while to manifest itself. Initially people were very friendly, welcoming me into the group, but it seemed that most members of the group wrote romance novels and radio plays. And then I was asked that crucial question: “and what do you write?” “Horror,” I replied cheerfully.
Suddenly I understood the meaning of the phrase “deafening silence,” as it descended on the room at that moment. Everyone was staring at me. Eventually someone cleared their throat and said awkwardly, “Oh. We’ve never had one of THOSE before.”
Needless to say, I never went back to that writing group. Since then I have actively sought out other horror writers so that I feel less like a social pariah, but still there have been occasions over the years when people do a double take when I tell them I’m a horror writer. Generally what I get is “but you seem so nice,” with the implication being, clearly, that only weirdos and psychopaths could write horror.
The concept that women don’t write horror seems mystifying to me. After all, it could be argued that the first modern horror novel was “Frankenstein” – which was written by a teenage girl.
I’ve not always been a fan of horror, though. As a child, scary stories gave me nightmares. Then in grade 8, two things happened. First, I came across a book called ‘Different Seasons’ in the school library. This book, as any horror fan knows, consists of four novellas by Stephen King (three of which have been turned into films). I loved the book so much I went looking for more by the same author. The next one I picked up was “Carrie”. As a bullied teenager this one spoke volumes to me, and ever since then the illustrious Mr King has been my inspiration.
The second thing that happened was that my English teacher assigned the class to write a horror story. I always loved getting writing assignments at school – since most of my spare time was taken up by writing stories anyway, this never seemed like a chore to me. But I had never tried writing horror before. I ended up writing a story about ten teenagers who go on a camping trip and accidentally unleash a malevolent presence that possessed them and led them to kill each other horribly. While the story itself wasn’t all that good – I was only thirteen at the time, and had a lot to learn about writing – it triggered in me an appreciation for horror. And there’s been no stopping me since.
In many ways, horror has kept me sane. Throughout my teenage years I was able to exorcize the demons of puberty by writing about them. I wrote a lot of short horror stories in my late teens and early twenties and there are common themes that underline them all. Betrayal, isolation and loneliness are frequent refrains (and if anyone’s interested, the best of these early stories can be found amongst the stories in my collection SOUL SCREAMS).
When I started writing – and reading – horror, I never thought about it in terms of gender. I liked the genre, so I kept on writing it. It never occurred to me that “women don’t write horror”. In the 1990s, when I started submitting short stories, there were a lot of small press magazines around for the horror genre, and the stories within them were fairly evenly spread between male and female writers. At some point in the late 1990s, though, horror fell out of favour. This was bad news for me, as I’d started submitting my first horror novel and was struggling to find places to send it to. Horror seemed to disappear completely from book shops in the UK at that time. You’d find the likes of Stephen King and James Herbert in the ‘bestsellers’ section, and occasionally other horror writers would be shelved in ‘general fiction’, but there was no section specifically for horror.
In some ways, since then we seem to have been going backwards in terms of gender expectations. Toys and clothes for children are very clearly defined as for boys or for girls. I always thought this sends out a very bad message for children, as they learn early on that society wants them to get into a particular box, so that they can be neatly bombarded with the right marketing messages. Boys don’t play with dolls. Girls don’t play with cars. Girls wear clothes adorned with sparkly cute cartoon characters; boys wear t-shirts with superhero logos on.
When I first became aware of gender stereotyping, during my teenage years, it really bothered me that society wanted people to fit into particular boxes. For instance, I decided fairly on I didn’t want to have children. It still amazes me that there’s an assumption that all women have this nurturing maternal instinct. If that’s the case, I must have been absent when it was handed out.
I get particularly cross at Christmas, when we are bombarded by commercials that are full of sexist assumptions – that women want make-up sets and perfume for Christmas, and men want video games and the latest Black & Decker power tool. Anyone that knows me well enough to buy me a Christmas present ought to know I’d rather have a video game than a make-up kit, and I’m allergic to perfume so don’t even go there.
And really, that’s what the whole gender debate is about – marketing. I’m no expert on marketing (if I was I’d be selling a lot more books), but it does seem to be that there are a lot of short cuts taken when it comes to marketing anything, including books. “Men read spy thrillers and horror so let’s assume our audience for this new horror novel is entirely made up of men. Women read romance and ‘chick lit’, so we make the cover of this novel about a single twenty-something perennially looking for love all pink and sparkly”. There are plenty of us with two x-chromosomes who don’t read romance novels. During the wave of urban fantasy that rode in on the back of the success of ‘Buffy’ in the early 2000s I objected to those books that called themselves ‘urban fantasy’ but in reality were just romance novels involving supernatural creatures. I prefer to have my violence untainted by romance.
The problem is, it’s too easy to slap labels on things when you’re aiming for an easy sell. But if you work a bit harder, you’ll find a more appreciative audience. The same goes for horror. It’s very easy to name ten male top-selling horror authors, and wave that list around and say “well, women don’t write horror”.
The fact is, we do. You might have to delve a bit deeper into the genre to uncover the dark and disturbing stuff, but trust me, it’s there. And the more people read, and talk about, women horror writers, the more chance we’ve got of breaking the stereotype.
I’d like to set a challenge to all fans of horror reading this column. In 2018, make it a goal to discover and read at least two horror novels by women you haven’t read before. Challenge that myth that women don’t write horror, because you’ll find that we can give you nightmares just as well as Stephen King can.
Sara Jayne Townsend is a UK-based writer, and someone tends to die a horrible death in all of her stories. She was born in Cheshire in 1969, but spent most of the 1980s living in Canada after her family emigrated there. She now lives in Surrey with two cats and her guitarist husband Chris.
She decided she was going to be a published novelist when she was 10 years old and finished her first novel a year later. It took 30 years of submitting, however, to fulfil that dream.
She is author of several horror novels, and a series of mysteries featuring contemporary actress and amateur sleuth Shara Summers.
Learn more about Sara and her writing at her website (http://sarajaynetownsend.weebly.com)
|Posted on September 18, 2017 at 4:50 PM||comments (0)|
Zahra Akbar is my latest guest who wrote an article on her watching of one of Stephen King's classic films, Carrie. She watched both versions and gives her thoughts on both of the films.
So I Watched Carrie (1976) and Carrie (2013)
Margaret: Red. I might have known it would be red.
Carrie: It's pink, Mama.
Carrie: Look what Tommy gave me, Mama. Aren't they beautiful?
Margaret: I can see your dirty pillows. Everyone will.
Carrie: Breasts, Mama. They're called breasts, and every woman has them.
Carrie is a quite popular novel by Stephen King and though, it had been on my reading list, I happened to come across its 2013 movie adaptation first. And then, I couldn’t help but watch the 1976 adaptation as well. If you’re into horror, you’ll probably love Carrie. If you’re into high school movies, like Mean Girls, you should give Carrie a chance, though Stephen King’s mean girls receive more than just a lesson.
I haven’t read the book yet, so I’ll be comparing both the movie adaptations with each other. It’s hard to say which version I liked the most, as both have added their own flavor to King’s original plot. For those who haven’t read the book [SPOILER ALERT], it revolves around a teenager protagonist, Carrie White, who lives with her mother. And Mama has issues – serious issues.
Carrie’s mother Margaret White is the most interesting character in the story. Piper Laurie played Margaret in 1976 version, and in 2013, we see none other than the gorgeous Julianne Moore playing the sociopath and religious fanatic mother of poor Carrie. Both these women portrayed the character amazingly – my favorite, however, was Moore. She added so much intensity to the character. Laurie looks kind of innocent for some part of the movie. I love how King has developed this character. She gives you nightmares – she gives you this sense of having an untold story behind her behavior and actions.
In the 2013 movie, Chloe Grace Mortez plays Carrie. I don’t know why, but I got a sense of gloom and darkness from her even from the first scene she appeared in. She’s definitely pretty – prettier than Carrie White is actually supposed to be. And you can’t help but feel bad for her for having to live with a crazy mother, but you also kind of know even more insanity is about to be unleashed. Sissy Spacek from 1976 adaptation looks more of a regular girl. Innocent and victimized, yes, but not completely unhappy. She seemed like a person who excitement and happiness. Though, Carrie is a tragic character – but I got the vibes of tragedy more from Chloe than Sissy Spacek.
Another important character than I feel the need to talk about is the mean girl, Chris Hargensen. I don’t need to think twice here – my favorite version of Chris is Nancy Allen from the 1976 adaptation. Portia Doubleday (from the 2013 movie) is also as mean as it gets as Chris Hargensen, but she looks like just another mean girl from just another high school drama.
As far as the story is concerned, the 2013 version uses technology to torment Carrie, this just makes the whole scenario more sinister, and we’re also reminded of the cyber bullying in real world.
Author: Zahra Akbar
Intro: Zahra Akbar is a blogger and writer from Pakistan. She blogs at dragonjournal.com
|Posted on September 18, 2017 at 4:15 PM||comments (0)|
For this latest piece I once again have a guest. Christine Valentor. She wrote a piece on Alfred Hitchcock that I found very interesting. Here's a little more on her and her article on the great Alfred Hitchcock.
Christine Valentor lives in Chicago and is a Horror/ Fantasy writer. Her blog Witchlike can be found at https://witchlike.wordpress.com/ One of her short stories about Jack the Ripper has recently been featured in the anthology A Box Under The Bed, due for Amazon release on Oct. 1. Link: https://www.amazon.com/Box-Under-Bed-anthology-stories-ebook/dp/B075C9D7L1
She love Anne Rice, Daphne Du Maurier, all things creepy, and of course Hitchcock!
If you have ever watched the original Psycho, or The Birds, or Rebecca (preferably alone on a stormy night, with all your doors bolted) you know what it is to experience Alfred Hitchcock at his best. The Master of Suspense, the Sorcerer of Shock, and the King of Comeuppance Hitchcock is by far one of the best film directors of the 20th century.
Alfred Joseph Hitchcock was born on August 13, 1899 in Leytonstone England. His father was a greengrocer, his mother a homemaker. He was the youngest of three children, an average student and a bit of loner.
But yawn. That story is far too mundane! In researching Hitch, I suspected something must have happened in his formative years. Some weird event must have helped create this creative and twisted genius, who would later alarm the world with his disturbing psychological horror.
It turns out a few things did happen.
When he was five years old, Hitchcock's father wanted to punish him for behaving badly. Little Alfred was sent to the local police station with a note asking the officer to ock him up in jail for five minutes. This incident left a lifelong scar on Hitchcock, possibly influencing his frequent themes of harsh punishments, wrongful accusations and sly retributions for evil doers. He had a permanent fear of the police.
He also had a permanent fear of Jesuits.
Hitchcock was raised Roman Catholic and attended Jesuit Grammar School at Saint Ignatius College. Years later, when asked in an interview how he an ostensibly polite gentleman managed to create such malevolent stories, Hitchcock replied: spent three years studying with the Jesuits. They used to terrify me to death with everything they did, and now I'm getting my own back by terrifying other people.
Hitch incorporated dark aspects of religion in his 1953 film I Confess. It starred Montgomery Clift as a Catholic priest who is wrongly accused of murder, but also hears the confession of the true murderer and is sworn to secrecy by his priestly vows.
Hitchcock's first job was as a draftsman for an electric cable company called Henley's. Even then, as a teenager, he was already writing scary tales. Some of these were published in the company's newsletter, The Henley Telegraph. Hitchcock's first piece, Gas, tells the story of a young woman who imagines that she is being assaulted one night in London but the twist at the end reveals it was all just a hallucination in the dentist's chair induced by the anesthetic.
Interestingly, one of the episodes featured on his television show Alfred Hitchcock Presents seems reminiscent of this tale. In the newer version, the woman's hallucination involves a futuristic society in which all men have been eradicated through a medicine originally intended to kill rats. There are no more men in the world! Babies are born through test tubes and they are always females! The woman wakes up from her dream to find that in reality, a famous scientist is currently experimenting with a medicine which will rid the world of rats! The woman takes a shotgun, attempts to kill the scientist and Well, you will just have to watch the episode to find out what happens.
His other early stories also indicate Hitchcockian creepiness and weird sexual overtones. One short story called And There Was No Rainbow (which some folk thought should have been banned) tells of a young man who goes out looking for a brothel, but instead stumbles into the house of a girl who is dating his best friend. Needless to say, psychological trauma ensues. Hitch also wrote a piece called Fedora which reportedly gave a strikingly accurate description of his future wife Alma Reville, although he had not yet met her! Was Alfred a secret psychic?
At the tender age of twenty, Alfred got a job at Paramount Studios as a title card designer for silent films. Within five years he was directing those films. His first commercial success was a thriller called The Lodger about London's notorious serial killer Jack the Ripper.
Around this time Alma Reville became Hitch's assistant director. The two were married on December 2, 1926. Alma became Hitchcock's closest collaborator. He rarely discussed her contributions to his films, although some were credited on screen. Alma was clearly the woman behind the great man but she avoided public attention.
Hitchcock had the unique experience of working in the film industry as it evolved through all its massive changes of the 20th century. In 1929, his production company began experimentation with sound, producing the first Talkies. Hitchcock's contributions included Blackmail, The Man Who Knew Too Much and his highly acclaimed The 39 Steps, which made him a star in the United States.
The 39 Steps established two unique Hitchcockian traditions: the Hitchcock Blonde and The MacGuffin.
The Hitchcock Blonde was the beautiful, ice-cool leading lady who started out picture perfect, but always became the disheveled victim of violent and twisted circumstances.
First personified in The 39 Steps by actress Madeleine Carroll, his other blondes included Grace Kelly, Tippi Hedren, Kim Novak and Janet Leigh. Hitch believed that these flawless, classy women left much to the sexual imagination they were ladylike in public but potential whores in the bedroom. He described this archetype as follows:
I think the most interesting women, sexually, are the English women. I feel that the English women, the Swedes, the northern Germans and Scandinavians are a great deal more exciting than the Latin, the Italian and the French women. Sex should not be advertised. An English girl, looking like a schoolteacher, is apt to get into a cab with you and, to your surprise, she'll probably pull a man's pants open. Without the element of surprise, the scenes become meaningless. There's no possibility to discover sex
The MacGuffin is a plot device an object thrown in for the purpose of intriguing the audience, but which will have little consequence in the overall story.
In a lecture at Columbia University, Hitchcock explained The MacGuffin as follows:
It might be a Scottish name, taken from a story about two men on a train. One man says, What's that package up there in the baggage rack? And the other answers, Oh, that's a MacGuffin. The first one asks, What's a MacGuffin? Well, the other man says, its an apparatus for trapping lions in the Scottish Highlands. The first man says, But there are no lions in the Scottish Highlands,and the other one answers, Well then, that's no MacGuffin! So you see that a MacGuffin is actually nothing at all.
The MacGuffin took on a life of its own in filmmaking. It is the Holy Grail of Arthurian legends. Some modern examples include: the Maltese Falcon in the film of the same name; the meaning of Rosebud in Citizen Kane; the Rabbit's Foot in Mission Impossible III, and the Heart of the Ocean necklace in Titanic.
Hitchcock's recognition and fame continued to grow. In 1939, he received The New York Film Critics Circle Award for his film The Lady Vanishes. Picturegoer Magazine called him Alfred the Great. The New York Times called him the greatest director of screen melodramas in the world, and compared him to other English treasures such as the Magna Carta and the Tower of London.
In 1940 Hitch directed Rebecca, based on the novel by Daphne Du Maurier. (If you have not read this masterpiece, you must do so immediately!) The film won an Academy Award for best picture, with a best director nomination.
Hitch and horror novelist Daphne Du Maurier formed a natural collaboration. His film The Birds a story of rebellious birds that slowly and creepily take over a California town was also based on a story written by Du Maurier.
A few years ago my local movie theater ran a big screen production of The Birds. Tippi Hedren, an iconic Hitchcock Blonde who stars in the film, came in as a guest speaker. I swear to god she looked EXACTLY the same as she did in the film! Over forty years had passed and the woman had not aged, not one day. You will find pictures of Tippi Hedren on the internet where she looks older, but these (I swear!) are not real. I believe the lady must have a Dorian Gray arrangement The internet pictures are aging as she herself stays young. (Anything would be possible in Hitch's world!)
Hitchcock's career peaked in the 1950's and 60's when he directed gems such as Rear Window, Vertigo, Strangers on a Train, and of course his mega-hit Psycho. This movie was the creepiest creep-fest of all, about a young woman (Janet Leigh) who goes to stay at a hotel run by a taxidermy obsessed man (Tony Perkins) who has a strange relationship with his dead mother!
Hitch's television series Alfred Hitchcock Presents had a ten year run from 1955 to 1965. The fascinating thing about these segments is that, by today's standards, they are very plain. No bells or whistles, no special effects just simple black and white cinematography, flat lighting, and mostly unknown actors yet the brilliant storytelling spoke for itself. Equally entertaining was Hitch's deadpan delivery of introductions. He always began with Good Evening and went on to speak of hauntings, poisonings, burials, demonic possession and the like, all the while never batting an eyelash.
Hitchcock moved to California and became an American citizen in 1955, although still retaining his English citizenship. He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1980, a few months before his death. Film critic Roger Ebert considered it something of a snub that the Queen hesitated to give Hitch his knighthood, writing: Other British directors like Sir Carol Reed and Sir Charlie Chaplin were knighted years ago, while Hitchcock one of the greatest filmmakers of all time, was passed over. What took the Queen so long? Perhaps she was a bit spooked by him, or reluctant to invite him to the palace...
On April 29th, 1980, Sir Alfred Hitchcock died of renal failure in his home in Bel Air California. Despite his professed fears of the Jesuits, two priests came in his closing hours, giving a final mass at Hitchcock's home and hearing his last confession.
Gone but not forgotten, we will never ditch the Hitch! He shall always be alive in legacy, legend and the ominous voice that bids us "Good evening", yet warns to lock the doors and be afraid. Be very afraid.
|Posted on September 4, 2017 at 2:45 PM||comments (0)|
One thing I decided it was time to start doing is featuring guests here on my blog. Since I write horror and it is an interest and topic I have knowledge in the guests you see on here will be contributing horror pieces. My first guest to my blog is Loretta H. Campbell. Loretta is a freelance writer an English/ESL teacher from New York. With an interest in horror she wrote this piece on why is horror so popular in today's society. Her most recent short story Doughnuts can be found on Black Girl Magic Literary Magazine an online zine.
From ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggedy beasties and things that go bump in the night, Good Lord deliver us! Scottish prayer
Why are we as Americans so obsessed with the things that go bump in the night such as the boogeyman? Do we really want to be delivered? Do we want to be delivered now?
The quick answer to all three questions is yes if we go by the figures given in the online zine The Numbers: Where Data and The Movie Business Meet. Horror films grossed approximately $500 million dollars in 2016. In the same source, the 2017 gross profits for horror are slightly higher already. We might assume that the revenue will double in the next six months compared to last year. It seems that we really want things to go bump in the night. The question is why?
First, we need a working definition of what we like being afraid of.. horror. The noun is an overwhelming and painful feeling caused by something frightfully shocking, terrifying, or revolting; a shuddering fear: to shrink back from a mutilated corpse in horror according to dictionary.com.
None of this sounds enjoyable. Yet, in his article Psychology of Fear: Why do we love watching horror movies? published in the online zine ZNews, Ritu Singh says it is. Singh makes nine points about the attraction of horror. Three of them in particular can be seen in any audience at any gore fest in this country.
The first is the Adrenaline rush: When we watch scary movies, we can face our fears, but since we know that it's just a movie we don't have to face anything in reality. For the time being, it tickles certain fight or flight responses.
In other words, we get a high when our endorphin’s go into overdrive while we are watching a horror movie. The euphoria happens when the horror is close enough to see, but it can’t hurt you. It’s a combination of voyeurism and vicariousness. Think of bungie jumping. A long, strong rope keeps us from any real harm even as we sail off a high bridge.
The mega buzz gives us the pleasure without the pain. The operative word here is pleasure. It’s the coping mechanism especially during stressful times.
That is another reason horror is popular, stress reduction. During national crises, Americans flock to horror movies. In the 1950s, arguably a heyday for horror flicks, many of the films Hollywood produced became classics of the genre, The Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956),
The Thing from Another World (1951), The Fly (1958).
At the time, the nation was stricken with an epidemic of terror. The reason for it was one man as Shaila K. Dewan outlines in her (2000) New York Times article Do Horror Films Filter the Horror of History?
The idea that horror films reflect, or even caricature, society's collective anxieties is nothing new. Invasion of the Body Snatchers'' is frequently read as a critique of McCarthy-era pod people.
Senator Joseph McCarthy introduced a home-grown trauma that afflicted the entire country and cut across all barriers of class, race, gender, education level, and politics. Using his House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), as a bullwhip, McCarthy accused hundreds of Americans of being Russian spies. Because of his basically false accusations, thousands of people lost their jobs, their families, even their lives.
In the film, aliens from outer space take over the minds and bodies of earthlings/white American humans in an attempt to annihilate the human race. Because the aliens have replicated their earthling hosts, it is virtually impossible to distinguish between the aliens and the humans. The earthlings who succumb lose everything. They die in droves.
The film was a box office marvel, grossing $1 million dollars in a month, according to wikipedia. Debate continues about whether the film is denouncing McCarthy’s despotism or the threat of invasion by our nemesis Russia.
Michael Dodd of The Missing Slate has said the movie may be the clearest window into the American psyche that horror cinema has ever provided.
That is a statement as terrifying as any American movie yet made. It also begs another question. Why do we have a dual nature when it comes to horror movies? The answer may be that while they are deeply disturbing, they are modern-day allegory. The monsters represent various aspects of our lives, our world. Unlike our real lives, the monsters are always defeated or at least contained. That victory produces something else that horror supplies hope. We feel that things will turn out right, and that is cathartic.
Should we assume that whenever, we as a nation, feel threatened we’ll turn to horror as one means of release? Maybe. I would argue that there is a parallel in the rhetoric espoused by our current president Donald S. Trump and Senator Joseph McCarthy. Both seek to destroy the other in our society. That is persons who don’t fit the mold of the heterosexual, white American male. Both have built political careers on innuendo. Both build platforms on xenophobia.
We are living in a time when, once again, our nation’s relationship to Russia is frightening. For the first time in our history, we as a people, question Russian involvement with our presidential election and our government.
There is also a kind of parallel in the kinds of horror movies that grossed big in the 1950s and now.
The movie The Purge Election Year (2016) seems to be the perfect film for a nation in which mass violence is being encouraged by the national leader.
Get Out (2017) is a movie that starts off as a film about a progressive family and reveals a kind of pathological bigotry inside an entire community. Perhaps the community is a symbol for our society.
From its inception, America has represented itself as the land of the free and the home of equality. Everything looks fine until you live here. The need to pull back the curtain that too many of us like to ignore is another reason horror is so popular now. It is an ugly vehicle for an ugly truth.
Horror now, and maybe always, is a direct line to our innermost fears, the ones that we want to expel from our lives. It is one way we can collectively look at the ghoulies and ghosties and say boo right in their faces.