by Courtney Vice
Horror novels: either you love ‘em or you hate ‘em. There’s something personal about our fears; in a way, its exposing our vulnerabilities out for everyone to see, which isn’t the most pleasurable experience for everyone. Some people might just not like the unrealistic aspect of horror novels. After all, there’s no such thing as sharp fanged, eight foot tall beasts who wait at the end of your bed at night, right? …Right?
Moving on, I always wondered why these seemingly outlandish creatures and ideas scared us so much. That’s when I started digging. I was surprised at what I found; most of the inhuman and irrational qualities of these monsters have roots in our past. What else has sharp teeth? That’s right: our predators. And what could we not see in the dark? Our predators.
Okay, that explains sharp fangs and animalistic appearances, along with why the dark
scares us, but what about things that are seemingly normal. Why does Pennywise from It scare us so badly? Humans, in general, rely heavily on facial cues. Put a mask or a fake smile over top of that, and you lose all signs indicating whether someone is friendly or harmful. Or clowns are just scary, which I believe more.
“All right, Courtney,” I hear you typing away, “but why are we so scared of Cthulhu or aliens? They’re made up and don’t look like animals, so why are they scary? Unless you consider octopuses scary.” For one, I do consider octopuses scary. How dare you. Secondly, that’s one of the reasons why they’re terrifying. We don’t know what they look like, so there are countless horrific possibilities for what they could be. Aliens existing also does one thing we humans hate: it takes us out of the cosmic spotlight. I mean, we put ourselves at the literal center of the universe at one time. We’re a bit egotistical.
Lastly, and most obviously, we are perhaps most scared of our fellow man. This is why novels featuring psychopaths are so popular. There are no sharp claws or reptilian skin telling you that these guys are bad guys or that you should be afraid of them; in the words of Wednesday Addams, “they look just like everyone else.” It makes you question if the people you are closest to could commit the crimes in your books.
Overall, there are plenty of things to be afraid of in life. But if that horror is contained within the hardcover bound pages of your favorite Stephen King novel, you’re probably safe. Just, don’t look behind you.