I was listening to a Halloween podcast the other day. It was series of stand-alone fictional stories intertwined with an overarching narrative that culminated in a cautionary tale about summoning demons and bending to their will. Whenever I hear a story like that, I am always disappointed that someone would feel the need to take it that far. Stories of the dark arts often revolve around a supernatural power grab (looking at you, Jafar), but there is usually an awfully big price to pay.
Not that I’ve gotten any offers to do so, but I’m not really into harnessing the powers of the universe for my own gain. It usually involves some sort of demonic contract and those never turn out the way we think they will. Demons are not really into peace of mind and rest and I’ve already raised three toddlers thank you very much. I prefer my interaction with the supernatural to exist on the fringes of reality where it may or may not actually be real. Where there may be hints of things that make you wonder, but it rarely moves beyond curiosity.
I have always been a fan of horror and fantasy fiction . . . to a point. I get that its just a way to personify my existential dread, my fear of other humans, my fear of death. But I have my limits. For example, as much as I enjoyed the plot lines and twists of the Game of Thrones novels, I had to quickly leaf through thick passages detailing sadistic torture. Considering I couldn’t even read them, the endurance George had for writing those passages is impressive to say the least. David Eddings is definitely more my speed in the fantasy genre.
As I’ve gotten older, the horror movies I prefer tend to be the more subtle ones, the more human ones. Maybe a haunting for justice, old folklore brought to life, and I continue to think that the original Scream was extremely well done. I like resolution, appeased spirits, monsters that can be destroyed or at least proven not to be deliberately malevolent (Kong, Godzilla). A Nightmare on Elm Street, which terrified me for weeks after a sixth grade slumber party, has not aged well as far as special effects go, but the concept of the inescapable monster is one I do not care for. This applies to pretty much all the zombie franchises out there as well. You will eventually have to sleep. And when you do, they will eat you.
Nowadays, I dislike horror, but I am still drawn to things that are just a little bit spooky. This harkens back to my childhood when we (me and the neighborhood kids) used to delight in deliberately scaring ourselves. Seeing how far we would dare to approach the dark woods as night fell and the cicadas were screaming. Making up ghost stories about what our fathers may or may have not seen on our dirt road late at night. Talking about the shadow people we thought we saw when no one else was looking. We knew those things were safe to do. That we could return to our bright houses, our warm beds, our families and everything would be all right. (The shadow people never seemed all that threatening back then.)
As an adult, however, it turns out that the world is a lot scarier than it seemed when we were kids. You can’t always get away from the monsters. Sometimes they are people you know. I go through periods of time where I avoid the news altogether and instead focus on food, art, and retreat into my imaginary world of magic, ghosts, and things that go bump in the night.
I’m pretty sure I know why I have this fascination with dark tales, folklore, and the supernatural. Its partly a self-protection mechanism, a way to keep my guard up, a filler for the times when all is well and I still need to practice my hyper-vigilance. Its partly an outlet for creativity, fulfills the need for mystery, and stimulates the imagination. Knowing that there are things you not only don’t understand, but also don’t need to understand can be comforting. Especially when you know those things are probably not real.