Horror Fiction Leads to Knowledge
Many times horror comes from the shock of the unknown. What we can’t control and what we can’t understand terrifies us. Once we understand a situation, fear subsides and we become rational and begin to analyze and cope with the situation as best we can. Horror stories help us with this. Poe’s stories about the fear of being buried alive was a real and present phobia of his era. It is not quite clear if he was poking fun at the phobia or if he was simply using it as a plot device, or both.
A shock happened in 1822 in New Jersey. A “cryptozoological” creature appeared from out of nowhere, and in a true “Captain Kirk” manner, the first humans to see it shot it. It was likely already half-dead, but it was then snagged and sliced to pieces and put on exhibit. 1822 was a more primitive time – although we need to take care not to throw stones as we have our “primitive” moments in the post-modern era – yet scientists and students of the sea quickly determined it was a basking shark.
(From a contemporary magazine report)
Howard Lovecraft has taken a beating over his overt racism, yet mostly he is allowed a pass when he portrayed fish and vermin as monsters. His aversion to fish smells, and his loathing of rats, squid, and anything else that he felt was unwholesome turned into all sorts of monstrous gods of madness. Today we recognize each of these prototypes as unique entities in a vast system of ecological biodiversity essential for the survival of our planet. OK, we don’t want THEM to EAT US, but it is imperative that we leave most of these creatures alone to survive and prosper in as close to harmony as we can.
The horrific basking shark of 1822 is now treated with respect and dignity in the video below. It is no longer a horror, but a wonder. Education and knowledge is powerful. Respectful and well written horror stories can bring us to a better understanding of those things we fear.