Horror novel is a kind of literature that’s still very controversial today: some people think it’s gruesome and unrealistic due to the fact that horror literature usually shows readers harsh truth in unpleasant surroundings and atmospheres. But many authors and readers like horror stories because of its connection, implicit or explicit, to our daily life. Some author derives their story from a real-life scenario, while others got their idea from their personal life. So horror literature can, in another perspective, showing and comment on the human experience. This can be useful to the readers since it helps them prepare for future challenges in their life. Horror teaches us rules and norms by using old, traditional monster figures or new, revolutionary characters such as mad scientists or psychos, which refers to the real danger in our life. It also reminds us that we’re and we should be glad that we’re alive and living in a safe world. Overall, horror uses past human experiences to teach us the rules in this world and appreciate it.
Generally, horror writers wrote their novels based on their real-life experiences. They mixed them to create their own stories in their style. Stephen King is a famous horror writer and he also got his idea from what he saw in real life: “In short, let us have our Fortian rains of frogs and people who have mysteriously burned to death while sitting at home in their easy chairs; let us have our vampires and our werewolves. Let us have Little Nobody, who perhaps slipped sideways through a crack in reality, only to be trampled to death in the rush from a burning circus tent ”. (King, Stephen. Danse Macabre. Gallery, 2010, pg. 3) He used the “Fountain rains of frogs”, “vampires and werewolves”, and “the little mystery nobody” in his novel, modify it, make them have their roles in the story just like how we put stuff together in real life and bring them in his own story, the Danse Macabre. As we read into the horror story, we’re entering a new world, a world created by the author used elements and events from this world, and create something completely new and, of course, haunted. We were emotionally frightened because it is somewhat real, in our world. Therefore, the horror stories were not just things that meant to scare people off, but it also shows us real things in our life.
Horror stories are not just derived from real-life experiences, they are also commenting on it. In most horror fiction, childhood is always a common topic where people touched upon. Childhood, according to Greg Ruth, is scary, as “kids live in a world of insane giants already. Nothing to the right size. The doorknobs are too high, the chairs too big..”. (Ruth, Greg. “Why Horror Is Good For You (and Even Better for Your Kids).” Tor.com, 29 Aug. 2019, https://www.tor.com/2014/05/29/why-horror-is-good-for-you-and-even-better-for-your-kids/.)Just like in horror novels, childhood in real life is scary and spooky as well: surrounded by people that are older and physically bigger, using things that are way too big, and have no right of complaining. Children in our world were raised to follow what our parents said, which is, indeed, very confused for them and will make them scared. But horror stories changed it all; although they showed us the scary part of being kids, they also told us how to fight it. Instead of listening to what their parents said in the novel, the kids chose their paths, explore them, face the dangers, challenge themselves, and succeed. Even though many challenges in horror novels were unrealistic and some supernatural, they indeed showed the possibilities in kids and the “brightness” in the dark childhood.
Another common topic for horror is family and love. We have seen many horror stories about family affairs and the family members were separated just to find their truth about their past. The Haunting of Hill House is a great example of that. Through the characters were not family at the start, they did experience some kind of “family affair”. In the story, Eleanor, Theodora, Luke, and Dr. Montague moved into the Hill House for Dr. Montague’s supernature research since the Hill House is famous for its “Haunting”. Eleanor was a tragic character that wanted to find a place for herself and eventually realized that it’s the Hill House. Although she committed suicide to “live” in the house forever, she did found her real family in the Hill House as Theodora, Luke, and Dr. Montague as her family members. The story portrays individuals with their characteristics, though they are connected by love and friendship and made up a family. They have helped each other, worked together to go through many challenges and tried to solve the mystery of Hill House. Shirley Jackson showed us the love buried inside our mind, the heart can how it can help bring people together to find a solution.
Horror stories were originated from real human experience, it does not just comment on our life or the world, but it also can help us. The Yellow Wallpaper, written by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, gives us a great example of how horror stories can save other’s life. The story talks about a woman with mental illness that is convinced by her husband, also his physician, that she should sit and do nothing to be able to cure her illness. Unfortunately, this treatment completely freaks the woman out and she started to see weird images and firmly believes that she is trapped in a room. It teaches the readers that the quickest way to cure patients to talk to them and interact with them. Later, he wrote an article about why he wrote The Yellow Wallpaper and the influence of it. In the article “Why I Wrote The Yellow Wallpaper”, Gilman said that The Yellow Wallpaper “saved one woman from a similar fate — so terrifying her family that they let her out into normal activity and she recovered”. (Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. “Why I Wrote the Yellow Wallpaper.” THE FORERUNNER, Oct. 1913, pp. 1–1.) In this case, the author uses his opinion on the real human experience to save other people.
The original horror stories were derived from cautionary tales and gothic stories in the Middle Age. They were meant to warn the kids to obey certain rules to increase their survival rate in childhood before they can protect themselves.