Stories For Ghosts

Literary Horror for Everyone

Category: Childhood (page 1 of 2)

Call Your Mother, Then Watch These Horror Movies for Mother’s Day

One of the most popular horror movie trope is the Bad, Scary Mother. It’s not just horror movies that love to trot out a fearsome mother figure. Norma Bates wasn’t the first controlling, abusive mother to terrify her children, and she won’t be the last. Medea, Cinderella’s evil stepmother, Cersai Lannister—human culture and literature has countless examples of maternal figures that are selfish, manipulative, and downright evil. These figures are powerful because they fly in the face of our ideal image of what a mother should be.

And what should a mother be? This Mother’s Day, like all others, we will celebrate our mothers for their nurturing natures, for how loving and supportive and selfless and kind they’ve been to us. We will post cute vintage pictures of our mothers, young and bright-eyed, holding colorful little bundles of joy on their laps. We will send them flowers, buy them nice gifts, bring them chocolates, and wait on them hand and foot. They have given so much to us, we will say. They’ve sacrificed so much for us. They’ve been good mothers.

Does a bad mother fail to do all of that? Is that how easy it is to tell who is a good mommy and who is a bad mommy?

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La Catrina – Icon of Death, Beauty, and Dia de Los Muertos

Today is All Saint’s Day! Or as we celebrate it in Texas, El Dia de Los Muertos, a Mexican holiday. For the uninitiated, El Die de los Muertos is a vibrant, introspective holiday devoted to remembering the dead. Those who celebrate the holiday will tend to the graves of their deceased loves ones, cleaning the tombstones, arranging flowers and altars, and leaving food and small offerings. They do this to invite the spirits to visit, so that the departed will hear the prayers of their living relatives.

While this sounds like it could be morbid and depressing, El Di de los Muertos is actually cheerful and uplifting. People are encouraged to remember the dead fondly by recounting happy and funny stories about them. This attitude carries over into the festival itself, which is often whimsically macabre and very enjoyable.

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Marfa, Train Tracks, and Haunted Hotels: The Best Texas Ghost Stories

October is slowly coming to a close, and Halloween is almost here. Since I’ve been doing my Halloween Blogging Blitz, I’ve reflected a great deal on scary stories. Why do we tell them? Why do we listen to them?

I hope that, if you’ve been following any of my posts, that you’ve learned that so many horror films and books are art. And as art, they help us reflect upon reality: our prejudices, our fears, our secret desires. The right ghost story has much to teach us.

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What I’ve Learned From My Favorite Children’s Halloween Movies

In an earlier blog post, I asserted that Halloween is a valuable time of year for children because the holiday, as it has developed, enables children to safely engage in a variety of difficult topics. Halloween gently exposes children to human mortality and sinister forces, because there is no use in pretending these things do not exist. Children should be protected, but they will become adults soon.

I think screening children’s Halloween movies is an important way to engage children with these topics. They don’t always have to be about Halloween nor do they have to be straight up horror films. What these movies do is take scary and creepy stories and weave in uplifting and useful messages for children. These movies package unpleasant themes in a way children can manage and digest. They can absorb important lessons by feeling the age-appropriate shock only a horror movie can give you.

Though I didn’t quite realize it, children’s Halloween movies taught me some valuable lessons growing up. So I decided I wanted to take a trip back to Halloween Past. I decided I wanted to share my favorite children’s Halloween movies and some of the very personal life lessons I took from them. I hope kids in the future continue to watch these movies and learn from them, as I did.

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11 Halloween Movie Recommendations for Fans and Non-Fans

As a devoted horror movie fan, I’ll be the first to admit that the market is glutted with horror movies, most of them terrible. And not in an enjoyable, over-the-top kind of way.

If you are a horror movie novice searching for a good horror movie, the simultaneous breadth of availability and lack of choice entertainment can be discouraging. Horror fans feel that way all the time, but we know enough that we can make solid recommendations.

With Halloween fast approaching, I decided to compile a list of horror movies with solid scares and terror but that are accessible to a wide audience. The following films are perfect for a Halloween watch party because 1) they are relatively easy to find on streaming services, 2) they’re actually well-made films, and 3) they scare audiences in thoughtful, enjoyable, entertaining ways.

Even if you’re a horror movie buff, I feel like this list is a nicely packaged bundle of great horror movies that present a strong argument for the merits of horror. These movies are harrowing, smart, witty, and funny. They are heartbreaking and profound. They reinforce the magic of telling stories through the medium of film and legitimize a genre that critics loves to hate.

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30 Years of IT – Stephen King’s Enduring Horror Classic

September marks the 30th anniversary of IT, Stephen King’s infamous 1986 novel. IT sold a million copies in its first run and spent weeks on the bestseller lists. Like so many of King’s horrific tales, IT has broken past the confines of the own story, spreading chills and scares through our nation’s pop culture and terrorizing children and adults alike. People who have never read the book or seen the movie still know who Pennywise the Clown is.

Case in point: when I was a child, all the kids at school knew about the killer clown from the sewer who murdered children. We’d all seen that black book with the blood red letters sitting on a parent’s bookshelf, just out of reach. Some of us had even seen parts of the movie. Many of us had no idea what the actual story was; it didn’t stop us. We whispered and teased each other about Pennywise, and no one really wanted a clown at their birthday party. Such was the strength of that symbol.

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20 Years Later, The Craft Is More Than A Cult Classic

One of my all-time favorite movies is 90s horror classic The Craft. I’ve loved this film since the first time I saw it, close to 20 years ago. I think it’s something of a perfect movie in many ways— gloriously 90s, unapologetically goth, and brimming with witchy fun. Those god-awful clothes? That terrible wig Robin Tunney wears? The maroon lipstick and smudged black eyeliner? Love Spits Love’s awesome cover of The Smiths “How Soon Is Now”?

TheCraft1

Neve Campbell, what are you wearing?!?!

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Autumnal Musings on the Wonderfully Morbid Art of Edward Gorey

Oftentimes, autumn puts me in a melancholy mood and only the most wonderful morbid art makes me feel better. Someting pretty, something scary, and something Gorey.

It has to do with how autumn affects me. The nights get very cold. The days wilt and dim under the flat, gray light. In Texas, because we don’t have real autumn, the leaves wither to a dull brown instead of the fiery colors other states enjoy. As such, the sickly brown emphasizes the emaciated, skeletal tree branches. And as the sky begins to darken earlier and earlier, all I find myself wanting to do is be home. There is a small voice urging me to go home, to get inside where it’s warm and safe.

I experience a curious mixture of forlornness and calm during these cold months. There is beauty in the cold. It possesses a certain elegance as it sweeps in with its frosty nights and frigid winds. Despite my apprehension of the cold (I am from Texas, y’all), when it washes over me in a sudden gust, I accept it.

And it always makes me think of the dark. Of the end.

It has always been this way for me. Every year.

I don’t share this to be overly morbid. There are some wonderful bright points in autumn and winter—tons of holidays, good food, time spent with family and friends, and no work! I only mean to acknowledge the connection.

I’ve always thought it had something to do with the fact that, around Halloween and into November, my grade school’s library would put out all the really good scary books. Overnight, beautifully illustrated copies of the children’s version of Dracula, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Frankenstein would appear. There were numerous volumes of ghost stories, urban legends, and campfire tales. One of the best and creepiest of these books was the Scary Stories to Tell In The Dark series, of which I’ve already written about here and here. Those books were deliciously scary, so good that most kids felt compelled to read them, no matter how much those pictures frightened them.

Another one of my favorites was the wickedly artful The Gashlycrumb Tinies, written and illustrated by Edward Gorey. I always remembered those dark tales, despite having long forgotten the name of the author. I remembered the sinister rhyme, offered to help small children remember the alphabet. I remembered the demented but clever drawings.

And it was a particularly grey day that inspired me to dig through my books to revisit this part of my childhood.

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Fantasy Horror: A Horror Subgenre to Watch For

The genre of horror tends to go through phases where certain subgenres experiencing a sort of “renaissance”, where writers and filmmakers explore all limits of the subgenre, where audiences become temporarily obsessed with the subgenre. It’s happened with creature features, psychological horror, slasher films, haunted houses, demonic possession, and the hyper-realistic gore of the “torture porn” subgenre. I guess that, currently, supernatural “found-footage” horror is the big, mainstream deal, what with the Paranormal Activity series, the V/H/S/ series, and July’s upcoming The Gallows.

However, a wholly different type of horror is bubbling up from underneath. Movies and television are gradually starting to explore the intersection between the sinister and the fantastic, while books have long intertwined the two.

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You need to know about the Scary Stories to Tell In the Dark Documentary

Almost anyone I’ve ever asked has fond memories of the classic children’s series Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark. Even now as adults, most people I’ve talked to excitedly remember the vivid tales and the terrifying illustrations. Remember those?

Back in October, I wrote a blog post about Scary Stories. In that post, I reminisced about how much I loved those books—how they creeped me out, how I felt compelled to read them despite their scariness. Those books struck the perfect balance between whimsy, horror, and folklore, creating a darkly inviting world.

Sometimes I’d read the story with one hand covering the picture until I had worked up the nerve to look at! Even now, I feel like a little kid reading these, scaring myself silly.

 

IT’S LOOKING AT ME

I’ve always thought that these books held a power far strong than nostalgia alone. As this blog demonstrates, I’m fascinated by the way in which Scary Stories resonate with us and teach us about ourselves.

So imagine my utter joy and excitement when I heard that a team of filmmakers is producing a documentary about the history of this series! You read that right! Director and Producer Cody Meirick and his team are currently working to explore everything from the publication history of the Scary Stories, the legacy of the iconic illustrations, the importance the books lend to children’s literature, and efforts by some to restrict access to the books, among other subjects. The team has already begun production on the film, having already conducted a handful of interviews, with plans for many more.

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