In keeping with the spooky season, the Beauregard Parish Library presents for your consideration...

History of Horror

This feature is limited to the month of October with each Thursday's article containing information about the evolution of horror and items that you may be interested in checking out to learn more. Read on to learn more about the history of horror.

In 1816, an artists' collective comprised of Lord Byron, Percy Shelley, Mary Wollenstonecraft Shelley, and Dr. John Polidori met at Lake Geneva for a writing retreat. During that retreat, two distinctive forms of literature that remain popular today were conceived. Polidori's "The Vampyre" gave rise to the formula for the modern vampire story; Mary Shelley birthed the science fiction genre with Frankenstein. Frankenstein has seen numerous adaptations in a multitude of forms from movies to Broadway productions. In fact, it is often referred to as not only the ancestor of science fiction but a crucial philosophical work with impact for bioethics and other sciences of human exploration. Frankenstein is critically considered one of the great works of horror fiction

A decade after the publication of Mary Wollenstonecraft Shelley's Frankenstein, the first story by an author whose name would eventually become synonymous with horror literature was published in the Baltimore Saturday Visitor. Edgar Allan Poe's "MS Found in a Bottle" ignited public interest in Poe's work and with the support of a generous benefactor, Poe went on to create masterpieces of short horror fiction including "The Tell-Tale Heart," "The Cask of Amontillado," "The Pit and the Pendulum," and many more short stories, poems, and a novella. Poe brought the Romanticism of Shelley's writing collaborative to the United States and became known as the father of the detective story during this time. Though he struggled with the demons of addiction, Poe was a prolific author with a flair for macabre description and psychological thrills.

During this same timeframe, Robert Louis Stevenson, Oscar Wilde, H.G. Wells, Frederick Marryat, Wilhelm Meinhold, and many other writers created still-relevant and oft-read works of science fiction and horror. Gothic horror began giving way to the scientifically-driven tales of the late nineteenth century, indicative of the social fears and hesitancies of the audience. Pseudo-scientific practices such as seances, psychics, and mediums became seen as education and entertainment. Horror fiction took a decidely realistic turn with the implications of monsters among us such as Jack the Ripper. This was a time of exhilirating fear and seismic uncertainty. Authors played upon these fears, creating memorable archetypes and pushing horror fiction to the forefront of literary fashion. Writers such as Jordan Sheridan Le Fanu, best known for his vampire novella Carmilla, sensationalized horror tropes within their work. Carmilla, the tale of a young woman beset by an insatiable female vampire, was published over 25 years before Bram Stoker's Dracula. It is an often overlooked but important salacious tale of the macabre. Modern interpretations of the "vampire mystique" can be traced back to this work by Le Fanu.

You can check out short story collections, e-books, and watch movies related to science fiction and horror by utilizing your library card. Some recommendations are , Rags and bones : new twists on timeless tales, Draculaby Bram Stoker, The Vampire Book : the Encyclopedia of the Undeadby J. Gordon Melton.

We know that not every horror pick will appeal to every patron, but not to worry! If you need help selecting something, we have online tools like Book Browse and our Online Catalog, or you can ask one of our friendly staff members to help search for you.

Be sure to watch our website next Thursday to learn all about 20th century horror fiction and receive great recommendations for spooktacular reads.