I will freely admit that I am in the minority here, but why do so many horror novels include the supernatural? From Bram Stroker to Mary Shelly to H.P Lovecraft, literary horror has been plagued with ghosts and gods and monsters, and I use the term “plague” very deliberately, because, to me, these elements completely ruin any sense of dread and suspense that the author intends me to feel, and I’ll explain why.
Let’s take one of the most popular monsters in all of literature: Cthulhu. From the short story The Call of Cthulhu by H.P Lovecraft, Cthulhu is a cosmic entity that is worshipped by various cults all around the world. With “A pulpy, tentacled head that surmounted a grotesque and scaly body with rudimentary wings”, Cthulhu is regarded as one of the most visually unique characters in all of written horror, and while I do commend Lovecraft for his imaginative creations, I really don’t see how they’re all that scary, and this isn’t just a sentiment I hold for Lovecraft’s work exclusively. While so many monsters within the horror genre are incredibly creative and well-written, they simply just don’t scare me. Why? Because they don’t exist!
Which is really the crux of the article: I’m not scared of what I don’t believe exists, and I really can’t see why so many people are. Yes, there are people that honestly do believe that, say, ghosts exist, and so I understand why those people would feel the hairs on the back of their neck stand when reading Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, but for the monsters that we all understand are entirely works of fiction, how could anyone be honestly afraid of them? Who out there would be afraid that something they know is completely made up is lurking in the dark?
To reiterate, I fully acknowledge that I am most certainly in the minority here, but I felt it necessary to share this. For example, I find Patrick Bateman in Bret Ellis’ 1991 novel American Psycho truly terrifying, far more than I ever had any of the Elder Gods from H.P Lovecraft. Why? Because people like Patrick Bateman, while still human, are also real. Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, Jeffrey Dahmer, Jack the Ripper – heck, in reality, monster are a dime a dozen, and not only are monsters like these a very legitimate threat, and something you really should be making sure isn’t stalking you in the dark, but they also represent the darkest and most twisted sides of the human spirit, sides that lurk somewhere deep down in all of us . . .