Tag: Supernatural

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3 Classic Authors with Spooky Ties to the Occult

In the wake of Darwinism, the world was left with one loaded question: what does this discovery say about God and the afterlife? This search for meaning helped to spawn the Victorian Era obsession with the supernatural, a movement that sought the answers to life’s big questions- by any means necessary. Seances, astral projection, and psychic readings caught the interest of the era’s intellectuals, including some of your favorite authors.

 

1. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

 

As it turns out, the author and creator of famous detective Sherlock Holmes was supernaturally gifted. Doyle was a devotee of the Spiritualist movement, a widespread pursuit of the mystical originating with three dubiously psychic sisters. In 1848, the Fox Sisters of Hydesville, NY used a pattern of taps to communicate with the spirits in their supposedly haunted house. In the United States, rampant industrialization (hello disease and poverty) led to a nationwide obsession with death. In a world where one-third of infants born in cities did not live over 1 year, the sisters thrived. Though they recanted their story in 1888, they later stated that they had been paid a bribe of $1,500 to… well, lie about lying. By that point, however, Spiritualism had its own supernatural power as a sweeping movement. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Spiritualist and mystery writer, was desperate to solve the greatest mystery of all: the secret of life beyond death.

 

Sherlock Holmes, creation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Image Via denofgeek.com

 

Conan Doyle’s fascination with the Fox Sisters led him to attempt a seance during his time as a physician. Known to fervently believe in telepathy, Conan Doyle publicized his beliefs during his notorious and brief friendship with magician Harry Houdini. Conan Doyle believed that Houdini had actual supernatural abilities, and, with his wife, convinced skeptic Houdini to participate in a seance. Conan Doyle’s wife claimed to receive a telepathic message from Houdini’s late mother; unfortunately, Houdini’s mother didn’t speak English. Yikes. Friendship over. Undeterred, Conan Doyle continued performing seances with his wife to contact his relatives who died in World War One. He would abandon his fiction writing at the height of his fame, focusing exclusively on his Spiritualist beliefs. After a lifelong obsession with ghosts, he eventually became one. Medium Estelle Roberts famously claimed to summon Doyle’s spirit in front of a large audience at his funeral in 1930.

 

2. Charles Dickens

 

Charles Dickens, literary genius behind A Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations, was also all about that spooky lifestyle. Close friends would say he had a “hankering for ghosts,” an obsession that lasted throughout his life. This passion is evident in many of his works, perhaps most famously in A Christmas Carol. Though he later became more of a skeptic, he still sought out evidence of the supernatural. Dickens once explained he would never rule out any possibilities: “don’t suppose that I am so bold and arrogant as to settle what can and what cannot be, after death.” More interested in the scientific and psychological aspects of the supernatural, Dickens went on to become a proponent of Mesmerism.

 

 

Live action adaptation of 'A Christmas Carol'

Image Via electricliterature.com

 

The Mesmerist movement represented the crossover between proven science and faith in the unknown. A major part of Mesmerism was its focus on medical miracles and many (scientific?) attempts to cure disease with psychic energy. According to those who believed, a practitioner could put his patient into a trance and transfer his stronger energy into the weaker patient. This became (alarmingly!) a popular medical treatment in the 1830s and 1840s… not a time period known for its long lifespans. So much for your reason and skepticism, Dickens!

 

 

3. Henry James

 

Widely regarded as the bridge between American literary realism and modernism, The Turn of the Screw author Henry James had an occult connection through his brother. William James was a core member of the Society for Psychical Research, an organization of intelligentsia in pursuit of the secrets behind death. The Society sought to apply scientific principles to the unexplored territory of the supernatural. William himself was no crackpot, a Harvard man many call “the father of American psychology.” Although Henry James himself was not a member, the two brothers often stayed together, and Henry had frequent exposure to his brother’s ideas. One major area of William’s research was haunted houses, which he and the Society believed to be telepathic hotspots.

 

 

Haunted house graphic

Image Via yourtownmonthly.com

 

The Society for Psychical Research had a documented impact on the rising Gothic literary moment. Elements of Gothic literature include elements of horror, death, and gloom, along with the Romantic emphasis on intense emotions. William’s psychical investigations directly influenced Henry’s later ghost stories; it’s likely Henry also drew upon William’s paranormal research for his Gothic novel The Turn of the Screw.

 

As it turns out, anyone can believe in the supernatural, even the literary greats. So now the question is… do you?

 

 

Featured Image Via lovetoknow.com

buffy

6 Chilling Book Recommendations Based On Your Favorite Spooky TV Shows

We love Halloween- it’s scary, campy, and you can be whatever you want to be (which you can mostly do all the time, unless what you want to be is a ghoul or a sexier version of something decidedly unsexy). Unfortunately, getting down to the last episode of your favorite show is not the fun kind of scary. But if your show is on this list, here are some spooky, whacky, and genuinely frightening reads to tide you over.

 

 

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

 

The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

 

 

Those of us with Buffy nostalgia face a challenge that can be scarier than the show itself- the fact that the show’s been finished since 2003. But if you can’t live without the misadventures of the teens quietly (and sometimes NOT so quietly) defending Sunnydale from monsters, why not explore an untold part of that story?

 

Patrick Ness’ The Rest of Us Just Live Here explores the lives of background characters in a nondescript town like Sunnydale for those of us who have never fought a vampire with our bare hands (or, you know, with anything else). Teenagers beset with their own slew of issues try to exist as the Chosen Ones deal with their zombie cops and spooky blue lights from outer space. This genre-bending book merges fantasy with reality as Ness explores how ordinary human lives fit in with the high stakes of genre fiction.

 

 

Supernatural

 

Vicious by V.E. Schwab

 

 

Unlike with Buffy, anyone who watches Supernatural knows there’s no shortage of content. Now entering its fourteenth season, the cult classic has thrilled viewers since 2005 with its story of two inseparable brothers who save lives, hunt monsters, make questionable choices, and fight with each other nonstop.

 

V.E. Schwab’s Vicious is a twist on the typical superhero story, following two former classmates who were once as close as brothers. When a string of bad decisions puts the friends in uncomfortably close contact with the world of the supernatural, some lives are saved- and others are lost. The mercurial relationship between Schwab’s protagonists may remind you of Supernatural‘s infamous brothers, and the hunting definitely will.

 

 

Stranger Things

 

It by Stephen King

 

 

This hit TV show taps into 80s nostalgia in a serious way, and so modern books just won’t always sate your craving. You can take the edge off this with a book with the story that inspired last fall’s pop culture phenomenon: Stephen King’s IT.

 

Written in 1990 and set in the mid 80s, the story also focuses on a gang of kids taking on a threat that adults in town don’t understand. Featuring a familiar camaraderie, the Losers try to stop the entity that they have discovered, attempting to save both their town and themselves. And is there collateral damage? Well, isn’t there always?

 

The Walking Dead

 

Zone One by Colson Whitehead

 

 

Zombies might seem to be the territory of genre fiction and pop culture, but that isn’t always the case. Literary superstar Colson Whitehead’s Zone One blends genre and literary fiction as it explores not the zombie apocalypse exactly, but what happens after.

 

With the mixture of tenderness and violence that viewers expect from The Walking Dead, Whitehead explicitly wanders into the thematic landscape of zombies, discussing at length the kind of moral and existential questions that many zombie stories only hint at.

 

American Horror Story

 

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

 

 

It might be hard to decide what will get you your AHS fix, given the wide range of premises the show offers. Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus shares a similar versatility, blending elements of magic and witchcraft (like AHS season 3) with the creepy aesthetic of a sinister traveling circus (season 4). With a flair for the strange, cruel, and dramatic, The Night Circus’ range of amoral characters and tragically doomed human connections are reminiscent of all seasons of AHS.

 

Black Mirror

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

 

 

While not explicitly a horror show, Black Mirror’s one-off dystopian plot lines terrify audiences with their creativity… and plausibility. Often focusing on motifs of alienation and technology, the show provides us with a horrifying reality that we both can and cannot imagine. A YA classic, Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies depicts a dystopian world in which, on their sixteenth birthday, teenagers undergo surgery to become Pretties- artificially enhanced beautiful people with equally beautiful lives (sounds exactly like being sixteen, right?). Unfortunately, life is not quite as beautiful as it appears. And unfortunately, that’s not all the surgery does.

 

 

Featured Image Via 2glory.de. All in-text images via Amazon.