Horror & Dark Fantasy



The H Word


The H Word: The Haunted Boundaries of House and Body

Haunted houses are places associated with endings—the end of a life, the end of a family. I wrote a story about haunting once. Called “The Knife Orchard,” it was based on a piece of family history when my mother, as a little girl and just come back from Sunday school, saw her mother being threatened with a knife. By her father. My grandparents. One was Irish Catholic, one an Irish Protestant. The problem was Sunday school; the knife a solution to going back.


The H Word: An Empathy of Fear

“I think I’m going to faint,” I whispered. My best friend nodded sympathetically, his face radiating concern. “Try not to knock over the popcorn,” he whispered back. We were in a movie theatre, back when one could visit such outlandish things, and the first Saw was playing. I was more terrified than my normal baseline of “extremely” and a loss of consciousness seemed not only likely, but imminent.


The H Word: Universal Scare, Local Fear

Nigeria in the ’90s had just bounced back from a bloody civil war, and was attempting to transition from a turbulent period of military rule into a democratic government. This period of huge economic uncertainty, freewheeling oppression and ethnic distrust made it effortless to suspect one’s neighbour—or “village people” in Nigerian parlance—of having an occult hand in one’s degeneration.


The H Word: The Rational Vs the Irrational

When I was in first grade—we’re talking 1970 here—I was excited to discover that the high school drama club was going to put on a play called The Ghoul Friend. I was already a dyed-in-the-wool horror geek by this time, and I pestered my parents until they agreed to let me go. I don’t remember much about the plot after all these years, but I remember there were lots of cool monsters . . . and at the end the actors took off their masks to reveal they were all humans in disguise.


The H Word: Horror in Strange Times

But did I really want to teach a horror class at a time like this? Did my students, who were being abruptly forced to leave campus and move back home, really want to continue to think about Horror as a genre? They would have all sorts of real-life horrors on their mind. Some of them would get sick, some would lose friends and family members. Why study Horror in the face of disaster?


The H Word: Formative Frights

I like to ask people about their childhood fears because I was a fearful child. At five, I avoided the TV room for a week after glimpsing something with a face like gobs of wet clay groping its way up a staircase. Only years and nightmares later did I learn this was Martin Landau’s entirely sympathetic mutant in the Outer Limits episode “The Man Who Was Never Born.” When I was nine, I was freaked out by faces more awful than Landau’s lumpy one.


The H Word: The Horror of Solitude

Is it worse to be lonely in a crowded room or lonely in an empty one? Perhaps you have an immediate response to this, one you’ve pondered before now. It’s certainly not a new question, but the truth is that most of us have never had much of a chance to really know for sure. Even those who pride themselves on being introverted are often forced to spend a tremendous amount of time with other people. The average life, in fact, tends to be arranged around interaction.


The H Word: Mental Health, Ableism, and the Horror Genre

Our genre isn’t known for its warm and compassionate embrace of disability. From physical disfigurement to mental illness, those with disabilities are an all-too-convenient Other to demonize. The current battle for greater inclusion in the genres continues to shed light on those stories and voices that have been excluded. As we look beyond race, gender, and sexuality for inclusion and representation, ability is vital for us to reexamine.


The H Word: The Melancholy Beauty of Terror

For the longest time, I’d searched for a proper definition of horror. That whole, “defined by emotional response” never sat well for me, and felt lacking as a descriptor. Mostly because people think that emotion should be fear or fright, but at the same time the word horror doesn’t automatically mean fear, does it? Something can be horrible, and yet not scary. Add to the fact that some of the best horror digs in under the skin and does something else, something far more disturbing than simple fear.


The H Word: Scary Stories to Relive in the Dark

I’ve been jobless for two and a half months now, which has caused a spike in mostly-forgotten anxieties. I hate being broke, hate watching my savings dwindle, and hate knowing I’m one bad fall or car accident away from poverty. So like most anxious, broke people, I comfort myself by bingeing crap television. Luckily, Netflix’s algorithms got something right for once, and presented me with HauntedHaunted is a 2018 Netflix original series, featuring non-actors telling true (or truth-y) stories about being haunted.