"Twas a Dark and Stormy Night..."


It’s October, and although the winter and Christmas merchandise is already glittering in the aisles of our stores, the primary displays are all about Halloween festivities. If you haven’t seen a pumpkin yet, you’ve been lurking in a cave somewhere, since that delightful fruit is everywhere, not just in pies. (Yes, the pumpkin is actually a fruit, depending on who you ask.) The image of a pumpkin can be found on book covers and cookbooks with themes revolving around this most ancient of holidays. You’d be amazed at the gazillion and one things you can do with pumpkins: pumpkin spice everything, coffee, Oreo cookies, potato chips, cereal, candy, nachos, and anything else you can sprinkle with the addictive pumpkin flavor. Like a drug, it’s on everything.
But if you’re a reader, it’s most likely you’ll find yourself with a shelf full of stories designed for this time of year. The days are growing shorter. It’s getting dark much earlier, and ghosts are beginning to appear on front porches. Why now?
The term, Halloween, is a shortened version of All Hallows’ Eve. The very holy All Saints’ Day is observed on November 1st, so what is more logical than believing that on the night before, the dark spirits of evil will visit the world above and revel in all kinds of mischief?
And what is more logical than writers finding this kind of wicked enchantment the basis for a thousand and one plots?
The horror genre, associated so closely with Halloween in our minds, basically deals with fear. This may sound simple, but it’s been fueling writers since Dante wrote about his Inferno in 1307 around the time of the Inquisition and continued through Milton’s Paradise Lost in 1667. Fear, horror, and anguish began to appear in novels, and readers were thrilled and fascinated. Gothic horror made its debut in 1764 when Horace Walpole wrote The Castle of Otranto. Many a heroine has shivered down to her slippers while reading chapters from that book. And, of course, many a Duke has had to comfort her. It’s in his job description.

Read the entire article in the October 2019 issue of InD'Tale magazine.

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