When looking to create the tale which would become Frankenstein, Mary Shelley writes of trying to create
“(a story) which would speak to the mysterious fears of our nature, and awaken thrilling horror – one to make the reader dread to look round, to curdle the blood, and quicken the beatings of the heart. If I did not accomplish these things, my ghost story would be unworthy of its name.”
Stephen King is attempting to do the same thing with his novel, the Shining. Both authors succeed in their venture by utilizing their Imagination in order to draw the reader into their tale.
Horror done well takes reality and adds to it. If there is a man who can animate something as simple as a piece of worm, why not the dead? What would happen when he did? A man is tortured by his own self-loathing, and his friends are talking him into one more drink. How far can those friends go in talking him into things? Murder? What if those friends aren’t even real?
Reality is far more complex than a simple ghost story, offering far more to an astute viewer. A gifted author observing reality can discern the emotional and intellectual connection between humans; the Sublime*. In reaching out to his/her own imagination, the author can tap into the Sublime and connect with the reader. This connection makes it easier for the author to detail those things which will frighten others and to convey the experiences of horror and terror to their audience. It is not only that the Creature in Frankenstein is huge and undead (living?); it represents the new found power of Scientific enquiry and the responsibility humanity has with this newly discovered power. It is not merely that the Overlook spirits possess Jack Torrance, but his own memories and ever child’s fears of being just like their parent that drive the narrative. “I believe” King states in his introduction “ these stories exist because we sometimes need to create unreal monsters and bogies to stand in for all the things we fear in our real lives…” The supernatural forces in these novels are secondary. They merely serve as a way for the author to usher in the real horrors to frighten their audience.
*Sublime refers to the connection of all things, but for the purposes of this post, the focus is on the connection between all human beings.