October Theme: Spooktacular (Stephanie Burgis)

Do you like horror movies and books? Do you get a delicious thrill out of being scared?

I never have. I am the biggest horror wimp you can imagine. My brothers and husband have all come to the sad conclusion that there is no point in trying to watch even the most awesome film with me if it has any horror elements. I just can't cope...and I have many, many humiliating memories from throughout my life to remind me of that sad fact.

The worst memory of all came when I had to walk out of a special after-school viewing of "Poltergeist" when I was 12. It was awful. Everyone in my class was there! Everyone was loving the movie! ...except for me. I sat there feeling more and more sick with panic and dread. I couldn't leave, though. I was desperate not to look like an idiot by running away...

...until I did. Yup. With a pathetic, mumbled excuse - "I forgot - I have a big project to work on!" (yeah, right) - I finally fled midway through the movie, and phoned my dad, nearly in tears, to beg him to come and pick me up NOW NOW NOW.

Aaagh. I still hate that memory.

I'm awful with horror in books and stories, too. For years, I couldn't stand sleeping in a bedroom with a closet because the camp director at Camp Emery (a music camp in Michigan) thought it would be good fun for all of us eight-year-olds if he read Stephen King's short story "The Bogeyman" out loud to us one night.

Yeah. That...didn't work so well for me. (Don't even ask about the time, a couple months afterwards, that I was sitting in a room with a closet, in the daytime, and I suddenly heard the sounds Scratch...scratch...scratch! coming from inside! It turned out to be one of my family's cats, just sharpening his claws on the wallpaper...but I'd practically had a heart attack by the time I figured that out!)

So, in other words, horror seemed to be a completely closed genre to me...until something totally unexpected happened. In eighth grade, I had the most awesome English teacher ever. He taught units on mystery, fantasy and science fiction, horror...and he insisted that we write short stories in every genre.

I was aghast. I didn't do horror! Everyone knew that! I loved writing...but how could I possibly write this?

I started with huge reluctance...and found out something astonishing.

I hate reading or watching horror, because it freaks me out SO badly...but it was an incredible, astonishing release to actually write it! I loved writing that story! I wrote more and more horror stories through my teens, letting out all my biggest fears that way. I've written more horror short stories as an adult, and I've published several of them, too, in various magazines.

Last night my husband watched Cabin in the Woods. Just the sound of those crashing horror-movie chords and actors' screams, bleeding through his headphones, made me twitch. I had to put on my own headphones and blast the Pride and Prejudice soundtrack to get through it!

But the next time I'm having a hard time coping with my own darkness, I know exactly how I'll let it out - the best way I know: by writing a horror story. Because it turns out that horror really does have a function...even for me.


What about you guys? Are you horror fans or horror wimps? I'd love to hear about it.


  1. I'm with you, Stephanie. Hate to watch or read horror, but love to write it. When you write horror, not only does it let you release fears and emotions, but you get to decide when, where, and how the zombie attacks. That control is huge. When you watch, all you can do is shiver under the covers and scream, "Don't open that door!" Ah, the power of being the storyteller! Bwa-ha-ha!

    1. Trudi, you're so right - that sense of control makes ALL the difference!

  2. Great post, Steph! I think I have an all round love of horror. Love watching it, reading it AND writing it. :) Wouldn't want it ever to come true though haha!


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