It starts with a campfire at night, or a flashlight before a face during a sleepover. Everyone’s still wide awake, and they’re listening to the stories. The scary ones, of course! Nice and juicy, guaranteed to send a light thrill through the back of your neck.
What if I were to tell you that there are certain stories— the scary ones, the ones that make you afraid of the dark— that you should really be afraid of? What if there are horror stories that are… alive, if you could call it that… and that are feeding on the fear generated in each retelling of their tale?
You’ve heard of memes, right? Mental viruses that jump from your brain into mine. They can be as simple as hearing a word used and unconsciously using it yourself. Or that quaint thing called Last Song Syndrome.
Well, consider these horror stories as a type of meme, but more virulent. More… malicious in their joy in spreading the fear and drinking it like ancient vampires partaking of human blood.
Some horror writers have managed to capture some of them, caged them on the printed page. The power of these stories to horrify are still there, but the stories are now powerless and unable to feed on the fear.
I’m sure you know some of these writers, those who were successful in capturing the horror: grandmasters like M.R. James, H.P. Lovecraft, and Edgar Allan Poe.
Some modern ones, too, like Laird Barron and Clive Barker. And of course, the King of Horror Stories himself. Oh, he’s a good one, capturing a goodly number of those little monsters in these little Mason jars of horrific narratives in his basement in Maine.
Don’t believe me? Here, let me give you one. Listen closely: “It was a dark and stormy night…”