Foundations of Fear: Campfire tales to nightly terrors

 courtesy of   Pumpkins, entirely underrated 11 months out of the year, are a necessary staple of the Halloween season. 

courtesy of
Pumpkins, entirely underrated 11 months out of the year, are a necessary staple of the Halloween season. 

Patrice Gomez

As many of us take delight in the Halloween season with costume shopping, fun crafts, binge watching horror movies, and pumpkin carvings, it’s also the perfect time to bring out the scary stories. Remember being a child reading R.L. Stein’s classic Goosebumps books and being afraid to sleep in your dark room? What about the time when your relatives would tell an urban legend to make you behave? Or even heading to a bookstore and running to the horror section and having trouble deciding which terrifying Stephen King novel to read next?

The stories that we listen to at sleepovers, campfires, online, or in books are the ones we remember the most, whether they are real or imaginary. While certain people remember the “boogey man” as a way to learn how to behave, others like me have been told the story of La Larona, an old Hispanic tale of a woman who drowned her children in the river and cries out to look for them. “My aunt told me about it,” said sophomore Deseriee Ibarra. “She said that if I were to go to the stream alone, I could hear her crying and yelling out ‘mis niños.’ I believe it because I feel like the ghosts and spirits existed and I still do today.” Even the Bloody Mary game, where people would turn the light off in the bathroom and say “Bloody Mary” three times so she may appear in the mirror, evoked fear in many. “I believed in her big time.” said sophomore Jimena Ruiz. “I actually used to tell the legend of Bloody Mary to a lot of kids in my elementary school but I never played the game. I still believe in that and I don’t want to risk anything.”

So the big question is: why do scary stories exist and why do we enjoy them so much? Neil Gaiman, the author of the children’s horror stories Coraline and The Graveyard Book, gave a TED Talk about why people are in love with ghost and horror stories. “Fear is a wonderful thing, in small doses. You ride the ghost train into the darkness, knowing that eventually the doors will open and you will step into the day light once again,” said Gaiman. It seems as if we love the fact that these stories are imaginary and we love the way they give us a good fright.

Over the years, the scary story has evolved into something bigger. There is now a website by the name of Creepypasta that allows people to submit their own scary stories as well as write their own creepy conspiracy theories about children’s shows and movies. 

Scary stories have made a huge impact, even in pop culture. The TV show American Horror Story is based on true urban legends or haunted locations, in which they develop the origins of these legends.Episodes involve “The Black Dahlia Murder Case” or even an entire season based on the haunted Hotel Cecil where their Halloween Special included serial killers such as the Night Stalker and the Zodiac Killer. International Business Times Editor, Maria Vultaggio, interviewed Anna B. Creagh, a doctoral student who wrote her dissertation on zombies about how the show is influenced by ghost and other scary stories. Creagh stated, “People are attracted to the idea of the supernatural in the mundane. Things like moving to a new house, going to a hospital — or a circus or a hotel — are experiences we can all relate to, yet there is something titillating about thinking that we don’t understand about those places.”

So whether you are a fan of the horror genre or someone who is in love with getting the living hell scared out of them, it is obvious that the horror story is always evolving with each generation. Horror continues to find new approaches and techniques to unleash fears we didn’t know existed with one new terrifying tale after another.