Horror, Fear, and Me: A Personal Account

Growing up I hated Horror, or at the least, I thought I did, the horror that we were introduced to as kids was the peekaboo kind, the jump scares and dark imagery that may keep you up that night imagining dark things in the corner of the bedroom where the light almost reaches.

But once you reach a certain age you move on from the overdramatized and gory films that you watched in secret without your parents knowing and move on to things that are actually horrifying. They say that babies are born with two fears, loud noises, and heights. But I think though those things may cause someone to become scared they aren’t true fear. Loud Noises are just jump scares and heights may be terrifying in the moment but the knowledge that out there somewhere there are high places doesn’t gnaw at the soul the way true fears should.

In the Magnus Archives they explore Fears (capital F) deeply by personifying a deifying them into otherworld beings that enact plans and schemes on us. Their list does include both human and animal fears and some that are embodiments of simple fears (The Vast includes a fear of heights for instance) it also includes what I think are the true things that humans fear. If a fear of heights is the symptom, then these are the diseases.

First is the fear of death but of more than just the act itself. This is the fear of finality of the unconsciousness that waits beyond. When people believe in afterlives, they are doing so partly to escape the idea that the lights just go out. That it’s just nothing.

The second fear is that of being alone, of being truly alone either in a situation or literally. This is the fear that drives people to dating apps, this is the fear that stops you from taking the job that pays more, on the other side of the country. The fear of isolation.

The third is the fear of being trapped, this is one that occurs a lot in our nightmares. This fear is often paired with the fear of isolation but not always. It is the fear you feel when either literally or metaphorically you realise that you cannot escape the situation you are in. The debts that are piling high, the city that you don’t have the money to escape. This fear emerges simply every time you take a shirt off a little too fast and become tangled in it for just a second.

Fourth, you have the fear of the inevitable, this is the fear that whatever is coming you have no way to avoid. Whether that is a ghost that cannot be fought or a train speeding towards the car that has broken down on its tracks. The fear that the outcome has been predetermined, that you have no agency in the situation. In everyday life, this may be the crime you committed that you are just waiting to be solved. The affair that your spouse will eventually discover.

Finally, you have the fear of the Numinous, the fear that there is something beyond explanation controlling the situation. This is the fear of the uncanny, the strange, the odd. This is the fear that you make lack the understanding necessary to even properly describe what you are experiencing. This is our fear of the dark, our fear of ghosts.

“Suppose you were told there was a tiger in the next room: you would know that you were in danger and would probably feel fear. But if you were told “There is a ghost in the next room,” and believed it, you would feel, indeed, what is often called fear, but of a different kind. It would not be based on the knowledge of danger, for no one is primarily afraid of what a ghost may do to him, but of the mere fact that it is a ghost. It is “uncanny” rather than dangerous, and the special kind of fear it excites may be called Dread. With the Uncanny one has reached the fringes of the Numinous.” – C.S. Lewis

So, if you take the fear of heights and break it down you have a combination of the Inevitable or the end.