Updated: Dec 1, 2022
My earliest memory of being told any kind of scary story was being sat in the car with my big brother while we waited for my dad to pick up the takeaway we’d ordered for dinner. It was dark outside; my brother turned to face me from the front passenger seat and gleefully described a horrific, bloody murder that in later years I realised was the opening scene of the movie Scream.
I think most big brothers delight in telling their younger siblings terrifying tales, only to be told off later by parents who are having to deal with a petrified child. It’s safe to say that my big brother, with his collection of Stephen King and Point Horror novels, was my introduction to the wonderful world of horror.
We also had the usual ‘haunted’ spots in the small town I grew up in: one such place was a vacant house that sat upon a hill between the rural villages dotted about. It had boarded up windows and its garden overgrown and wild, and the myth was that the family who had previously lived there had died in the night from a gas leak. I’m not sure if there is any truth to that story, but due to the state of the place it certainly stuck. I used to stare at is as I walked past and get chills, and I loved the thrill of breaking into the gardens and walking up to the eerie building. Then there was the derelict church all the teenagers congregated around on Halloween, with rumours circulating that it had once been the site of satanic ritual – who doesn’t love a bit of satanic panic?
From a young age, I have always been drawn to the spookier sides of life. I have also had ‘supernatural’ experiences in my time, and while I know there must be some perfectly logical, scientific, or psychological explanation to them it’s far more fun to allow myself to believe in ghosts.
As I grew up, unfortunately, like so many of us do, I came face-to-face with the reality of the darker aspects of life. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t still haunted by those experiences; I think I always will be to some extent. I think this is why horror means a lot to me as a genre: it has helped me come to terms with not just the outside darkness of the world but allowed me to face my own darkness and accept it as a part of myself in a healthy way. By giving me an outlet – whether that be through reading, watching a film or writing myself – I am relieved of my own burdens, if only for a little while.
I didn’t want to list my favourite authors, filmmakers, etc., in this post because I wouldn’t know where to begin, but really this is about what horror means to me. In short, horror is my big brother telling me stories and showing me films I was too young to see. It’s going to the cinema or discussing books with one of my best friends who is a total horror freak too. It’s finding solace in creativity when I need it most, and half-hoping that I really do have a ghostly companion who likes to hang around my house.
Elizabeth Kennedy is the Founder and Managing Director of Otranto House. She is also Lydia Grace's co-author of Five Dead Blondes.