The monsters that torment us – All your fears are well-founded

On Halloween The Wall Street Journal published my review of two books of cultural history that connect our horror stories with very real phenomena.

Haunted by Leo Braudy and Ghostland by Colin Dickey show us that our horror stories are not trivial entertainment, but expressions of profound human emotions and indirect responses to very tangible realities. Both authors make clear that folk tales, urban legends and ghostly visitors carry heavy burdens of historical, spiritual and even theological significance—and they suggest that by analyzing them we can learn a great deal about ourselves.

…from the Sirens that tempted Odysseus to the demons Sarah Michelle Gellar faced down in “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” “Each age has its own particular fears,” Mr. Braudy writes, “and the history of horror is the history of the disquiets of the soul, the inner life, made public, taking on the colorations of the era in which they appear.”

If you are a subscriber, you can read the full review of Haunted and Ghostland in The Wall Street Journal.