Think of the term “haunted house” and it is likely to conjure up a variety of images, including decaying Victorian mansions or Gothic manor houses from rural England. However, mention the town of Bennington, Vermont and it is not likely to strike fear in the heart of the Western imagination the same way “Transylvania” would. Yet, it is a locale responsible for generating one of the greatest modern haunted house stories in the English literature.
There are, of course, innumerable claims that could be made to have been the first ghost story, or the first piece of Gothic horror in literature. This piece argues that Edward Young’s extraordinary poem Night Thoughts deserves a look-in as an early example of Gothic literature because of the extravagance of its Gothic imagery, and the depth of its argument that the ideas of the ghost and the tomb are central, rather than ornamental, to any proper discussions of existence or imagination.
In April 1593, the whole Samuel family – Alice Samuel, her husband John, and their daughter Agnes – were tried for witchcraft. They were hanged for their supposed crimes, ‘the bewitching of the five daughters of Robert Throckmorton Esquire’ and ‘the betwitching to death of Lady Cromwell’. If you weren’t already aware of the Witches of Warboys, this is not the fictional setting for Kate Pullinger’s 1999 novel Weird Sister, it is a genuine case that scholar George Kittredge called ‘the most momentous witch-trial that had ever occurred in England.’
C. J. Tudor‘s debut novel, The Chalk Man, released last year, was a fantastic success. It was a Sunday Times bestseller, shortlisted for the Steel Dagger and National Book Awards, made its way onto a number of the year’s “best of” lists, and even claimed a highly coveted quote from Stephen King, who said, “If you like my stuff, you’ll like this.” It was a success even before it was published, being Tudor’s literary agent’s fastest selling book of all time, won in a nine-way publisher auction.
Dale Bailey’s seventh novel, In the Night Wood, is a modern gothic fantasy, infused with folk horror elements and the spirit of a dark fairytale. Originally released last year, and featured on Tor.com’s best books of 2018 list, the novel is being re-published in a new hardback edition by HarperVoyager, who clearly see untapped potential.
The bloodline of Anne Rice’s The Vampire Chronicles is as enduring as the ancient blood drinkers about whom she writes and, with the publication of 1976’s Interview with a Vampire, is largely to blame for Twilight and the rest of its handsome and un-horrifying brood.
Fans of the series forgive me, for I am entirely new to it and may make observations that are obvious to you, knowing as I do only of the influence it has had on popular culture, the fiction of the vampire, and their chiselled new image. Once, the vampire had no need for mirrors, but you get the impression Rice’s regularly enjoy tending to their hair. “Almost all vampires are beautiful. They are picked for their beauty.”
Catriona Ward is the author of two novels, Rawblood (from 2015) and Little Eve, which was published this summer. I first interviewed Ward on 4th February 2016 for the Oxford Writing Circle, in the dark and now sadly gone Albion Beatnik Bookstore; I even recorded a terrible quality video of the interview (thankfully Ward’s intelligence and wit is of a much higher standard). Here, I am publishing an edited transcript of that interview. Whilst much has moved on since we met in Oxford, this interview should at least provide some nostalgic interest.