Southern horror has a way of chilling your bones like no other.
Southern Gothic is a flavor of horror that many would recognize, but maybe not seek out. It was thrown back into mainstream media with the 2012 movie The Woman in Black and was followed by 2015’s Crimson Peak and 2019’s Ready or Not. People who grew up with a scene phase latched onto the aesthetic of black lace, dark corners, and haunted mansions. However, while these movies gave us excellent visual aesthetics for the genre, we should pay homage to the authors that built the genre.
Ambrose Bierce often wrote of death and horror, and his stories were frequently set during the civil war. His short stories are easy to read and delightfully dark. His work is often introduced to school children, which is honestly a bit messed up. For example, one of his most famous short stories, “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” is an excellent short story, but its plot is centered around the hanging of a man as he thinks about how he wants to hug his wife and children again. That’s pretty horrific to make a 15 year old read. Some other good short stories to check out by Bierce are “The Boarded Window” and “A Tough Tussle.”
William Faulkner is known as one of the Southern Gothic writers. He loves to talk about the slow rot of old Southern families. Families in Southern Gothic novels are never happy and supporting, they may look pretty from the outside, but that is an apple that is rotten within. You’ve probably heard of his novel The Sound and the Fury. If you enjoyed that, you should check out Absalom, Absalom! written from the perspective of a character from The Sound and the Fury. Faulkner is a quintessential writer from this subgenre, if you’re just now checking it out, or are a long time lover, you should dabble in his work.
Edgar Allan Poe almost has a massive hand in this genre. He influenced all the writers above and still influenced authors today. The people that claim Poe is their favorite author or poet are the same people that have Jack Skellington tattooed somewhere on their body (or at the very least owns a lot of his merch). But there’s a reason that he owns the genre. This man was messed up. Rotted families, decaying manors, and gross mutilation was something that this sicko adored to write about. Everyone knows about “The Raven”, but there are so many more horrendous tales that you should read by Poe. If you claim to love Edgar Allan Poe, but have never read “Berenice” or “The Black Cat”, then get out of my house.
Southern Gothic is an excellent horror subgenre that uses macabre imagery and slowly breaks it’s characters down mentally or physically. It may be a slow build, but it’s worth the wait. So be patient and settle down for a truly horrific story. The next time you feel like finishing a book and feeling like you immediately need to have a shower — try Southern Gothic.
by Joey Warren