The history of horror is a history of what we aren’t all that frightened of anymore

Wednesday, November 9th, 2022

The history of horror is a history of what we aren’t all that frightened of anymore:

Horror, began appropriately enough during the Reign of Terror. Religion was officially outlawed in France. The Catholic Church had been forced out of the country and if you were going to worship anything at all, it had to be the Goddess of Reason. Graveyards were filled with dead people who were, according to the First Republic, gone forever. They were in an eternal sleep from which there would be no waking.

Into this government-mandated spiritual vacuum stepped Étienne-Gaspard Robert, the creator of the very first horror show: The Phantasmagoria.

The Phantasmagoria was a “Magic Lantern” show that combined sound effects and an eerie music score provided by Ben Franklin’s glass harmonica.

Robert, unlike his various conmen spiritualist predecessors, had to keep an eye out for militantly atheist authorities, so he was very clear about the fact that what his audience was watching was fiction. Ghosts and ghouls weren’t real and it was purely for entertainment.

And by all accounts, audiences found the Phantasmagoria utterly terrifying. Admittedly, Robert was careful to serve them punch laced with laudanum before the show started but that only goes so far. The fear was quite real. But now you can look at what was the most frightening thing in the world in its day and you just sort of shrug.

(Hat tip to Castalia House.)


  1. Jim says:

    Just wait until you learn of furries.

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