The essay over the next few pages aims to explore what it is that makes a horror story so effective, and which of the two that I have chosen, are the most effective. A horror story is made up of a Tense and chilling atmosphere, added to some rather exciting happenings and a main character. They give you adrenaline rushes without you actually being in the action, which is why there so popular. The first horror story ever written was the castle of otronto by Horace Walpole. He was so ashamed by this ‘new’ form of story, he pretended at first it wasn’t his, then as it became really popular, he owned up and made some more.
The Castle of Otronto started off the trend of horror storys, and a new age in literature began. The first horror story I am going to look at will be “The Judge’s house” by Bram Stoker in 1891. In this story, the tension begins to build right at the beginning “Malcolm Malcolmson made up his mind to go somewhere to read by himself”. We know that Malcolm is the main character now, and has decided to study for his Exams on his own. The tension is created because we know that the setting will be the farthest thing from safety. “… unpretentious little town … nothing to distract him”.
He goes to a place a long way away called “Benchurch”. He arrives at a gothic style house, described as a sort of prison/house, which is now typical, for a horror story as many have copied off of other older books like this one now. The tension rises when we are told that he is staying the night in an “Old rambling, heavy-built house of the Jacobean style”. We begin to feel more tension as the agent, Mr. Carnford he’d be happy for Malcolm to have the term in the house for free to prove there is nothing wrong with it, which hints that something might be wrong, However he does pay his three-month rent.
The tension is rising steeply when he talks about the house to a local landlady of the inn where is he staying, she says “Not in the Judge’s House! ” She grows ‘pale’ as she speaks. The reader should now realize that there is really something bad going to happen, or this is the place that the horror will happen. He is told and warned that he shouldn’t pend a single night there, which makes us wonder whether something has happened long ago that the locals are in the know about. When our two main characters enter the house they work out from the bed it hasn’t been entered or slept in for 50 years.
The maid was indeed curious to see inside the house, and obviously curious and eager to disprove the fact that there might not be a sence of evil about it. The old lady offers to stay the night, but Malcolm persuades her not to, and that he is fine by himself. She does not seem rather pleased about this, but leaves. All through the night Malcolm hears mice or rats scampering making loud noise which begin to irritate him, and as the main character build emotion the tension builds, but also builds anticipation.
The rats are still there, but he “… got accustomed to the noise as one does to the ticking of a clock… Malcolm Draws his attention back to the rats which have started scampering again. It look from the book that the rats are playing with Malcolm’s mind so more tension is created. The tension carrys on rising as Malcolm Notices a large portrait of the Judge, the owner of the house. At first glance he started so suddenly that he almost dropped a lamp he was carrying. This raises tension as Malcolm makes a mistake nearly dropping the lamp showing that he is very scared at this time. “It was nearly an hour when he looked up from his book disturbed by the sudden stillness”.
This creates tension as in the middle of the night, when everything is still, you are waiting for something to happen. There’s no wind howling and roaring, there is no sound. Tension rises extremely as the Judge rises from his chair. This is when you actually begin to feel frightened. There was some fascination inn the Judge’s eyes. The Judge is keeping his baleful eyes on Malcolmson the whole time, which brings the tension right up. Nobody likes to be glared in the eye. Finally, the Judge, who had been keeping his eyes fixed on Malcolmson, looks up.
When the alarm goes off in the Judge’s house, crowds rush and see what’s going on, the doctor at the head. When they burst into the great dining – room, they find at the end of the rope of the great alarm bell, hung the body of the student. And when they looked up at the picture of the Judge, there is a malignant smile. So the second gothic story I chose for this essay is another story set in a traditional gothic house. The Red Room introduces a confident character which later in the story we find out that he gets completely freaked out by something he believed didn’t exist.
When this main character says “I can assure you”, he is actually reassuring his own beliefs of the existence of ghosts, somewhat creating an atmosphere of confidence. The main character also states “It will take a tangible ghost to frighten me” This creates an innuendo form of fear that at the same time states two different things. Firstly the main character will possible come into contact with a ghost, and secondly he’s going to get scared out of his wit. Creating an expecting sort of tension, so we guess what happens next, but we want to read on to find out whether its true or not.
More characters enter the story creating a bit of depth. The second character is a man with a withered arm. Not much relevance to us, but in pre 20th century, a withered arm was a curse. Next we get introduced to the old ‘wise’ woman. The over confident character believes all these other people are trying to trick him, telling him stories of other peoples mishaps in the same house, about one man who died. That particular story, creates tension as we start to believe are character might go the same way.
He is now trying to lead us to believe now that he dosnt know what what will happen, but as stated before He says, “It will take a very tangiable ghost to frighten me. ” From this quote we begin to believe he will go ghost hunting, creating huge amounts of expectation and tension. The forth Character brings more mystery into the atmosphere as he is more old and decrepid. To bring the tension in he is described as not being very aesthetically pleasing. “His decaying yellow teeth,” and is very dirty, not particularly a looker then. We are being led to dislike this group of old people and are waiting to disprove all their inane theories.
The man with the withered arm gives the newcomer a glance of positive dislike which sends the tension rising as it would not have been very nice sat in that room. The tension keeps building as we see a “monstrous shadow” of the newcomer. A monstrous shadow is big and scary so as well as tension, it builds up fear. ”If,’ said I, ‘You will show me to this haunted room of yours, I will make myself comfortable there. ” This sarcasm begins to lower the tension a little. He obviously doesn’t believe that he’s going to see a ghost there, which lowers the tension for the reader. This night of all nights’ is repeated increasing the tension. He stands up and walks out, closing the door behind him. He then enters a long, chilly passage. We have now been introduced to all four characters and we know them quite well. We have decided which characters we like and which ones we dislike as well. He then walks down a ‘long, draughty subterranean passage,’ which is ‘chilly and dusty,’ then his candle flares and makes ‘the shadows cower and quiver. ‘ Everything is in a black shadow, which creates a proper gothic atmosphere.
We discover that he is beginning to feel a little less confident and slightly scared, but is trying not to show it. We know now that we are half way through the story, which creates tension without the author even writing it. We can just tell that something big is about to happen. Then him talking quickly and sharply builds up the tension, ‘I entered, closed the door’ ‘turned the key’ ‘stood with the candle. ‘ We also find out that another person who has entered the room has died which leaves us wondering if our confident character will make it out of there alive.
The confident character is now scared and doesn’t want to take any risks. He sets up a “barricade before me”. The tension is rising, leaving the reader gripped to the story, as we want to find out more. We then find out that it is midnight, which sets the fear of god into us as it’s a ghost story, something is about to happen and it’s the middle of the night! Then some candles go out, leaving us thinking, “Is this it? Is there a ghost stood there? ” We then find out he’s extremely scared because he lights a match with ‘quivering haste. As more candles have gone out leading us to believe that it is a ghost’s doing. The tension is rising rapidly now. Then he ‘screamed with all my might-once, twice, thrice. ‘ We have now established that he has given up and is too scared. He starts shaking and trying to find the door but he can’t remember where the door is and he is scared of the dark. We know that he is losing his mind. He then had a “heavy blow” to his forehead and couldn’t remember any more. The tension lowers and we begin to feel comfortable again.
We now realize that he was walking into things and scaring and damaging himself. Apparently, what was haunting the room was fear. And this ends the story with the tension at high. I have studied these stories carefully and have found it hard to decide which story is the most effective, but I have decided that The Judge’s House is the most effective as it leaves you with a scary scene. A student hanging there dead, whereas The Red Room ends quite happily and everybody survives. I feel that I enjoyed reading The Red Room more but found I was gripped more to The Judge’s House.