“It was a dark and stormy night…” Classic, word-of-mouth horror stories begin with this line. What is it about the “dark and stormy night” that should cause us, the reader, to feel anxiety and fear about the story about to be told? Horror stories cannot begin without a sense of mood and atmosphere. There must be a sense of foreboding, of terror imbedded in the atmosphere, to cause the reader to flip the pages with wide eyes and fear stricken urgency. Describing the atmosphere plays a key part in horror stories; the author creates a place, a setting, a mood that scares us and yet, intrigues our curiosity of the elements. Although we are afraid, we want to experience aspects of terror. “It was a dark and stormy night…” sets the mood for the story and establishes an atmosphere that will allow the horrifying, terrifying, and even improbable events to unfold.
[...] From the fourth [wall] the bones had been thrown down, and lay promiscuously upon the earth forming at one point a mound of some size” (Horrorscape, 5). This atmosphere is harrowing because it describes an undesirable place to visit; the air is so foul that the torch flame cannot brightly illuminate the dark crypt; the walls are littered with human bones and some rest in a mound some size”. Only Poe could make such an ugly classification beautiful through his prose. [...]
[...] The atmosphere going to, and of the workspace, is within a more classical definition of the term. long after this Pickman produced a flashlight and revealed an antediluvian ten-paneled door that looked damnably worm-eaten. Unlocking it, he ushered me into a barren hallway with what was once splendid dark- oak paneling simple, of course, but thrillingly suggestive of the times of Andros and Phipps and the Witchcraft” (102). The passage describes the setting leading to Pickman's workspace. The “antediluvian” door and “dark-oak paneling suggestive of the Witchcraft” shows that wherever his space is, it is indeed fitted with markings of an ancient past. [...]
[...] What is horrifying about the author's sense of atmosphere is that small towns hold a deep secret that is reinforced by history and its tradition. To have a “lottery” that designates who will die that year, and have the townspeople act in a nonchalant manner, makes for a pure disturbing story. If there is a question as to why they would follow such an archaic practice, the answer simply, is that it's tradition. A good, very subtle example by Jackson to show how unaccommodating and backwards the town is, is that Delacroix is pronounced “Dellacroy”, making sure there is no allusion to the French surname. [...]
[...] As the four walls held imminent death for Fortunato, they too held death for Prince Prospero in The Masque of the Red Death. For Prospero however, he contained himself within the walls of his estate for a good reason throughout the countryside the Death” was decimating the population. By securing himself inside his castle, Prospero believes he will remain untouched by the Death”. Already, within the first few lines of the story, Poe creates a horrifying atmosphere. He has painted an ominous landscape that is ruled by an unstoppable force that will inevitably kill everyone. [...]
[...] By Prospero shutting him and a few thousand of his loyal subjects in from the external atmosphere, he creates an intriguing atmosphere within the castle. Poe describes the seven strikingly different colored rooms. There is not a single light within the rooms, except for tripod, bearing a brazier of fire”. The very strange assortment of rooms with their odd lighting “produced a multitude of gaudy and fantastic appearances”. This description resonates with a dream-like quality; the castle is a place where the lines of reality and dreamscape blur. [...]
Online readingwith our online reader
Content validatedby our reading committee