I’ve been wondering for years if there was a Northern Gothic subgenre, the way there’s a Southern Gothic. Now, as meganphntmgrl has pointed out, “gothic” means something very specific; not all horror falls under that label. Southern gothic stuff is “gothic” due to the mixture of horror with of fallen aristocracy and a strong sense of the spiritual. So, does the north have that?
New England does. This, I think, is where you’ll find stuff that can genuinely be described as “gothic” over the Mason-Dixon line. I’m not talking about Stephen King territory here (although I’d say ‘Salem’s Lot qualifies) but I am talking about Lovecraft and Shirley Jackson and Dark Shadows. I’m talking about the legacy of the Puritans mixed with so-called “blue blood” coasting on riches won long ago, Merricat looking out the window of her burned-down castle, Charles Dexter Ward discovering just why his ancestors had to flee Salem, or Victoria Winters witnessing the dark beginnings of the Collins family. (The Case of Charles Dexter Ward reads a bit like a Dark Shadows arc, actually…)
As a matter of fact, I can still remember what the college guidebooks had to say about all the small liberal art schools I applied to in the Northeast. “New England winters are a punishment from god for hanging old ladies in the 1700s” said one Hampshire student. No kidding.
And of course, the whole reason we were in New England, the Necronomicon! Providence is a strange and ethereal place, especially at night (the only time we had a chance to do any sightseeing, and for Lovecraft fans I have to recommend it). We were able to see his grave, the home where his funeral was held, and wander up and down the streets of College Hill near Brown University (upon which the famed Miskatonic University was based), and see many of the houses he mentions in his stories, such as “The Shunned House,” “The Case of Charles Dexter Ward,” and “The Call of Cthulhu” among others. It was amazing to be able to put a clear picture in my head of all the places Lovecraft talks about in each of his stories, and I can’t wait to go back!
your answers are always a pleasure to read. fun, witty and very informative! Also do you have any recommendation for lovecraft based movies?
Thanks so much–it’s really nice of you to say that. I’m glad you enjoy reading this stuff. :) I’ll start off, though, by saying you are drifting into dark waters, my friend–and not the fun, monster-y kind. These are full of adaptations whose plots are sometimes unrecognizable as Lovecraft stories, naked people doing things irrelevant to the plot (and that’d have HPL clutching his pearls, I’m sure), and loads of gratuitous gore. This is a notoriously frustrating subject….with a few great exceptions. I’ll try to highlight those and direct readers to additional resources they might explore.
Note: I’ve taken the opportunity to combine a couple of previous posts with the content written for this response, so this is lengthy. I just wanted to everything in one spot. Hope it’s useful to someone!
I want to get into the Cthulu/Lovecraft mythos, where do you recommend I start? Things written by Lovecraft preferred but ones not are also accepted.
There’s an old Stuff You Should Know podcast about this. They can give you better advice than I can, but since you won’t listen to it EVEN THOUGH I TOLD YOU THAT YOU SHOULD, start out with The Case of Charles Dexter Ward.