Scary stories are an important part of growing up. Monsters are pieced together out of our real fears — but unlike the monsters of real life, story Monsters are often vanquished by the hero.
Little kids — like the rest of us — are afraid of being left behind, afraid of getting lost and afraid of the unknown. We may get adventurous as we grow up and court the unknown, travel where we’re likely to get lost and strike out on our own, finding that being alone is not the same as being lonely and that it can be fun. When we conquer that kind of ordinary fear, we’re vanquishing some of those childhood monsters.
Even after we’ve grown up, monster stories still get the heart pumping and teach us both to be wary and to be brave. Of course, all scary stories aren’t the same.
Most classic Monster stories have clear lines drawn between good and evil. The larger-than-life monsters of fairy tales, folk legends and mythology fit nicely into traditional horror stories and many classic horror storylines have roots in these traditional tales. Werewolves, vampires, powerful wizards, vengeful witches, ghosts with unfinished business with the living and demons visiting from hell, “people” classic stories as well as contemporary fiction.
Some of those monsters are exactly like our childhood monsters, but the newer Monster incarnations are more likely to have mixed emotions, mixed motivations and be a mixture of good and evil. They are more human in their monstrous actions. This doesn’t mean they are less scary. In fact, they are scarier because they are less predictable and less like animals.
A scary wolf-man creature, devouring peasants unlucky enough to be found wandering in the woods on the night of the full moon is a scary story, but there’s no doubt about the wolf’s motivations. He’s driven by hunger — a desperate, overwhelming hunger that cannot be satisfied any other way. The wolf-man kills because it is his nature. You can’t reason with that kind of Monster any more than you can convince a cat to live on carrots and corn. Cats are carnivores. An old-fashioned Monster is going to bite, kill, suck blood….
A new Monster might head a corporate empire employing thousands, dump toxic waste into the ground water, support a worthy children’s charity and threaten his employees who dare to vote for the “wrong” candidate. A new monster can be very confusing — especially if he also happens to transform into a wolf on the night of full moon, live on human blood, lack a solid corporeal form, or control the world around him with magic. New monsters can be super-deluxe scary!