• Cara Cilento

I Love Horror Novels And The Paranormal

If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, then you would know that I love horror stories and the paranormal. I love them so much that I posted pictures of me at Horror-Con, the ParaUnity Expo and various ghost hunts in the TriState area. My horror and paranormal adventures have introduced me to a wide variety of people with one thing in common, we all love horror stories. Of course, when you are sitting in an expo or a convention the most common ice-breaking questions that you hear are “Why do you like the horror stories?” and “What got you interested in the paranormal?”. The answers are not simple.

Horror Stories

Horror stories have capacity to scare and make fun at our deepest anxieties, therefore horror books appeal to me on a deep level. I believe that any book that provokes thought is a wonderful book, but horror does more than provoke; it picks a fight with me. It invades my body, my thoughts and then I battle my desire if I should continue reading or stop. This surge of anticipation of what will come next coupled with my hesitancy to continue is exciting to me. For a moment, I live in the space between fight or flight and always come through unscathed.

Horror Books

Horror books let me experience dark feelings. They give me a better understanding of reactions to fear, worry, dread, allowing me to build empathy. The ability to recognize and understand the feelings of a character on the page, even if it is fear, connects me to the characters and then draw upon those emotions to create well rounded characters.

Horror books also allow me to witness the darker elements of life from a safe distance. I learn about the world in terms of morality the darker aspects of our own nature which can help me be a better writer as well as prepare me for real world traumas. For example, COVID-19 was a horror book by itself. The entire world was in its grip. Countries were in lockdown for months and more than a half a million people died. We lived in that anticipatory space of fight or flight for eighteen months or more and we persevered.

Horror Books & Conversations

Horror books also open interesting conversations especially when horror is used as a metaphor for bigger concepts. For example, my favorite, The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty. In his own words, Mr. Blatty describes his work as an argument for God, but critics and theorists alike took his book and ran with the symbolism. Some said the movie had two underlying themes. The first was it served as a commentary on (remember The Exorcist was released in 1971) a woman’s power over men and their changing voice in society. It also was theorized to serve as a reminder of the domestic history that many women were still striving to leave behind which was demonstrated by Reagan’s single mother, Chris working less and less as her responsibilities to care for her daughter increased.

My Favorite Horror Books

My second favorite horror book to spur conversation is Jaws by Peter Benchley (1974). Jaws brings so many depressing realities about America to the table for conversation. It has a mayor who is more concerned with the local economy than his citizens, a medical examiner who covers up the shark attacks for financial gain, a scientist who is ignored and labeled as a purveyor of false information, and beaches that are open when they shouldn't be. However, these features of Jaws are not accidental; the picture is primarily a sharp critique of our specific American state, one that places a higher value on capitalism rather than on the lives of individuals. The piece de resistance is the shark who reminds the reader of the insignificance of human civilization and the frailty of human existence when compared to the vastness of the universe.

The Vastness Of The Universe

The vastness of the universe is what led me to my interest in the paranormal. It started with two thoughts and then a “what if?”. The first thought was based in Einstein’s Law of Conservation of Energy that states that energy cannot be created or destroyed it can only be converted to one form to another. The second thought was that since there is energy within in the human body and energy can’t be created or destroyed.

where does it go when we pass away?

Now, science tells me that after a person dies, the energy stored in his or her body is released into the environment. Upon a person's death, the energy contained in his or her body is released in the form of heat, which is transmitted to the animals that devour us as well as the plants that take up the energy we release. Cremation releases the energy stored in our bodies, which manifests itself as heat and light. But what if it wasn’t that simple. All rules have exceptions. Maybe science hasn’t found the exception to this one yet. After all, the word paranormal means beyond/outside the norm.


So, in answer to the question does the paranormal scare me, no, it doesn’t. It’s a fact-finding mission as opposed to an atmosphere of fear using imagery, themes, and circumstances. What scares me are horror stories that are set in the paranormal. Paranormal horror stories play with the reader’s fear and the tap into unknown which adds another dimension to book. The same holds true for movies. A study measured movie viewers’ resting heart rate and average heart rate then they classified 'scares' based on the peaks in their heart rates that occurred during the movie. The top five scary movies were paranormal. Horror stories are not cut and dry, excuse the word play. They are more than slasher movies and gore. They have substance and for some therapeutic value that should not be overlooked. I, for one, will always be hooked. I know, it’s more shameless word play. Word play will the death of me. That gave me an idea. Maybe I should write a horror story about that.

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