Stories That Make You Shiver! How Do Stories Get Told Using Fear?

One of the strongest emotions human beings experience is fear.Because of this, many storytellers incorporate this feeling into their tales. An aspect of fear in a story grabs the attention of the receiver of the story. Fear adds an extreme element to a story, and the human mind is drawn to the extreme.


In "Vincent," a Tim Burton short film, many of the tactics storytellers use to cast a shadow of fear are demonstrated. One of the main strategies exemplified is the contrast between light and dark. When Vincent is alone in his dark room, he lets his imagination get the best of him, and lets fear seep into his mind. When his mother opens the door, letting light flood in, the audience is exposed to a lighter tone. The appearance and setting of the story adds a creepy element to the tale as well. The stereotypical "haunted" music is played throughout the entire video and creates a feeling of uneasiness within the viewer. The unfamiliar appearance of the characters in the film makes the audience appeal question the reality and makes the viewer afraid of the constant "unknown." All of these elements combined make for a creepy crawly story!

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Heart of Darkness
The above image is representing the novel "Heart of Darkness" by Joseph Conrad. The painting suits the novel well, because it is about a man who traverses from "light", which to him is European society. He then goes to what he perceives as the "Heart of Darkness", or in other words the "Heart of Africa." Many things in the novel are presented through fear, and create a feeling of uneasiness in the reader. For example, the narrator, Marlow, finally comes across Mr. Kurtz's living quarters and realizes that he has gone slightly insane. When Marlow first reaches the fortress, he describes its curb appeal. "These round knobs were not ornamental but symbolic; they were expressive and puzzling, striking and disturbing--food for thought and also for vultures if there had been any looking down from the sky; but at all events for such ants as were industrious enough to ascend the pole. They would have been even more impressive, those heads on the stakes, if their faces had not been turned to the." Because the shrunken heads were originally described as round knobs on a pole, the reader becomes horrified the true composition of the decorative objects. Another example that can be found in this story is when Marlow takes a break under a shady tree. He comes to find the terrible condition the Europeans have put the Africans in. "They were dying slowly--it was very clear. They were not enemies, they were not criminals, they were nothing earthly now--nothing but black shadows of disease and starvation, lying confusedly in the greenish gloom." This description of his encounter with the dying slaves uses both darkness and inhuman features. Doing so casts a mysterious and spooky aura on their suffering.


Things Fall Apart
In the book "Things Fall Apart" by Chinua Achebe, one of the most haunting accounts is when the central character, Okonkwo takes his own life. The fact that he hasthis is revealed inpassage where old friends of Okonkwo's lead the District Commissioner to the back of his house to find his dead body. When they ask the District Commissioner to take him down and bury him, an interesting conversation takes place. " 'Why cant you take him down yourselves?' he asked. 'It is against our custom,' said one of the men. 'It is an abomination for a man to take his own life. It is an offense against Earth, and a man who commits it will not be buried by his clansman. His body is evil, and only strangers may touch it. That is why we ask your people to bring him down, because you are strangers.' " The idea of death, evil, and unknown terrifies men around the globe and therefore is an effective tool to leave an impression in a story.


The Raven
By Edgar Allen Poe

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
`'Tis some visitor,' I muttered, `tapping at my chamber door -
Only this, and nothing more.'

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow; - vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow - sorrow for the lost Lenore -
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels named Lenore -
Nameless here for evermore.

And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me - filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating
`'Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door -
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door; -
This it is, and nothing more,'

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
`Sir,' said I, `or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you' - here I opened wide the door; -
Darkness there, and nothing more.

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the darkness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, `Lenore!'
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, `Lenore!'
Merely this and nothing more.

Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.
`Surely,' said I, `surely that is something at my window lattice;
Let me see then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore -
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore; -
'Tis the wind and nothing more!'

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately raven of the saintly days of yore.
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door -
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door -
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,
`Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou,' I said, `art sure no craven.
Ghastly grim and ancient raven wandering from the nightly shore -
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night's Plutonian shore!'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning - little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door -
Bird or beast above the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
With such name as `Nevermore.'

But the raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only,
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing further then he uttered - not a feather then he fluttered -
Till I scarcely more than muttered `Other friends have flown before -
On the morrow he will leave me, as my hopes have flown before.'
Then the bird said, `Nevermore.'

Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
`Doubtless,' said I, `what it utters is its only stock and store,
Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful disaster
Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore -
Till the dirges of his hope that melancholy burden bore
Of "Never-nevermore."'

But the raven still beguiling all my sad soul into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird and bust and door;
Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore -
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore
Meant in croaking `Nevermore.'

This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom's core;
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
On the cushion's velvet lining that the lamp-light gloated o'er,
But whose velvet violet lining with the lamp-light gloating o'er,
She shall press, ah, nevermore!

Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by Seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.
`Wretch,' I cried, `thy God hath lent thee - by these angels he has sent thee
Respite - respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore!
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe, and forget this lost Lenore!'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

`Prophet!' said I, `thing of evil! - prophet still, if bird or devil! -
Whether tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted -
On this home by horror haunted - tell me truly, I implore -
Is there - is there balm in Gilead? - tell me - tell me, I implore!'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

`Prophet!' said I, `thing of evil! - prophet still, if bird or devil!
By that Heaven that bends above us - by that God we both adore -
Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels named Lenore -
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden, whom the angels named Lenore?'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

`Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!' I shrieked upstarting -
`Get thee back into the tempest and the Night's Plutonian shore!
Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken! - quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

And the raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming,
And the lamp-light o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted - nevermore!

Between the times when this poem takes place at night, the darkness of the Raven, and the impending gloom of his sweetheart's death utilizes the way fear is able to capture a reader's attention. The diction of the poem helps conjure mystery and a creepy tone. There are also a lot of references to "evil" and the Devil. All of this together makes a horrifying piece of literature that has been highly regarded throughout the years.

As you can see, the above movie displays a man that uses fear to keep his "homeboy" intrigued. All in all, mankind brings fear to the literary table when they are in need of enticing or shocking an audience. Many times throughout any story, we can see a element of fear that keeps readers of a tale on their toes.


Works Cited
Achebe, Chinua. Things Fall Apart. Columbus OH: Glencoe/ McGraw Hill, 1976. Novel.
Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness. London: Penguin Classics, 1902. Novel.
Poe, Edgar Allan. The Raven. 9 Dec. 2010. <>