A cold drizzle started as I stood on the corner of Elm Street. “Hello, are you there?” a voice asked me. I repositioned my phone so that it wouldn’t get so wet and told the woman I was. “Then let’s begin this ghostly tour,” she replied.
Camden, ME, like any other New England town, has its share of ghost stories and supposed hauntings. Exploring the area on a recent family vacation with Red Cloak Tours was a treat. Our kindly guide knew the area like a well-worn recipe, stopping us here and there to admire architecture…and tell us about the creepy paranormal activity that happened at each location.
“Haunted Apple Tree” in Camden, ME
Above, is the haunted apple tree, where previous tour-goers saw strange lights and had apples plop to the ground in response to their conversations. We also learned about a ghost living in Uncle Willey’s Candy Shoppe that likes to hit the rum bottle (literally) while traditional Christmas candies are being made.
This tour was one of the highlights of our family’s vacation and the fact that it was led via phone, rather than an in-person group, didn’t diminish its allure for me. I did miss the mystique of following a host carrying a lantern though, particularly since that host would have been clothed in a blood-red cape.
The Key Ingredient to Gothic Delights
To those of us who appreciate Gothic inspiration, atmosphere plays an important role. Drizzling rain and the clap of thunder. A moody sky and chilly air filled with the scent of chimney smoke. Old stories handed down over generations. Faded black and white photos and memorabilia. Or the beautiful details on a wrought iron gate like the one above, all provide a sense of lovely creepiness.
Having a “Gothic-vibe” or feel then, requires certain essential ingredients. Things like:
Atmosphere (moody skies, dark, somber tones, solitude–even if in the city or a small town)
Sounds (the clip-clop of horses hooves, rain beating on a tin roof, the howl of coyotes in the distance)
Scent (wood smoke, old papers, dry, dusty book pages, hints of lavender and rose petals)
Feel (cold or chilly–though in Southern Gothics, more likely hot and sticky–shivery goosebumps, mixes of rough and silky textures, heavy books, brittle photos)
Taste (bitter medicines, pungent liquors–Absyinth is one that comes to mind–plain, simple foods, dust and mustiness that is ingested simply by being in a Gothic setting)
In essence, Gothic-inspired experiences are sensual experiences. They play with the senses and in many cases heighten them.
Gothic gate behind the Camden Public Library
We certainly aren’t alone in thinking this. Victorian post-mortem rituals and death jewelry, a love of graveyards, also known as taphophilia, and The Morgue, a Paris-based tourist attraction at the turn of the 20th Century are all good examples…though the last one isn’t focused on entwining of beauty along with death.
The Morgue at Paris. The Last Scene of a Tragedy. — Image by © CORBIS
Gothic suspense is a subgenre that I believe will see a resurgence in the near future. Gothic horror is already experiencing a revival and I’ve no doubt that more and more authors will bloom in this area.
Why? Because we love a spooky tale.
Think The Legend of Sleepy Hollow on Halloween night. Rebecca and My Cousin Rachel–two of Daphne Du Maurier’s better-known novels are hallmarks of Gothic suspense. The Yellow Room, The Thirteenth Tale, and Ruth Ware’s most recent novels, The Death of Mrs. Westaway and The Turn of the Key are all full of gorgeous Gothic vibes and details.
Vintage Gothic suspense novels aren’t going anywhere. But a fresh, new crop of Gothic-inspired books like The Girl in the Mirror and The House at Riverton, give us hope that readers are creating a demand for books saturated with Gothic gorgeousness. Book Riot even wrote an article, “50+ Must-Read Gothic Novels and Stories,” just last summer.
Whether it’s a spooky tour taken in real life, or one read about from the comfort of your couch, Gothic-inspiration is never far away.
Now, please excuse me while a brew a cup of lavender-infused tea and contemplate my own mortality.
Looking for a Gothic-inspired suspense novel that will keep you turning pages past your bedtime? Let the Dead Rest features a sinister doll in two parallel timelines. Modern-day sculptor, Isabel Joven, receives a mysterious gift—a vintage doll—but can’t imagine the dark shadows it will cast on her life…
And in 1944, Etta Hayes welcomes home her WWII fiancé. But the doll he brings home leaves her feeling edgy and frightened. When sinister things begin to happen, Etta starts to question the doll’s history and the secrets it harbors.
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