Monday, October 17, 2011

Unwrapping: The Paranormal Romance Genre

     Throughout history, we very mortal Humans have had an irresistible fascination with all things paranormal. Stories and myths surrounding witchcraft take us back to the time of Stonehenge and King Arthur. Ancient myths and tales of deaths caused by Vampires and Werewolves abound throughout Europe and Asia. The New World cultures were no different with tales of blood thirsty civilizations that held human sacrifices to appease the gods.  Unsubstantiated reports of unidentified flying objects still draw our attention to the nightly news.

     With Halloween, or All Hallow's Eve as it's referred to in some circles, just a mere two weeks away, our thoughts and fantasies turn to all things hair-raising and scary in the dark.  Ghosts, goblins, night creatures and shape shifters fill our imaginations.  Dark corners suddenly fill our imaginations with hidden figures sending shivers of fearful delight over our body making the hair on our arms and neck stand up. We laugh at our silliness while subconsciously we're wondering if it could be true.

     Why the fascination with things that go bump in the night?

      Humans are most likely the only animal on this planet that actually enjoy being frightened. I'm not saying that we like fear but rather the autonomic arousal and the associated safety of being frightened by scary amusement rides, movies, books and stories around a campfire in the middle of the dark woods.



     We have the cognitive reasoning to understand what scares us to get the rush of adrenaline that makes our hearts beat faster, the hair on our arms stand up and makes us jump in delight. It's not the fear we crave but the afterglow of having been scared with the knowledge that we're safe. If we stepped out into the road and someone blows a horn, we jump because of a natural reaction to fear - our innate instinct for protection and survival. That fearful situation leaves us with our heart pounding and our breathing out of control for a few minutes but we generally don't find that kind of a scare tantalizing or enjoyable.  But put us in a dark room, reading a scary novel and somewhere in the house a door slams and pow!, we laugh delightfully when we realize that all is well.   

     Paranormal Romance has its roots in Gothic Fiction which dates back to the 1700's with novels such as Horace Walpole's THE CASTLE OF OTRANTO - a story of curses, murder, the need for power and a romance developing from unexpected occurances.  Even though THE CASTLE OF OTRANTO wasn't called a Romance, I would imagine that by the genre standards of today, it might have been considered one since there was a 'happily ever after' for Theodore and Isabella. Through the centuries, Gothic Fiction grew, expanded and somewhere along the way, some authors crossed it further with Romance and a new genre was born.

     The genre expanded going far beyond ghosts and curses to include anything supernatural - magic, the occult, ghosts, shape shifters including werewolves, psychic powers such at telepathy or telekinesis, superhuman abilities, time travel, fantastic or legendary 
creatures such as vampires, fairies, gods and goddesses, angels, and demons, a fantasy world or alternative Earth or reality setting, relationships that continue to exist over eras and eons, basically anything that has a futuristic or science fictional element.  All those good things that go bump in the night but still give us a love romance that ends 'happily ever after.' Really, could there be anything better?

     So with Halloween coming, only a mere two weeks away, I'm sure you've started planning your decorations and activities - if you haven't already started spreading those cobwebs and pumpkins - perhaps you're reading something scary. Have you considered a Paranormal Romance to add to your reading list? Remember, like some ghost stories told around a campfire, Paranormal Romances come in many different levels of jump factor.  We'll explore more of that as we work our way toward All Hallow's Eve, the night when the souls of the dead hover between their earthly plain and their final resting place.

     How about a Ghost Story to help get us in the mood. There's a story out of New York about a White Lady:

     In the early 1800s, the White Lady and her daughter were supposed to have lived on the land where the Durand Eastman Park -- part of Irondequoit and Rochester -- now stands. One day, the daughter disappeared. Convinced that the girl had been raped and murdered by a local farmer, the mother searched the marshy lands day after day, trying to discover where her child's body was buried. She took with her two German shepherd dogs to aid in her search, but she never found a trace of her daughter. Finally, in her grief, the mother threw herself off a cliff into lake Ontario and died. Her dogs pined for their mistress and shortly thereafter joined her in the grave.

     After death, the mother's spirit returned to continue the search for her child. People say that on foggy nights, the White Lady rises from the small Durand Lake which faces Lake Ontario. She is accompanied by her dogs and together they roam through the Durand Eastman park, still searching for her missing daughter.

     The White Lady is not a friendly spirit. She dislikes men and often seeks vengeance against the males visiting the park on her daughter's behalf . There have been reports of the White Lady chasing men into the lake, shaking their cars, and making their lives miserable until they leave the park. She has never touched any females accompanying these unfortunate fellows.

     How about you - do you have a favorite ghost story or possibly had an encounter of your own?

     We'd all love to hear it ... the more hair-raising the better.  The better to scare you with, my pretty!

     Happy Spooky Reading!


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