So in our Monster Talks podcast episode on digital horror stories we talked a bit about what we ended up calling ‘the Thing with the aviator sunglasses’: the creature that haunts the narrator of the untitled Jezebel story by Melwithoudiner5. We were a little tough on the Thing – perhaps too tough? As part of the podcast episode, I narrated and recorded the story and came to a newfound appreciation for the Thing as it disrupts the narrator’s everyday, domestic life, demanding to know if the man of the house is home, because it has prepared something (what???) for him (to eat???). We later learn that the narrator’s boyfriend and the neighbour, Jim – a former police officer – keep information about the Thing secret from the narrator and conspire to find ways to keep it out of the house without the narrator knowing. Could the Thing with the aviator sunglasses be extending an invitation more than a threat – or an invitation in the threat – with the question: “Is Scott home?”
Hi Line! Yes, it’s definitely one of those stories where it’s not just the anomalous Thing, but the situation surrounding it that’s weird. In some ways the storyteller is setting up a classic Gothic scenario: the heroine is in new domestic surroundings that she’s not quite settled in yet, there’s an unclear and mysterious threat involving her boyfriend, and, most importantly, a secret is being kept from her. Jim’s injunction not to talk about it again is interesting – it obviously suggests that the Thing might gain power from being seen or thought about or talked about, a little like in Algernon Blackwood’s Weird horror story “The Willows”, where the only way to escape these beings is not to think about them. But of course it’s also a not-uncommon communal response to trauma, that you just don’t talk about it.
When the narrator tells Jenny about the incident, she immediately gives the phone to Jim, even though, as we later find out, the original incident happened to Jenny – “late one night when they’d just had their first child”. So in both cases the men take responsibility for interpreting it/defending the house from it/closing down discussion of it, but the Thing apparently shows up only to women, and apparently women in some kind of liminal state – with a new home or a new child. And it seems to want to do *something* to the men. Although I can’t imagine what’s actually on that foil-covered plate.
Tomorrow is the second meeting of the Monsters of the Anthropocene reading group series! We will meet 14:00 – 15:30 Oslo time and discuss the first chapter of Astrida Neimanis’ book Bodies of Water.
If you’re on the Monsters of the Anthropocene mailing-list, you should have received an email with Zoom link and more information about the meeting – if you haven’t, let us know! If you want to join the mailing-list, let us know!
Ghosts and monsters thrive in online storytelling – but why? What are the interconnections between digital media and the supernatural? And can you become cursed by listening to a podcast? Join Erika Kvistad and Line Henriksen in a discussion of their shared love of online horror stories. The topics range from creepypasta (digital urban legends), to the annual Jezebel Halloween scary story contest, Twitter horror stories, digital haunted houses, and the history of found footage storytelling as well as cursed literature – digital as well as analogue.
Erika Kvistad is associate professor of English at the University of South-East Norway, and works on sexuality, horror, digital narratives, and the nineteenth century. She is currently writing about digital haunted houses, and her most recent publication, in The Palgrave Handbook of Contemporary Gothic (2020), is on haunted spaces in creepypasta and Twitter horror.
Line Henriksen is postdoctoral researcher at the IT University of Copenhagen and co-founder of the international research and art network The Monster Network. Her research interests include creative methods, hauntology and monster theory, and she is the author of the monograph In the Company of Ghosts – Hauntology, Ethics, Digital Monsters (2016).