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A Few of My Favorite Monsters

Written by Cassondra Windwalker

It’s become quite the cliché, this notion that all the real monsters are people. In spite of this, and even with the burgeoning interest in serial killers and true crime, supernatural horror is in its heyday as a genre. Not just in books, but in all arenas of the art world: film, television series, paintings, graphic novels, even fashion. We can’t look away from the shadows lurking in the closet and under the bed, even if it’s only mirrors we find there.

For me, the monsters most frightening and compelling, most fearsome and unforgettable, are those nearest ourselves. I live and write on the precipice between woman and demon, between dream and nightmare. In that half-waking moment when all the spectres of the night are still corporeal.

wraith

Image credit: Mythology.net

Wraiths

Inherently tragic, these spirits appear just before the doomed person meets their death or just after. They’ve not yet accepted their fate, even as their very appearance seals it. The wraith still possesses all the longing and awareness of the mortal person but is helpless to complete any earthly tasks. They represent both our unwillingness to let go of the dead, and a horror of the prospect of our own aborted ends, which loom always on the path ahead of us.

banshee

Image credit: CuriousPort

Banshees

Women have long been regarded as the gatekeepers of life, and their power over that swinging door has no doubt been responsible for much of the dread and fear that led to their oppression through time. The banshee, though, is one of the most benevolent of mythological nightmares. Her arrival strikes terror because the sound of her wailing means the approach of grief inexorable – the death of a beloved that cannot be averted. Nonetheless, the banshee comes as a fellow mourner, and while she may bear away the dead, her sorrow is as real as our own.

selkies

Image credit: TerryWindling.com

Selkies are the seal-people who are able to take the form of mortals when they come ashore and leave their seal-skin behind. Unlike most supernatural creatures, selkies are far more likely to be the victims of unscrupulous humans than the instigators of any malice. In fact, many of the stories involving selkies indicate a keen awareness of the plight of women living at the mercy of the men in their lives. If a selkie’s seal-skin was stolen, they could not retake their native form and return to the sea. Stories of female selkies forced to marry mortal men until they could find their seal-skins and escape are common across many northern sea cultures. As someone who walks the icy shores of Alaska almost daily and is often accompanied by friendly seals, it’s easy for me to imagine them as otherworldly companions.

changeling

Image credit: The Irish Post

Changelings

Changelings fascinate me as one of the saddest and most awful examples of our desire to justify the unjustifiable. Even a cursory read of changeling lore reveals a hatred of the unusual or the difficult and a defense of infanticide. Children with physical defects or neurological quirks that affected their behavior could be exposed to death with a clear conscience, as they were only the offspring of wicked fae who had stolen the human child away and left their own as a substitute. I’d love to write a story of the changeling’s triumph someday.

tommyknockers

Image credit: Happy Campers RV Rentals

Tommyknockers

Tommyknockers represent some of the most fundamental operations of horror on the human psyche. Ghosts of workers who died in the mines, tommyknockers can be dangerous when disrespected, but their presence is considered essential to safe operation. Tommyknockers are memorial, admonition, and protection all at once. In these creatures, miners are able to walk alongside their worst fears without being overcome by them. In fact, these manifestations of mining tragedies are what stand between the worker and death itself. They don’t speak to flights of fancy or old-time romance, but to the common fears of the ordinary worker who has nothing else but his own courage to console him in the darkness.

In my latest book Hold My Place, you’ll find a monster entirely other than any of these. Whether the evil at work in the pages is fully human in the end, or if something far hungrier and more powerful than ever imagined has found its way to mortal form, only the reader can decide. In either case, a love that truly never dies is a curse, not a promise. I’d love to hear what you think on Twitter, where you can catch up with me @WindwalkerWrite.

Horror DNA would like to thank Cassondra for sharing this piece with us! Make sure to pick up her book by clicking one of the links below!

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