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Avenging Monsters: The Origins of Horror Fiction

By Charles Colson
Breakpoint Online Nobody who watched the film Alien will ever forget the scene that takes place when the astronauts are having dinner: A lizard-like creature comes bursting through a crewmans torso and scurries away. Talk about heartburn!

Its one of the scariest films ever made. But the story behind the horror genre is even scarier.

In his newly re-issued book Horror: A Biography, professor E. Michael Jones advances a fascinating thesis. Horror fiction, he argues, grew out of the sexual decadence of the Enlightenment.

Few people embraced the sexual decadence more eagerly than the English poet Percy Shelley. Shelleys first wife killed herself after he abandoned her to live with Mary Godwin. Shelley then victimized his new wife, Mary, even encouraging her to sleep with his friends.

As tragedy followed tragedy, a remorseful Mary became disillusioned with radical ideals. But she could not relieve her conscience, Jones writes, because she didnt understand repentance. "Literary catharsis seemed the only way" to purge her soul.

So Mary began writing Frankenstein. According to Jones, Marys experience explains the genesis of horror films. We recognize, as she did, that the moral order is true, but if we suppress that, it comes back in our imagination as an avenging monster.

This was evident in the story of Frankenstein. Dr. Frankenstein wants to play God, to create life on his own termsjust as Percy Shelley had created an Enlightenment sexual ethic. But instead of designing a superb new species, Frankenstein gives life to a murderous monster.

The avenging monster from the id, as Jones calls it, took new form during the second phase of the Enlightenmenta time when syphilis had contaminated European blood. Tragically, adulterous husbands often infected their innocent wives. Draculaa novel about a vampire who infects the blood of innocent girlssymbolizes this deadly plague. Draculas author, Bram Stoker, had syphilis himself.

As with Frankenstein, the true story of horror in the authors lifethat is, sexuality divorced from the moral law"is repressed and replaced by a monster who points to the [truth]."

A century later, another vengeful monster emerged in the wake of the modern sexual revolution: that is, the creature in the 1979 film Alien. The man chosen to create the monster, H. R. Giger, claims he never procured an abortion for his mistress. And yet, Jones notes, "his art is full of images of abortion and dead babies." In any event, Jones writes, Gigers thwarting of child-bearing, through either contraception or abortion, "is so morally significant that it embeds itself onto his consciousness."

And Gigers conscience sought relief by creating a fetus-monster for Alien. At the films end, a female astronaut kills the monster in a manner that strikingly resembles a suction abortion.

The warning of these films is that "sex disconnected from the moral order is horrifying," Jones writes.

This Halloween, when your kids want to rent a horror film, dont let them. Instead, sit down with themand with the neighbors kids, as welland explain where horror films really come from and why they are perverse. Its a great way to expose the cultural lies that are at the root of our societys celebration of horror.

Further reading:

Taken from the October 31, 2002, Breakpoint Online Commentary. Copyright 2002 Used with permission, Prison Fellowship Ministries. "BreakPoint with Chuck Colson" is a radio ministry of Prison Fellowship Ministries. Reprinted with permission of Prison Fellowship, P.O. Box 17500, Washington, DC, 20041-0500." Heard on more than 1000 radio stations nationwide. For more information on the ministry of Chuck Colson and Prison Fellowship visit their web site at


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