Post CEFR level: B1

Some fears are rational—they are real and can be seen or detected. Other fears are irrational or extreme, because there is no logical explanation for them; they’re called phobias. No matter what you fear, it’s a very unpleasant sensation of threat that pervades you.

Fear is often the theme of famous literary masterpieces, because people like experiencing fear through what they read. Let’s take a look at a few of them.

In John Meade Falkner’s novel, Moonfleet (1898),  young John Trenchard is terrified when he discovers a macabre crypt of  rotten coffins under the church cemetery. He is horrified to find the skeleton of the terrible pirate Blackbeard in one of the coffins. When he hears the voices of dangerous smugglers in the crypt, he fears for his life because he knows how cruel they are. John’s frightening adventures continue as he searches for Blackbeard’s secret treasure.

In Stories of Ghosts and Mystery, famous 19th-century authors like Le Fanu, Kipling and Hawthorne wrote about ghosts, death, evil and the unknown. Kipling’s short story, The Return of Imray, is about a faithful dog, Tietjens, who can’t sleep inside the house at night, because he feels the presence of something dangerous and evil. The American author Nathaniel Hawthorne was very interested in curses, witches, ghosts and sins. In the short story, The Minister’s Black Veil, fear of a mysterious sin condemns a young Puritan reverend to live a tormented existence.

Edgar Allan Poe is often called the master of the horror story. He wrote about madmen who were the narrators of the stories. These madmen analyzed their own madness and cruelty. They knew they were mad and couldn’t do anything about it, while they committed the most horrid crimes. Poe’s stories are truly frightening because the horrors existed in the minds of the narrators, and then materialized, as can be seen in American Horror, Three Terrifying Tales.


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