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OPINION: Your biggest fears hide in valuable stories

Horror is the best genre, telling stories with precision as sharp as the point of a knife

Mount Baker Theater brushes the clouds of downtown Bellingham, Wash. on Feb. 11, 2024. Within its walls, a spirit by the name of Judy will chase male patrons in attempts to seduce them. // Photo by John Oakes

For some, horror comes once a year, arriving in October alongside yellowing leaves and a sharp breeze. Others keep the macabre close all year long, watching scary movies in their free time and flipping through the pages of a horror novel while drinking their morning coffee. 

Those are the folks I like.

If you cannot already tell, I am a dedicated horror fan. While I enjoy the spine-tingling sensation a well-written horror story conjures, I enjoy the exploration of the human condition much more, and I think that is something everyone – fear fanatic or not – should be aware of when experiencing horror.

Now, I understand not everyone finds entertainment in the dark recesses of a room or in that strange howling that only comes at night. Some people don’t enjoy being scared. That’s all right, but horror is so much more than cheap scares.

Beneath the drooling monsters there is deep understanding of cultural anxieties and human emotion. To say it bluntly, some messages can only be shared through the horror genre.

Black Cat
Inside Sycamore Square block in downtown Fairhaven in Bellingham, Wash. on Feb. 11, 2024. What is now the Black Cat restaurant possesses its own ghost – the Green Lady, who wanders the hall of this building. // Photo by John Oakes

“Horror can be a mirror to our social anxieties,” said Dr. Felicia Cosey, an assistant professor of film and media studies at Western Washington University. “It shows us things that are going on at that particular time.”

Think of it – Frankenstein’s monster is not just a stumbling, reanimated corpse. He is the abuse of scientific knowledge. Blood-sucking vampires are the exploitation of another’s autonomy. Horror uses supernatural fear to help us deal with the real scares we face in our lives.

A story is at its peak when its audience can relate to it. We fall in love with characters and events that we see ourselves in. 

Whether you enjoy being scared or not, horror is a genre everyone can relate to.

“Fear is something that we all experience,” said Lori Langen, a second-year Western student. “We’re all going to be able to relate to horror because we all have some deep-seated fear.”

So why not explore our fears? Horror lets us do that easily.

What used to be Palace Meat Market is now the Redlight bar in downtown Bellingham, Wash. on Feb. 11, 2024. In the shadows of the night of April 11, 1905, someone murdered Frederick L. Dames behind the building. // Photo by John Oakes

“People like feeling a little scared, but in a safe way,” said Kolby LaBree, owner and “mistress of all things” of  BellingHistory with the Good Time Girls, as well as the host of a podcast by the same name. “It really targets your emotional reactions.”

It sounds ridiculous. How can intentional fear bring relief? But if art is an exploration of our anxieties, then horror is the greatest genre for us to cope with the things that scare us the most.

If you tend to stray from the macabre, I implore you to give it a shot. There might be some gut wrenching moments – I hope there is, because what is horror without them? – but I promise you’ll find something valuable once you’ve seen the monsters in the closet.

John Oakes

John Oakes (he/him) is an opinions reporter for The Front this quarter. In his free time, he writes fiction and not much else. You can find his work in Etherea Magazine as well as other venues. You can reach him at

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