Tag Archives: fear

The Art of Nightmares

Childhood Fears

Bed Monster

A Joshua Hoffine Horror Photo

Everyone is afraid of something.  When we were children, it was easy to rattle a list of scary, horrible things.  Our imaginations were full of doubt, fear of what’s lurking in the dark and of over-detailed nightmares.  I was terrified of the dark when I heard strange noises, felt scrutinizing eyes on me or saw unexplainable shadows.  My first line of defense was to hug my stuffed bear as hard as I could and “hide” under my covers.  If  I couldn’t see the monster, then it couldn’t hurt me.  My mom was forced to spritz “Monster Spray” (a mixture of water and perfume in a spray bottle) under our (my younger sister and I shared a room) bed and in the closet to protect us from monsters so we could sleep.

Fear and Sleep

Traumatizing events and anxiety are fuels to experiencing nightmares and night terrors.  According to WebMD, nightmares are vivid situations that seem real until the person wakes up, while night terrors are more confusing because the person wakes up extremely scared but don’t know why.  Duration, subject and the frequency of nightmares vary from person to person, but there are similarities.  The most common nightmares involve inability to escape danger and falling from steep heights.

The nightmares I remember have strong helplessness and time-constraining themes.  I also remember some outrageous nightmares that make no sense:  Forks marching under an orange sky while holding samurai swords with loud saxophones playing in the background.  I mean, it gets pretty ridiculous.  Other common themes in nightmares include violence, pain and suffocation.

Horror Artists

A horror artist is dedicated to recreating unpleasant feelings through photography, painting, sculpture, etc.  Mia Makila is a painter who mixes humor and death into her work.  Joshua Hoffine finds inspiration in psychology and fear for his photos.  Zhang Peng reveals cultural flaws through mixed media.  Below are some quotes from these artists with a sample of their work.  Each tells a different story for a different cause with different perspectives, and they all fall under the horror artist umbrella.  Take a look!

Mia Makila

“I guess everyone’s calling me a “horror artist” because I deal with difficult emotions and themes such as fear, angst, madness, rage and sorrow in my art. But I also use a lot of humour. Making my demons having fun on the canvas. You could describe my art as horror pop surrealism or dark lowbrow. My work includes mixed media, paintings and digital collages.”

Horror Painting by Mia Makila

"That Little Girl" by Mia Makila

Joshua Hoffine

“I am interested in the psychology of fear.  We are born with certain inherent and instinctual fears, such as fear of the dark, fear of lurking danger and fear of being eaten.  As we grow older, these fears lose their intensity and are slowly shuffled away into our Unconscious.  Horror, as an art form, draws its strength from the Unconscious.  Horror photography is able to present these abstract and forgotten fears in literal terms.”

Demon Robot Photo

Joshua Hoffine's Demon Robot

Zhang Peng

“In a broad sense, all of my works demonstrate a kind of oppression. If condi­tions allow, parents plan a future that they think will be good for their children. If they are not wealthy enough, they hope their children will have a skill and then they force them to develop it. As children grow up, their character is dis­torted by the inappropriate pressure of their parents and their school. The appearances of my figures drift between real people and dolls. While the image is aesthetic, I also want to reinforce the strong sense of distortion.”

Depicted Nightmare Art

A suffocation nightmare depiction by Zhang Peng


Haunted Hometown Ohio

Egypt Valley Wildlife Area

Every Buckeye Trail Middle School (my middle school) kid hears about the haunted Egypt Valley in Belmont County, Ohio.  Egypt Valley is a wildlife reserve that doesn’t fit into the landscape.  You’d expect lots of tall trees, maybe a stream and a lot of deer.  Egypt Valley is different, there are giant rocks, jagged cliffs and patches of dry brush everywhere.  It just doesn’t make sense.  It is said that ghosts and other creatures own the night terrorizing anyone brave (or stupid)  enough to make the trip.

Belmont County Map

Egypt Valley Map

The Murder

The true story begins in the mid-1800s with a young teenage girl, Louisa Fox, and her boyfriend, Thomas Carr.  He was much older than the 13-year-old girl and wanted to be married.  She was young, and he could be scary at times.  The townspeople described him as troubled, violent and angry.  He proposed and she agreed but later broke off the engagement.  He was furious.  He waited for her one night while she walked home from work.  He stopped her, kissed her goodbye and stabbed her 14 times after slitting her throat.  He attempted suicide by cutting his own throat and shooting himself, but survived and was sentenced to death a week later.  He was the first person in the county convicted of murder and was hung about a year later.

Concept art of fear

Terror by R-y-a on Deviant Art

Encounters in Egypt Valley

Below is an anonymous personal encounter of paranormal activity in Egypt Valley found on Forgotten Ohio.

Titled: Bloody Claw Marks

On September 13, 2003 me and a group of friends were getting ready to go fishing when we heard the story of Circle Cemetery from a friend who had visited the place before. That’s when we decided to visit this so-called haunted cemetery. We drove up to the cemetery and pulled over and began to walk up to “the circle.” Then we stepped up to a marble headstone and the air got real cold. We weren’t really scared, that was until we heard the dogs bark. But they suddenly stopped and we calmed down a little bit. Then, out of nowhere, our sides started to burn and we lifted our shirts. Three claw marks were stretched across my side like a dog’s paw. Two of my other friends suddenly had burning sensations in the face and arms when they looked down they had pricks and my one friend had cut marks above his eye with blood coming out of it. That’s when we decided to leave the cemetery.

Personal Remarks

I live about three hours North of Egypt Valley so I would never visit in hopes of finding phenomenon.  Even when I was younger and  lived with my parents in the Egypt Valley area, I was never the type who volunteered to dabble in paranormal activity.  I’m not scared of much, but spirits, ghosts and demons are not my cup of tea.  My theory is that unless you know an exorcist, you’re pretty much screwed.  Evil spirits are not like monsters, you can’t shoot them or protect yourself using physical force.  You can’t run or hide.  You’re left terrified and helpless.

Red Faced Demon Spirit

Demon Scene Photo from "Insidious"

Spiritual Inspiration

Child's drawing found on ZombieCupcake.blogspot.com

A child's drawing of what looks like a murder scene

Inspiration for art comes in many forms.  Those interested in macabre may use fear as fuel for an artistic spark for expression.  Our experiences with the paranormal are insights into perspective, personal beliefs and individual reaction.  The word paranormal describes an unusual situation that lacks a scientific definition.  It would be difficult to explain such an experience to someone who has never encountered paranormal phenomena.  It may help to try to recreate the experience by giving the story a visual.  Art is way of expression, interpretation and relief.  Think about the horror movies you’ve seen in which children draw monsters and demons that have visited them.  Only after the parents have accepted something unexplainable is happening do they look to the art work for proof.

Digging Deep into Macabre

Before we can really dive into macabre, it’s important we agree upon a definition.  Macabre translates to death.  In art, macabre is a sub-culture dedicated to grim and horror.  It’s difficult to say when macabre began because demons and spirits have been part of life since the dawn of time.  Religious literature tells us about evil, cave paintings tell us about evil, and stories from others’ experiences tell us about evil.  People always say that without a villain, it’s hard to sell the good guy’s story.  It’s impossible to imagine how we all would’ve developed without the knowledge of evil and horror.  Fear is such a huge part of how we live (or don’t live).

Macabre Beauty Shot

Macabre Beauty Shot

Fear mixed with imagination has helped create and shape the world of macabre.   Zombie portraits, gory photos, suicide depictions, dead bodies, monster attacks, alien abductions, and anything else that means death and horror to someone can be used to create something incredible.  It’s definitely a niche market.  I mean, most people probably prefer oil paintings of landscapes or black and white photos of their loved ones, but for those of us interested in the darker side of things, we have macabre.

It’s interesting to think about macabre before movies were possible.  We only had photos, paintings, and stories.  In Victorian times we had theater and costumes.  In Biblical times we had stories of Eve and the snake of temptation.  Every era brings a new perspective on evil and horror.  Now we have video games and fashion.  Each decade pushes the envelope,  I remember hearing about blood painting in undergrad.  Who knows what the next medium in macabre might be.  Hopefully this blog will help me connect with macabre enthusiasts across the globe, so we can stay up-to-date on the latest news and artists.  I just want to be in the loop.

Personally, macabre reminds me to appreciate life, to remember the fact that our time ends eventually and sometimes unexpectedly, and not to take what I have for granted.  I’m not sure if any piece of photography or painted material featuring a skeleton counts as macabre, but I plan to investigate.  I’ve always been interested in the villain, in darkness, and in horror, but I’ve never dived in beyond an entertainment standpoint to learn about it.  I watch movies, I play zombie video games, I like black clothing, but I’m missing out on a wonderful opportunity to explore grim art.

This journey down the rabbit hole of terror should nothing less than interesting.  I hope to learn about how others incorporate macabre into their lives and art, and maybe make some friends along the way.  It’s only fair to hear all sides of a story.  Art can be nice, it can be moving, it can be beautiful, but it can also be disturbing and enlightening.  The most terrifying painting I’ve ever seen is by Salvador Dali.  His melting clocks scares me. *shudder*  It makes me feel eerie and out of control.  I can’t stand it.  Maybe our own fears are what bring macabre to life?

I’m ready to figure this out.  I packed a flashlight, so let’s do this.