Horror Academia is a subgenre of academia that focuses thematically on the overwhelming amount of knowledge in the world. Visually, it takes horror—especially cosmic or Lovecraftian horror—and applies it to academia, research, and learning. It takes inspiration from the exhaustion of being a student or researcher, the fear of failure, and the fear of the unknown, focusing specifically on cramped, dingy spaces, like libraries or archives, and leaning away from the more elegant gothic motifs that characterize Dark Academia or Darkest Academia. Horror academia is a dreary, depressing aesthetic that reflects the difficulty and laborious workload of real academia, made manifest in the spooky, grimdark, and monstrous horror ambience of the aesthetic.
Common horror academia visuals include shadowy libraries or archives, stacks of books and papers, uncanny hallways, and coffee. Monsters or ghosts may accompany these things, but are not themselves horror academia. Dim lighting is a must, and bright colors are very rarely used.
Horror academia is similar to dark and darkest academia, but focuses more on studiousness. It is grungier, creepier, and less Gothic. There is also less of a focus on architecture; in terms of space and location, horror academia is focused only on the spaces that hold knowledge, and generally stays away from the outdoors—horror academia students are too deep into the bowels of the library to hear the rain drumming on the roof. High-vaulted ceilings and sharp spires are more the realm of Darkest Academia.
Horror academia has more of a fascination with battered, everyday objects and imperfections, meaning that there is not the same focus on classical art or statues, though these things can certainly be creepy. Horror academia is an everyday sort of horror. For the same reason, graveyards aren't particularly horror academia.
Horror academia is a more modern aesthetic, though it is not necessarily set in modern day. The themes of horror academia are applicable to a wide range of time periods, but modern objects and locations are featured more often, with the romanticization of eras like the Victorian taking a backseat. While computers and smartphones often don't lend themselves well to a creepy aesthetic, they can absolutely be included if they are suitably dim or dingy—low brightness helps. Depictions of older devices such as cassette tapes, landline phones, CDs, and other older tech often suit this aesthetic better—the screech and skip of a scratched CD or the ambient whir of a tape recorder are very horror academic.
- Dusty books/textbooks
- Filing cabinets, especially rusted ones that make creaky noises
- Water-damaged notebooks
- Cracked, beat-up ballpoint pens
- Worn backpacks
- Red string/conspiracy theory cork boards
- Cracked glasses
- Flickering, dim, or cracked phone or computer screens
- Black coffee
- CDs or cassette tapes
- Desk lamps that are just bright enough to read by, but too dark to illuminate the room
- Teetering piles of unorganized books and papers
- Boxes full of files
- Cramped library work nooks/cubicles
- Empty, dim reading rooms without any windows
- Long hallways of shelves
- Dimly lit offices with shuttered windows
- Cluttered desks
- Messy unorthodox workspaces, like in a car
- Grungy 24-hour diners where you have to order black coffee once an hour
Themes & Philosophy
Horror academia focuses more on nonfiction and research as topics of study. A horror academia student can be seen hunched over a science textbook, ancient historical tome, or psychological manual, typing away at a dim laptop as the sense of dread grows from something behind them. Horror academia students are too stressed to high-mindedly consider the themes of poetry or art—the closest they get is dutifully churning out a paper for their English class, or quickly shutting the a drawer on a figurine whose eyes seem to follow them, before returning to their other research.
Unlike Darkest Academia, Goth, or Romantic Academia, Horror Academia is not about finding beauty in study—it is about commiserating the dark curiousity, grueling work, and willpower that go into the pursuit of knowledge. There is something strange and terrifying and interesting deep in the darkest part of the stacks, but to call it beautiful would be a lie. Existential fear, stress, and a sense of creeping dread make up the emotional core of horror academia.
In addition, horror academia takes the messy, often-dysfunctional themes of Chaotic Academia and removes the rebellious joy. A horror academia student may have a desk teetering with books and papers, but they feel obsessive and guilty about it. They may be up at 3 in the morning, but they aren't out with their friends—they are alone with their books as the lines blur before their wavering, exhausted gaze and the shadows behind them reach out hungrily.
One should not sleep-deprive, overwork, or otherwise negatively affect oneself in the pursuit of becoming a horror academic. Horror academia exists as a reflection of the pressures of academia and study and not as something to negatively aspire to. You can (and should) absolutely appreciate the grimdark, grungy, and spooky aesthetic while still being a healthy student.
Horror academia is less fashion-focused than other academias. Horror academia fashion is characterized by an exhausted or disheveled appearance. Clothes should be in a muted or neutral color palette, but the idea is mostly to look like you are too harried by the stress of your deadlines and the ghosts possessing your books to worry about your appearance. The thrift-store, worn-to-pieces is somewhat similar to Grunge, and the style as a whole is also similar to Chaotic Academia, though with even less of the refinement of Dark Academia.
- Fraying, oversized sweaters
- Fraying tweed jackets
- Worn hoodies
- Smudged or askew glasses
- Pajamas (in the color palette, of course)
- Messy hair
- Baggy pants or jeans
- Tattered skirts
- Ripped jeans
- Ink stained hands
- Overflowing bags or backpacks
- A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik
- The Archived by Victoria Schwab
- The Theodosia Series by R. L. LaFevers
- The Magnus Archives
- The Midnight Library
- Archive 81
Horror academia music is creepy, discomfiting, and rarely relaxing. Even pieces that are melodic have a distinct creepy feel. Horror academia music can be from any time period and feature any instruments. It may also be experimental or discordant, like George Crumb's Black Angels.
- The Black Angels suite by George Crumb
- Transylvanian Lullaby
- Dark Ambient Melodies
- Dark Lofi Hip Hop Beats to Lie Awake and Succumb to Crippling Anxiety To
- Classical Dark Academia by Gaby Sena
These are extended soundscapes featuring the sounds of libraries, archives or offices, often with a creepy twist.
- Archive Ambience - The Magnus Archives
- Archive Office ASMR Ambience
- Old Library Sounds
- The Archives ASMR Ambience | The Magnus Institute
- Haunted Library ASMR Ambience