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New England Gothic revolves around strange and sinister secrets and occurrences in the New England region of the United States. It typically draws upon local history, folklore, imagery, and values, often relating to Protestantism and the region's colonial period. It commonly features the supernatural, such as witches, ghosts, demons, the Devil, and other strange entities.

Like other Regional Gothic aesthetics, its popularity resurged during the mid 2010s, with added aspects of liminal space and specifically formatted text posts, but it has origins in Dark Romantic literature of the early 19th century.

History and Development[]

“Shall we never never get rid of this Past? ... It lies upon the Present like a giant's dead body.”
― Nathaniel Hawthorne, The House of the Seven Gables

Literature[]

New England Gothic got a start as a literary tradition. The earliest known work of fiction containing ideas and imagery now associated with New England Gothic is “The Devil and Tom Walker” by Washington Irving (of "Sleepy Hollow" fame) first published in 1824. Regarded as "New England's Faust," in about 1727, the titular Tom Walker is met in a wooded swamp at the remains of an Indian fort by Old Scratch, who, taking a liking to Tom, offers to provide him with the nearby buried treasure of Captain Kidd, under certain conditions. Though satirical in nature and now obscure, it and its author should not be disregarded, as Irving is said to have encouraged the likes of Nathaniel Hawthorne and Edgar Allen Poe.[1]

Hawthorne is the one credited with the creation of New England Gothic with his fiction, [2] starting with “Young Goodman Brown” in 1835. Set in 17th Century Puritan New England, the titular Goodman Brown leaves his wife for a journey through a forest which takes a gloomy turn. Hawthorne was troubled by and ashamed of his great-great-grandfather, John Hathorne, an instrumental judge in the Salem Witch Trials who never repented for his actions, and this shadow over Hawthorne is apparent throughout his works. Hawthorne and Poe would, through their works, influence possibly the most well-recognized New England Gothic author, H.P. Lovecraft,[3] whose foray into New England Gothic is “The Terrible Old Man,” first published in 1921. Set in a fictional seaside Massachusetts town, it centers around an attempted burglary of the very old house of a town resident "so old that no one can remember when he was young," who, among other strange facts, is thought to have been a clipper ship's captain, and keeps stones with odd symbols on them on his property. Lovecraft sought to break the Gothic molds of his time, and pioneered cosmic horror, fueled by his deep-seated xenophobia and using his native New England as a setting almost all the while. Through Lovecraft, New England Gothic became intertwined with cosmic horror and the Weird, and other pulp writers - with his encouragement - borrowed from his works to produce New England Gothic tales in similarly weird veins. Such writers include August Derleth, Henry Kuttner, and even Robert Bloch.

Another important though underrepresented figure in New England Gothic’s development in literature is Shirley Jackson, starting with her controversial short story “The Lottery” in 1948, which depicts a brutal ritual in a contemporary small-town American community. Though she was born and raised in California, Jackson eventually moved East. Her new home in North Bennington, Vermont, served as a recurrent backdrop for her Gothic stories, while the abuse she suffered, from her parents even after moving out and from her husband in marriage, as well as her ostracism from the surrounding community,[4] undoubtedly informed their substance. The works of Lovecraft and Jackson would go on to influence none other than Stephen King,[5] [6] who has been spawning New England Gothic tales of his own at least since his breakout novel Carrie, released in April of 1974.

Film and Television[]

With the advent of film, New England Gothic began being depicted through a different medium. It has been on screen since at least 1910, with the premier of The House of the Seven Gables, directed by J. Searle Dawley and starring Mary Fuller. [7]

Music[]

New England Gothic is noticeably lacking in music compared to other Regional Gothics, and New England's music tradition in general (with the possible exception of its repertoire of shanties and sea ballads) is small and limited compared to the South and the West. This is probably a symptom of the notions of the "practical" Yankee and the Puritan before them, as both devoted little time to the arts.

Food[]

Food associated with New England Gothic is largely the same as that associated with the New England aesthetic. Simple, inexpensive dishes are favorable.

Social Media[]

When the Regional Gothic Trend took off on Tumblr in early 2015, it produced specimens set in New England, albeit based on Southern Gothic clichés, effectively breathing new life into the aesthetic, but approaching it from a different angle.

Criticism[]

Though influential on New England Gothic and horror in general, the fiction of H.P. Lovecraft is criticized for the racist ideas recurrent throughout it. There is no getting around that Lovecraft was a white supremacist, and his racist views are inseparable from his writing, but understanding this is important to understanding the power of his works.

Media[]

"No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality..."
― Shirley Jackson, The Haunting of Hill House

Literature[]

  • "The Devil and Tom Walker," by Washington Irving
  • Several of Nathaniel Hawthorne's works, such as "Young Goodman Brown," The Scarlet Letter, and The House of the Seven Gables.
  • "The Black Dog" by W.H.C. Pynchon.
  • Many of H.P. Lovecraft's works, such as "The Shunned House," The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, The Dunwich Horror, The Shadow over Innsmouth, "The Dreams in the Witch House" and "The Horror in the Burying-Ground" with Hazel Heald.
  • "The Graveyard Rats" and "The Salem Horror," by Henry Kuttner
  • Several of Shirley Jackson's works, such as "The Lottery," The Haunting of Hill House, and We Have Always Lived in the Castle.
  • The Crucible by Arthur Miller
  • The Peyton Place series by Grace Metalious.
  • Many of Stephen King's works, such as Carrie, 'Salem's Lot, Pet Sematary, It, and Dolores Claiborne.
  • The Witches of Eastwick duology by John Updike.
  • Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman
  • Shutter Island, by Dennis Lehane.
  • Many of the works of Steve Burt, including many of those collected in New England - Seaside, Roadside, Graveside, Darkside.
  • The Hopeless, Maine series by Tom and Nimue Brown
  • The Northern Reach by W.S. Winslow

Cookbooks[]

  • Castle Rock Kitchen by Theresa Carle-Sanders

Film[]

(Film adaptations of New England Gothic novels and short stories are not counted here. Many films here (especially those from the 1980s) are mostly horror that possess gothic elements and are adapted to a New England setting, or relate to the Salem Witch Trials in some way.)

  • Maid of Salem (1937)
  • The Spiral Staircase (1946) *
  • The Trouble with Harry (1955)
  • Tormented (1960)
  • The City of the Dead (1962)
  • The Curse of the Living Corpse (1969)
  • Let's Scare Jessica to Death (1971)
  • The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane (1976)
  • Superstition (1982)
  • The Devonsville Terror (1983)
  • Witchery (1988)
  • Warlock (1989)
  • Hocus Pocus (1993)
  • In the Mouth of Madness (1994)
  • Scooby-Doo and the Witch's Ghost (1999)
  • Sleepy Hollow (1999)
  • What Lies Beneath (2000)
  • Session 9 (2001)
  • The Haunting in Connecticut (2009)
  • YellowBrickRoad (2010)
  • The Innkeepers (2011)
  • Para-Norman (2012)
  • The Conjuring (2013)
  • The Witch (2015)
  • The Lighthouse (2018)
  • Fear Street trilogy (2021)

*Fascinatingly, while the novel the film is based on (Some Must Watch by Ethel Lina White) is set in then-contemporary England, the film adaptation is instead set in turn-of-the-century New England, in order to "give it a more threatening gothic atmosphere."[8]

Television[]

  • Dark Shadows (1966-1971)
  • Salem's Lot (1979)
  • Struck by Lightning (1979)
  • Storm of the Century (1999)
  • Passions (1999-2007)
  • American Horror Story: Asylum (2012)
  • Castle Rock (2018-2019)
  • Nancy Drew (2019)
  • Seasons 2 and 3 of The Owl House (2020-2023)
  • Chapelwaite (2021 - Present)
  • American Horror Story: Double Feature, Part 1: Red Tide (2021)
  • Episodes 2, 5, and 6 of Guillermo del Toro's Cabinet of Curiosities (2022)
  • Wednesday (2022-)

Tabletop Games[]

  • Many scenarios and supplements for the role-playing game Call of Cthulhu

Video Games[]

  • Aspects of the Silent Hill video games

Art[]

  • Andrew Wyeth

Tumblr[]

https://new-england-gothic.tumblr.com/
https://amorilinguae.tumblr.com/post/115911544134

Playlist[]

https://8tracks.com/thedisplacedsoutherner/a-witch-among-us

Gallery[]

References[]

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