Castles have been a part of horror since for centuries. As a writer who specializes on horror history and symbolism, I often notice that people automatically have a tingle go up their spine when they see a castle in a horror movie, or read about one in a horror literature. Take a moment with me to explore the symbolism behind castles in horror movies and horror literature.
If we were to take a page out of the book that rattled around in the mind of H.P. Lovecraft we would find that castles in horror movies and horror literature symbolize forgotten knowledge that humanity was either never meant to know, or meant to forget.
Notice that almost every gothic castle has a library of dusty old books. In many cases, cursed works such as the, “Necronomicon,” “The Book of Eibon,” or “Cultes des Goules,” might be hidden inside. The castle is there to separate us from what we really do not want to learn.
Many horror movies and stories of horror literature tell of hidden creatures or forgotten and mutated humans that live deep within a castle. The castle is there as the sanctuary for that creature, or as a prison. Outsiders should know well enough to leave castles alone.
Lack of Safety
Sometimes castles are meant to symbolize places in the world that we cannot truly be safe. Mind that castles were originally created as places of safety. Instead, in horror movies and in horror literature, castles are places where people go to die.
Consider the story of, “The Keep,” by F. Paul Wilson. Nazi military personnel head to an abandoned castle to hold out, and regroup. Instead, they are killed off one by one by something. In this instance, as many others, the castle gives a false sense of security. “Masque of the Red Death,” by Poe could also be inserted here as a great example.
One other staple of gothic castles would be the crypt that one would find outside of the castle, or in the depths beneath the castle. Again, this is a hidden evil, and somewhere that we should not tread. Instead of just being a place to bury the dead, a crypt in a castle in a horror movie or in horror literature is a place to bury the insolent people that have passed through the castle in the past.
The Secret Passageways
Secret passages in castles in horror movies and horror literature symbolize secrets that are hidden right in front of the characters, the viewers, and the readers. Once we realize that these secrets have been right in front of us the entire time, we almost feel as stupid as the characters that we are following.
Some castles are meant to symbolize the safe haven of the Devil. A separate Hell on Earth as it will. No matter how foreboding the castle might be with the lightning, the fact that villagers believe that it is cursed, and the odd lights, we are still drawn to the castle in horror movies and horror literature. Just like temptation of the flesh, we are drawn into the temptation of the castle.
The towers that surround castles in horror movies and in horror literature are one of the most blatant symbols in the reach of horror symbolism. Mind that many castle builders had to build the straightest, and tallest towers around. While it was stated that these towers were meant for lookouts, they were, and continue to be, phallic symbols.
The next time that you seen castles in a horror movie, or read about one in horror literature, think about the points of symbolism that you read about here. Impress your friends with the depth of your understanding of horror symbolism as it deals with castles.