Horror fiction is a genre of literature, which is intended to, or has the capacity to frighten its readers, inducing feelings of horror and terror. Horror can be either supernatural or non-supernatural. The genre has ancient origins which were reformulated in the eighteenth century as Gothic horror, with publication of the Castle of Otranto (1764) by Horace Walpole.
Supernatural horror has its roots in folklore and religious traditions on death, the afterlife, evil, the demonic and the principle of evil embodied in The Devil. These were manifested in stories of witches, vampires, werewolves, ghosts, and demonic pacts such as that of Faust.
Eighteenth century Gothic horror drew on these sources in such works as Vathek (1786) by William Beckford, The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794) and The Italian (1797) by Ann Radcliffe and The Monk (1796) by Matthew Lewis. A lot of horror fiction of this era was written by women and marketed at a female audience, a typical scenario being a resourceful female protagonist menaced by fiends in a gloomy castle.
The Gothic tradition continued in the 19th century, in such works as Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1818), Edgar Allan Poe's short stories, the works of Sheridan Le Fanu, Robert Louis Stevenson's Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886), Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890), and Bram Stoker's Dracula (1897). Enduring icons of horror derived from these stories include Dr Frankenstein and Frankenstein's Monster, Count Dracula, and Dr Jekyll/Mr Hyde. Other legendary figures of horror from the nineteenth century are the murderers Burke and Hare, Sweeney Todd and Jack the Ripper.
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