Swooning and screaming

LOCH AWE _20120921_0000013

This tremendously evocative ruin reminds me of The Mysteries of Udolpho, which I read in my impressionable teens, when I was also swooning over Shelley and Chatterton. The experience of actually starving in a garret didn’t come until a few years later.


Kilchurn Castle on Loch Awe in Scotland was built in 1450 by the first Lord of Glenorchy, and the island it dominates is only a little larger than the castle itself.


One of the towers was famously struck by lightning in 1760, which completely blew the top off its corbelled-out base. It landed upside-down in the courtyard still in one piece and hasn’t been moved since.

That bit of the story reminds me of The Castle of Otranto, with the giant, ghostly mailed gauntlet appearing to the accompaniment of a loud thunderclap in the middle of the night.

Provided you have a vivid (preferably out of control) imagination many of the eighteenth and nineteenth century Gothic tales still retain their power to chill the blood. My favourites include:

  • The Bride of the Grave (Johann Ludwig Tieck, 1814)
  • The Field of Terror (Baron de la Motte Fouque, 1827)
  • The Hall of Blood (Professor von Kramer, 1789)
  • Valdrwulf, or The Fiend of the Moor (Anonymous, c1828)
  • The Cremona Violin (ETA Hoffmann, 1816)

If you get caught reading one you can always say you’re making a study of the genre. It works for me.


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