PDA

View Full Version : Deep South history for a YA horror



The_Ink_Goddess
02-22-2015, 07:44 PM
Apologies for the incomprehensible title. Hopefully it'll make more sense in a minute.

I know this seems like the kind of thing I should be able to do for myself, but it's surprisingly hard to find this stuff on the Internet when you're not absolutely sure what to look for, and I thought it might be fun/interesting to see if anybody was super-inspired. :D

So, in my YA horror, I'm struggling with backstory. (I've been struggling with a lot of things about this WIP, but this is the main one :tongue.) Essentially, it's about a family from old money in the (modern-day) South who sort of worship the Devil. But mostly have to use him because of a bargain made a long time ago, and a curse which has hung around for years and years. I want this idea to be 'as contemporary as possible' because I'm not good with fantasy/paranormal (even though, yes, I know, it's not really possible to summon the Devil -- hopefully.)

I don't want to just make something up. I want to take and use a real historical event so it can seem more real. I'm looking for a hallmark from the history from where all of this can stem - a place where the bad luck began, though obviously its effects will be highlighted for drama and stakes etc. I was originally thinking about Black Sunday (the Oklahoma Dustbowl in 1935) but I'm more feeling Mississippi for the setting, and I think another writer with a not-dissimilar premise may be using that. (But, really, any Southern state works.)

It can have happened at any time from the 1700s-1930s; the main bulk of the story is set loosely in 1999 and 2016 and the only prerequisite is that it's been around for a long time. Sadly, it also has to have affected white people (although duh, not exclusively) because, although I'd love to read a horror story about the history of Native Americans or slaves, I don't think I'm the right person to write that story. Bonus points if it's a natural disaster and/or widespread event, but shoot me anything that you think I should research that seems horror-ready. :)

Sorry this is so long! Reps for all. :)

Pyekett
02-22-2015, 07:59 PM
I don't know about horror-ready, but here are some potentially fertile natural disasters from Mississippi history:

1840 Great Natchez Tornado
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Natchez_Tornado

1906 Hurricane
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1906_Mississippi_hurricane

1908 Dixie tornado outbreak
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1908_Dixie_tornado_outbreak

1927 Flood of the Mississippi River
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Mississippi_Flood_of_1927



That was easier than finding a manmade disaster, though I'd think something like the Triangle Fire (New York, unfortunately) might make for more bad echoes, curse-wise.

Edited to add: hey, just 3 years before the 1840 Natchez Tornado that killed 317 people, the Ben Sherrod vessel caught on fire just south of Natchez, killing 175 people, many burned alive.
http://www3.gendisasters.com/mississippi/14776/fort-adams-ms-steamboat-ben-sherrod-fire-may-1837

I bet Natchez was an uneasy place in the 1840s.

Christabelle
02-22-2015, 08:31 PM
The town of Vicksburg was under siege during the Civil War. Conditions were horrible, people took to living in caves on the bluffs of the Mississippi River. I could definitely see a deal with the Devil being made there.

If you go north, there's the New Madrid earthquakes of 1811-1812 that would have affected Tennessee and Missouri.

Lauram6123
02-22-2015, 10:21 PM
It can have happened at any time from the 1700s-1930s; the main bulk of the story is set loosely in 1999 and 2016 and the only prerequisite is that it's been around for a long time.


This sounds pretty bad. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chunky_Creek_Train_Wreck_of_1863

King Neptune
02-22-2015, 10:36 PM
I've never run into the New Madrid Earthquake being put into fiction. It was the largest seismic event in history. That was not because there was huge displacement of terrain (the Mississippi River was nly blocked and had to reverse its course), nor was there great loss of life, because it took place in a very sparsely inhabited area; the epicenter was where Memphis, Tenn. is now, but that city hadn't been settled at that time. No, what made the New Madrid Earthquake so huge was that it continued for months. There were four or five large, acute quakes, but there was a constant low-level quake from December until early March. And for extra the large quakes were felt over an area of many thousands of square miles.

http://hsv.com/genlintr/newmadrd/

Dave Williams
02-23-2015, 08:02 AM
New Orleans, early 1800s. Nominally French, then British; in practice, run by pirate bands. African and Caribbean voudoun and less mainstream practitioners. Catholic vs. Protestant problems. Wheeling and dealing between the French, Spanish, and British Empires over ownership of Louisiana. The British trying to create an independent Indian nation to block further US westward expansion while they connected British New Orleans to Canada and turned the Mississippi into a barrier to the West. Then the War of 1812. The snapshot of time from 1800 to 1815 was downright surreal.

I had no idea of what went on until Walter Jon Williams brought it up in one of his blog entriees; http://www.walterjonwilliams.net/2012/10/cat-island/ and sent me off into many evenings of reading about a part of American history I'd never known about before.

Gringa
02-23-2015, 08:08 AM
Civil War graveyards and tombstones– a massive body count.

Yellow fever outbreak, Lower Mississippi Valley, New Orleans
Quarantine, steamboats

Aldenata
02-25-2015, 11:53 AM
Check out anything by Flannery O'Conner.

I've never read it, but I think one of the Foxfire books talks about witches, hauntings, conjurings, and the like.

Something I used to hear a lot about is painting the edges of your windows and the ceiling of your porch a certain shade of blue so that ghosts will mistake it for the sky and be unable to enter your house. I think most people really do this because the soft colors are thought to deter wasps, not ghosts.

My dad once told me about a bad fire in Canton, Georgia either in the 1930's and 40's. The cotton mill had given all its employees a bonus of two-dollar bills some time before, and a lot of people around there still consider two-dollar bills to be cursed. Canton burned on several occasions, and I've never found any other information about this particular event.

In 1937, a flood in the town of Whitestone, Georgia washed away most of the town and killed an entire family. Legend has it that a local prophetess—no more than 12 years old at the time— tried to warn her parents about what was going to happen and was ignored.

http://www.pickensprogressonline.com/2015/news/recent-stories-index/2520-recollections-of-the-1938-whitestone-flood
http://album.atlantahistorycenter.com/store/Advanced_Search.aspx?c=449&t=Whitestone%20%28Ga.%29

This one's a little outside your timeframe, but in the 1950's there was a SECRET UNDERGROUND TEST FACILITY in the North Georgia woods, where Lockheed-Martin tried building a nuclear airplane, tested the affects of radiation on the local wildlife, and did lots of other things that are still classified. They closed and flooded/buried the base in the 1970's (reactor leak!) and it's now a state park. My parents used to ride their horses through what's left of the reactor buildings.

http://jayntguru.com/wordpress/?p=301

ironmikezero
02-25-2015, 10:39 PM
Few places in the Deep South have more depth of strange folklore than Louisiana. Legends abound, many of which predate the arrival of Europeans. Later influences of the Spanish, French, Haitian, British, German, and Acadian cultures co-opted indigenous folklore and contributed certain aspects thereto. It's no great leap to speculate that a Faustian bargain may have been struck somewhere down the line.

Aye, 'tis a savoury and superstitious stew. Look into the Rougarou for a start...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rougarou

CWatts
02-28-2015, 04:05 AM
It can have happened at any time from the 1700s-1930s; the main bulk of the story is set loosely in 1999 and 2016 and the only prerequisite is that it's been around for a long time. Sadly, it also has to have affected white people (although duh, not exclusively) because, although I'd love to read a horror story about the history of Native Americans or slaves, I don't think I'm the right person to write that story. Bonus points if it's a natural disaster and/or widespread event, but shoot me anything that you think I should research that seems horror-ready. :)

Sorry this is so long! Reps for all. :)

While the inciting incident needs to affect whites, if this family's pact with the devil requires human sacrifice I could see them murdering slaves and lynching blacks to accomplish this in the past. Sadly these were happening well into living memory (1960s) so this could still be causing some generational conflict. A dose of real-life horror can give the supernatural stuff more weight.

chompers
02-28-2015, 04:46 AM
Few places in the Deep South have more depth of strange folklore than Louisiana. Legends abound, many of which predate the arrival of Europeans. Later influences of the Spanish, French, Haitian, British, German, and Acadian cultures co-opted indigenous folklore and contributed certain aspects thereto. It's no great leap to speculate that a Faustian bargain may have been struck somewhere down the line.

Aye, 'tis a savoury and superstitious stew. Look into the Rougarou for a start...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rougarou My first thought was Louisiana too. They had a deep history of all that witchcraft voodoo stuff. The Voodoo Queen was particularly famous.