Monday, June 22, 2015


   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.

Forgotten Knowledge

   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.

Forgotten Evils

   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.

The Crypt

   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.

The Devil

   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

   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.


   Disputed in the last Sunday in June, it is undoubtedly the event the Pisans feel most strongly about . On that one day they once more discover the heated opposition between the factions, ready to root for the colors of their own Magistratura (or Court. The ‘Magistratura’ is the political-military organization of a quarter or of the team which participates in the Game). The Gioco del Ponte virtually closes the events of the Giugno Pisano, reproposing, in the magnificent setting of the lungarni which are jammed with people (generally there are no less than 100,000 spectators, sometimes many more) the ancient historical opposition between the Parties of Mezzogiorno (south of the Arno) and Tramontana (north of the river). The actual battle is preceded by a historical

procession with participants wearing period armature and costumes (around 750 in Spanish style) and with the banners of the participating teams of the four ‘historical’ quarters of Pisa, represented on the city plan by dividing lines that coincide with the intersection of the axis of Borghi-Ponte di Mezzo-Corso Italia with the curve of the Arno: S. Maria, S. Francesco (Tramontana); S. Antonio, S. Martino (Mezzogiorno), to which are added the formations of S. Michele, Mattaccini, Satiri, Calcesana – for the northern part – and those of S. Marco, Leoni, Delfini, Dragoni – for the southern part.

   The Gioco del Ponte is a historical re-evocation, where elements of folklore fuse with the proud warrior tradition of the Parties, who fight for possession of the bridge, no longer with maces shields and ‘targoni’ (an instrument in wood still carried by the combatants during the procession, it is offensive and defensive at the same time, spreading out and rounded off at the top, sharp and pointed at the bottom) but challenging each other in a trial of strength which consists in pushing a

heavy "Carrello" (carriage) weighing approximately seven tons, set on tracks fifty meters long. The final victory goes to the Party which has won the greater number of battles, pushing the trolley into the enemy field and knocking over the staff with the banner with the colors of the enemy party.

   While the origins of the game are lost in the mists of time (a legend attributes its institution to Pelops, the mythical founder of Pisa, who wanted to recall his native Olimpic Games; another to the roman emperor Hadrian who attempted to present a ‘Pisan’ version of gladiatoral combats on the shores of the Arno; and still another has it that the Games were instituted in memory of the battle on the bridge between Pisans

and Saracens on the occasion of the legendary episode of Kinzica de’ Sismondi), mention of a Gioco del Ponte does appear in 1490. It was Lorenzo the Magnificent who decided to transfer the game into its natural setting. Previously, as far back as could be remembered a sort of medieval tournament called Gioco del Mazzascudo had been held in the piazza delle Sette Vie (now piazza dei Cavalieri) between the Parties of the Rooster and the Magpie and which was thought to be the ancestor of the present Game. Originally the Gioco del Ponte took place twice a year: January 17th, the day of Saint

   Anthony Abbot, was the date of the so-called ‘Battagliaccia’, a sort of dress rehearsal of the ‘Battaglia Generale’ which almost always took place on the occasion of visits to Pisa of the various rulers and other noble guests. It continued to be held until 1782 when it was suppressed by Pietro Leopoldo on grounds of public order. After an extraordinary edition (1807) it lapsed into oblivion until it was re-introduced in 1935. Suspended because of the war, it returned to the bridge from 1950 to 1963. After another lengthy interruption, the event returned to its original magnificence in the edition of 1982.