BUFFALO, N.Y., Oct. 30 (UPI) -- Mutilation, mutation, monstrosity, murder and mayhem offer a way for us to understand our own modern fears, a U.S. horror expert says.
David Castillo, an associate professor at the University at Buffalo, said the Spanish baroque period, roughly 1600-1720, provided the historical roots of horror in the modern age.
Castillo said that era's tales of supernatural visitations, terrifying visions, haunted houses and man-made horrors are not unlike those found online or in the tabloid press today.
David Schmid, a professor of English at the university, focuses on cultural monstrosities -- those among us whom we perceive as "monsters" and the role they play in our self-perception as individual and social beings.
Although his work focused on the serial killer as an American popular-culture figure, Schmid also studies how society safely represents and addresses the anxieties of our time through the use of other monsters, such as zombies and vampires.
"The monsters I'm most interested in are the ones that exist in plain sight -- the most distinctive and numerous monsters in any culture are the ones that we don't immediately recognize," Schmid, the author of "Natural Born Celebrities: Serial Killers in American Culture" and "True Crime," said in a statement.
"I conduct research on killers and their place in our cultural imagination but I also want to extend that focus to other monstrous figures and institutions: the abusers at [the notorious Iraqi prison] Abu Ghraib, those whose apparent normality makes them no less destructive and murderous: the banks that are destroying lives while reaping record profits and the corporations who are poisoning the planet for their bottom line."