Excess of beauty can also cause horror. The first time I found myself in a geography that was outrageously gorgeous and yet resembled the locale of horror movies was in the North American state of Montana. I had been spending a winter with an elderly and charming American couple up in their solitary wooden cottage up the snowy mountains. Once a home to famous dinosaurs, the sparsely populated province now had museums with the largest collection of dinosaur remains in the US. The gigantic remains were already scary enough for me, but as I trudged through the white witch that had carpeted desolate streets and cemeteries, I came across ghost towns that seemed abandoned by the residents after an epidemic or exhaustion of resources. Even the occasional sun seemed scary. The area also had a large population of Native Americans, who rode horses, loved hunting and ice fishing, and narrated tales about their bloody confrontations with the Whites. Vacationing in Montana, I suddenly recalled all those horror movies and was soon on to what would be the first of the three novels I discarded midway, 7 Hanging Lane.
Horror often arrives with a distinct landscape. Such is the intrinsic link that Gothic horror fiction derived both its nomenclature as well as aesthetics from Gothic architecture. Located in medieval buildings or their ruins, Gothic literature invoked an indecipherable dread and an intimidating religiosity. Since the genre of horror is marked by apparitions of the past and the dead emerging from their slumber, one needs old houses, graveyards, jungles and eerie lanes to intensify the emotion. Even when the protagonists live in a city, they visit an old mansion, a deserted fort, or just a basement. In Psycho (1960), the surface transaction takes place in a modern motel, but the nucleus is in the basement, an underground that dictates the script.