I love city breaks. For me, the perfect holiday involves endless sights, peculiar statues, and oddities galore. When I first looked at Copenhagen I was surprised to find only a handful of myths and legends discussed online. When I asked the locals about this I was informed that the Danish are proud to be practical, and that many of the local tales of the paranormal were phased out over the years.
I admire the scientific approach, and take as much pleasure from discovering that a peculiar event has been debunked as I do from my imagination running wild at tales of ghouls and monsters. But the horror writer in me will always seek out the weird and will take solace in the fact that there are some things in our hustle-and-bustle world that can’t be easily explained away.
I ended up downloading a Monsters and Myths private walking tour on my phone and set out to discover the paranormal delights of the city. With the crisp blue January sky above me I loved hearing about the trolls, mermaids, and ghosts of Copenhagen’s past. Granted, the mermaid turned out to be a giant squid, the troll an explanation for the glacial stones in the countryside, and ghosts…well, the devil appearing in Laksegade in the 1800s and throwing belongings into the street was certainly a great tale.
For me, though, the true horror story was one experienced by Hans Christian Andersen, and documented in his diaries. Witnessing a boy plagued by epileptic fits, the cure at the time was thought to be drinking the blood of a corpse. Andersen was mesmerised by the potential power of the macabre treatment, and, because the fit passed over as the blood was administered, believed in its wonders.
As a horror writer, it is important to consider the human condition and the reasons for our superstitions, paranoia, and neurosis. Seeking out myths, legends, and ghost stories helps me to understand the mindset of those who had no access to scientific textbooks. It is the basis of human fear. And, in my opinion, it makes it more real than anything Hollywood’s scare fests can throw at us.
I often wonder how to balance the fantastical with the real in order to tell a convincing story. Copenhagen allowed me to consider the horrific with a practical mind, and I hope I can apply that to my writing in future. That’s not to say that I don’t believe that there may be some oddities and monsters out there that can’t be explained away by science! I love to keep an open mind. I don’t believe the human race can possibly know all there is to know.
Where would be the fun in that?