“I can’t even imagine.” I never cared for that phrase. Because it’s almost never true.
What makes something horrible is not that you can’t imagine it happening, but that you can. Horror is based less on fear of the totally unknown but on fear of the imagined unknown.
When you get lost in the woods at night you don’t fear being immolated by a meteor. You fear being skewered by an evil man with a hook for a hand. The meteor is statistically more likely but does not capture the imagination.
You can see the man’s face, can’t you? Why is the metal so cold?
And now that I’ve planted the idea of a meteor in your mind, look! The flash of light! And then all is dark. You’re running on a field of fire but where is your body? Where is.
Here in Northern Minnesota we live blissfully free of many Hollywood movie horrors. It’s just too cold for vampires and zombies to do us any harm. Half the year Igor can’t even break the frostline to get at the fresh bodies for Dr. Frankenstein.
Same for the natural world. Tornadoes rarely do significant damage. Hurricanes and tsunamis lack the juice to get here. Our geology isn’t even that much good for an apocalyptic volcano. If we wear warm clothing and wait 45 minutes after we eat before swimming, well, chances are we’ll make it.
That’s logic talking. But with Halloween coming we must still commune with the ghosts in our minds. They are the worst of all.
Could monsters really happen? What scientific principles would rule their existence? That’s the subject of a new book from Skyhorse Publishing: “The Science of Monsters” by Meg Hafdahl and Kelly Florence, a pair of authors with Iron Range ties. The book dives into the real life science that would guide some of the scariest monsters of our imaginations.
Full disclosure, and it amuses me to say this, but I actually went to prom with Kelly years ago. We’re both from Cherry. And while that prom date might have been safely labeled as awkward it was not “Carrie” blood and fire awkward.
“The Science of Monsters” explores the real life stories of cannibals, serial killers, and ancient myths that inspired the movies that now dominate our collective imagination.
Though the book is directed to a national audience Hofdahl and Florence include several Northern Minnesota connections. For instance, retired Hibbing High School teacher and scientist Al Lipke provides context on underground microbes and the mysteries of space.
Florence agreed that Northern Minnesota would be a good place to avoid most of the horrors found in movies.
“The underground mines could serve as a perfect hiding place in case of a zombie apocalypse,” said Florence. “While the open pit mines could be a convenient corralling area for the zombies themselves. Zombies wouldn't stand a chance against those giant mine trucks at Hibtac.”
But that doesn’t mean the book lacks helpful tips for Northlanders. It explores the physics of corralling paranormal activity (think “Ghostbusters”), the realities of zombie decomposition, and the biological possibilities of shape-shifting.
It also details tips for surviving one of northern Minnesota’s most fearful experiences, the one I listed at the start.
“Getting lost in the woods is another topic that relates to those of us on the Iron Range and tips are given in the book on how to survive,” said Florence. “The Blair Witch may still get you but at least you'll have packed your compass.”
In addition to the book, Hofdahl and Florence host the podcast “Horror Rewind.” Hofdahl is an author of several thriller novels and Florence is an instructor at Lake Superior College in Duluth. They plan to release two more books together next year.
Aaron J. Brown is an author and community college instructor from Northern Minnesota’s Mesabi Iron Range. He writes the blog MinnesotaBrown.com and hosts the Great Northern Radio Show on Northern Community Radio (KAXE.org).