Copyright 2011 by Gary L. Pullman
Horror story settings often play upon the limits of human perception and the effects of such limitations upon human self-esteem, safety, and security.
Fog blinds, and blindness makes one helpless. A forest’s density of trees makes one feel trapped. An island or a space station is isolated, which cuts one off from others and the aid that they could provide. A cavern is dark; darkness blinds; blindness makes one helpless. A cavern’s passages are tight, which could make one feel trapped, and the passages are labyrinthine, suggesting that one may become lost and, therefore, cut off from others and the aid that they could provide. An unfamiliar place is unknown, and the unknown blinds one mentally, or cognitively, thereby making him or her vulnerable to potential injury or harm.
The antidotes, as it were, to the effects of such settings are, respectively, self-reliance; escape or rescue; being located; and knowledge (especially practical knowledge).
Therefore, some horror stories start at one of these extremes and end with the other extreme. For example, Edgar Allan Poe’s short story “The Pit and the Pendulum” starts with the sentencing to death of the protagonist and his imprisonment in his intended death chamber, the “pit” of the story’s title, and ends with the main character’s rescue by his enemy’s foes.