Mysterious, terrifying and macabre – but it’s all to the good!

A visit to the British Library’s special exhibition on the gothic imagination provided Year 12 boys with a macabre selection of the eerie, the supernatural and the murderous.

But the display, entitled Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination, served a good cause as the boys are studying Mary Shelley’s gothic classic, Frankenstein, for this summer’s English examination.

“There was a plethora of detail for the boys to experience,” said English teacher Sarah Snowdon. “Henry Fuseli's eerie paintings were displayed with the Victorian ‘penny dreadfuls’ popular during the murderous era of Jack the Ripper. It was interesting to read how one chilling publication, known as Spring-heeled Jack, is believed to have inspired the creation of Batman.”

The exhibition covered 250 years of gothic influences, beginning with Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto, a novel which challenged the moral certainties of the 18th Century. There were also displays on the work of film-maker Stanley Kubrick and fashion designer Alexander McQueen, demonstrating how imagination is at the heart of the gothic genre in film, art and fashion, as well as literature.

""One particularly popular exhibit explored enjoyable modern-day parodies such as Wallace and Gromit’s The Curse of the Were-rabbit.

“It was easy to see why the exhibition's popularity led the library to stay open for extra viewings; it was extremely informative and well researched,” added Ms Snowdon. “With hand-written drafts of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Bram Stoker’s Dracula on show alongside material from Robert Louis Stevenson's Jekyll and Hyde, the 34 boys who went on the visit could appreciate how the writers they study in class continue to cast a shadowy influence over the modern horror genre.”