Cultural History . Film and TV

A history of American horror film in 10 images

Halloween: American postcard dated 1910.
American postcard dated 1910.

In his new book, The Birth of the American Horror Film, Gary D. Rhodes delves into the archives to focus on 10 key horror genres prominent in American cinema between 1895 and 1915.

From ghosts and witches to mad scientists and devils, here’s a selection of the best images featured in the book, one for each of the 10 genres explored.


1. Devils

Augustus Carney in Alkali Ike Plays the Devil (Essanay, 1912).
Augustus Carney in Alkali Ike Plays the Devil (Essanay, 1912).

2. Witches

The Myth of Jamasha Pass (American, 1912).
The Myth of Jamasha Pass (American, 1912).

3. Ghosts

Trade advertisement for The Circular Staircase (Selig Polyscope, 1915),
published in Motion Picture News on September 11, 1915.
Trade advertisement for The Circular Staircase (Selig Polyscope, 1915),
published in Motion Picture News on September 11, 1915.

4. Supernatural Creatures

Frame from the Pathé Frères film Loïe Fuller, distributed in America in 1905.
Frame from the Pathé Frères film Loïe Fuller, distributed in America in 1905.

5. Death, Murder, and Execution

Original movie poster for Vendetta
Original movie poster for Vendetta (Kleine-Eclipse, 1914). (Courtesy of Bruce Hershenson)

6. Evolution and Devolution

The Black Box (Universal, 1915).
The Black Box (Universal, 1915).

7. The Other(s)

The Indian Massacre (101 Bison, 1912).
The Indian Massacre (101 Bison, 1912).

8. The Powers of the Mind

Slide 4 of the illustrated song That Hypnotizing Man (Scott & Van Altena, 1911).
(Courtesy of the Marnan Collection, LLC, of Minneapolis, Minnesota)
Slide 4 of the illustrated song That Hypnotizing Man (Scott & Van Altena, 1911).
(Courtesy of the Marnan Collection, LLC, of Minneapolis, Minnesota)

9. Mad Scientists

Double-exposed publicity still of Alwin Neuss as the title characters in Dr. Jekyll and
Mr. Hyde; or, a Strange Case (Great Northern, 1910). (Courtesy of Robert J. Kiss)
Double-exposed publicity still of Alwin Neuss as the title characters in Dr. Jekyll and
Mr. Hyde; or, a Strange Case (Great Northern, 1910). (Courtesy of Robert J. Kiss)

10. American Literature Onscreen

Still from The Lunatics (Leading Players, 1914).
Still from The Lunatics (Leading Players, 1914).

The Birth of the American Horror Film

The Birth of the American Horror Film by Gary D. Rhodes is available in paperback at £24.99.

Find out more on the Edinburgh University Press website