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Halloween Aesthetic and the Paranormal

I love Autumn as much as anyone, but the constant barrage of Gothic Homes & Gardens has reached a fever pitch.

It's been four and a half years since Full Dark started, there's an entire Instagram full of the janky beginnings, my sarcasm, Ryan's emergence on scene, the panini - all of that time is documented on that app. Of course, our YouTube channel shows the meat, but that's video only - instant visual gratification is all Instagram. I find it interesting what's been documented alongside it; what's happened in the same internet-sphere of the occult and paranormal in that 4+ years. To be sure, I wasn't necessarily marketing or looking around much at how to grow and expand our internet niche in 2017 or 2018 - I was still learning the ropes of video editing, upgrading equipment, and reevaluating my own thoughts on the paranormal. I was working on it; working on understanding my actions and reactions during strange phenomena, and in how I interpreted and presented it in video format.

For all that personal focus, and yet for all that lack of awareness on "branding" I had at the beginning, I still wasn't blind, you know? I think I've watched an influx and overall increase in what I'd call "spooky accounts", and I've seen it primarily on Instagram.

(I find marketing to be a racket and I despise the hustle, the game, the me-me-me of it all, but also know I have ZERO CHOICE in that matter, thankyousomuch capitalist consumption culture.)

Halloween has only gained in popularity in American society over the last century, and as styles, interests and fashion change with their own rapid fluidity, the entire zeitgeist around what is popular shifts with these changes. Colorways, or the most desirable pallet of colors within a design, have increasingly allowed for darker aesthetics to reach new heights. This becomes reflected in clothing appearance, fashionable style, decor, and even personal interests. Where Hot Topic was the outcast's store in the 1990's, it's the new Abercrombie in the twenty-teens and 'Roaring 20's Round 2'. I'm glad I came of age in the 90's though - being young now just seems even more chaotic.

The popularity of alternative style, the post-emo/scene scene (what a weird thing to try and type out), modern gothic design, et. al. - seems to have culminated in what's become mainstreamed occultism through practice and aesthetic both. Nowhere more visible is that than on social apps. IG is the breadwinner for aesthetic accounts with thousands of followers and fans, and it is usually the secondary basis of public operations for those of us who have our primary content on YouTube. Paranormal investigators, (individual and teams both) are within this sphere of influence by default. We're ghost people, literally.

So how did so much of Halloween get wrapped up in this? In my opinion, it's simply convenience. It's the hallmark and Hallmark holiday of the counterculture. It is based on ancient cultural traditions from Europe and it carries the weight of occultism and the Unknown Other at its core. Orange and black and everything visual that embodies the holiday and the Autumn season (in the Northeast mostly, we've got your coveted leaf colors 😘) easily become accessory to the alternative-based zeitgeist I've seen rise in popularity now. Ghosts, pumpkins, and witches then extend to actual self-identified witches and practitioners, tarot readers and psychic mediums, paranormal investigators, explorers, grave hunters, taphophiles, and or course, true crime. The true crime community is inherently an extension of the paranormal as well, and vice versa - do we not investigate murder houses like Villisca and Lizzie Borden's? We do. And we love it.

There's visual-based brands, and there are brands based on products. For us, the product is a video on YouTube - it's a free product, but that's what we create. The IG accounts that offer no content besides visual aesthetic are more based on consistent filters, styling, fashion, personal items, home decor - these brands (cultivated by living people) are photo-based, but no consumable product exists beyond their visage on social platforms. I enjoy these accounts, I even take inspiration from these folks through their work.

But what about those of us who are content creators of the paranormal and occult who require research, personal financing, travel, and hours upon hours to experience and then more hours to produce? What about the artists who create physical items; jewelry, prints, spooky home goods and decor, the objects that fill in the aesthetic? Those of us who are more than a photo. It feels somewhat like the umbrella of the occult and Halloween aesthetic is getting ever larger, and encompassing far more types of people into its fold. This is a good thing, inclusivity is vital to community building, but the caveat is feeling lost among the herd. It's either play the game and full on set up a photo shoot for the most desireable marketing gains possible, or post a video screen-still up there as-is and then try to care very little afterward when it flops lacks *aesthetic*.

I don't have a solid answer on how to grow, or where to go from here, but my already all-black, all-weird aesthetic is something I've gradually shown on my own IG presence. I just don't want to make myself overwhelmed with the need to post there, and to provide an aesthetic that might not be authentic. My main focus is, and always will be, the actual investigating and the video editing. I know it's a very behind-the-scenes aspect of what we do, so it does not translate well to a single frame for any social app. My best work is utilizing thousands of frames and thousands of single instances.

I'm a video who isn't killing the radio star, I'm a video up against the popularity of the Instagram influencer. I've had to compromise part way by extending Full Dark's visual output to not just our primary work, but our personal lives/style/faces as well. That's been exceedingly difficult for me (now you know) it's a struggle bus of the utmost for my self-consciousness to try and embrace. Considering I've never felt comfortable focusing our brand on ourselves as individuals, myself and Ryan, and always promoted the locations, video and investigating first, I've really had to reevaluate how I portray Full Dark in the last couple years, and push myself to be more public personally.

I know I've seen several accounts of paranormal investigators or whole teams come and go in the past 4 years, and I've seen some come about who've stolen and gained off of those I've seen posting and hustling for several years. Now and again a creator comes into popularity who seems to style and present themselves or their words in the same way as established creators. I hate seeing it, but like I've said in previous blogs, it's very difficult to police each other. When there's overt content infringement on a big creator or artist, the internet tends to rally to correct it. But those of us with smaller followings see this happening to ourselves and don't have a large enough base to effectively put a stop to it, let alone call it out. Public call-outs tend to lead to internet word-garbage heaps. No thank you.

Halloween and the occult/dark/witchy aesthetic has now become noticeably more popular in the last couple years, especially so on Instagram and within the social media world. It has bled into the realm of paranormal investigators more than I would have thought. Myself included. Will the internet presence of All Things October bleed completely into the Paranormal and Occult? Has it already? I don't have the quantification or qualification of that answer but I do see, and participate in the internet - daily. Since Full Dark is at its essence, a brand, I'm playing where I need to, and sitting out where I don't. It's not easy, but it's part of what we (have to) do.

Thanks for reading,

PS: Real talk - I have an underlying fear of inadvertently ripping off similar creators to ourselves - anyone with a similar name or niche. If you feel Full Dark has infringed in some way - SAY IT. DM ME. Please!


I'm Amy L. Bennett, a writer, multimedia artist, recovering archaeologist and YouTuber from Upstate, New York. I've been invested in all things strange and unusual since my dad gave me the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark trilogy when I was way too young. Along with my fiancé, Ryan, we've explored countless haunted locations in the US and abroad in search of the Weird.
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