Traditional New England was in decline after the Civil War. The war had decimated the male population. Farms were being abandoned in favor of the mills. This environment of change and instability gave birth to a new milieu of isolated villages, declining blue-bloods and hidden scandals that were ripe for inspiring horror and dark writers. Literary critic Van Wyck Brooks, in his 1940 study of New England literary trends, New England: Indian Summer 1865-1915
, described it thusly:
"There were colonies of savages near Lenox, queer, degenerate clans that lived 'on the mountain,' the descendants of prosperous farmers. There were old poisoners in lonely houses. There were Lizzie Bordens in the village, heroines in reverser who served the devil. There were Draculas in the northern hills and witch-women who lived in sheds, lunatics in attics."
This was the golden age of ghost and horror tales in New England, culminating in H.P. Lovecraft, whose influence carried over into modern writers such as Robert Bloch, Ramsay Campbell and Stephen King. Shadows Over New England is a guide to geographical locations, real and fictional, utilized in horror tales set in New England. It is hard to say which is more disquieting, terror amidst staid Yankees in a familiar setting or horror in obscure, forgotten corners of New England. Both have their uses as weapons in the battle to scare you out of your wits.
And the line blurs. To a fan of horror, there are fictional towns that are as real as any found in an atlas: Castle Rock, Maine, Arkham, Massachusetts or Oxrun Station, Connecticut. Even those who don't follow the genre have heard of the nonexistent Connecticut town that is home to the Stepford Wives or Collinsport, Maine with more Dark Shadows, witches, vampires and werewolves per capita than any colonial seaport really needs.
Shadows Over New England is a guide to geographical locations in New England made popular by historical and contemporary horror (print, television and movies). Additional material of peripheral interest to horror aficionados is included, such as burial sites of horror-related celebrities, filming locations and places of notoriety used as inspiration.