The Paranormal Timeline!

December 27, 2007

By Laura

I hope everyone’s holiday was full of delicious paranormal books and movies.

Where did the paranormal romance genre come from? Let’s take some time to pay homage to the works which have helped shape the genre over the years. Here are some of my favorite predecessors to modern paranormal romance.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer – The hit movie and television show of the mid-90s shaped and crystallized a good deal of vampire and demon lore for popular audiences, and arguably created the niche in paranormal hourlongs in primetime TV, paving the way for such shows as Supernatural and Reaper. Buffy’s ensemble included a vampire slayer, a witch, a werewolf, and several vampires, who were paired in various combinations in relationship storylines.

X-Files – Just before Buffy (re)popularized vampires, X-Files was the quintessential paranormal paranoia show, blending elements of police procedural, paranormal, and sci-fi. During its ten-year run, X-Files touched on just about every paranormal element, from ghosts to psychic powers of all kinds to various mythical creatures.

Anne Rice – The bestselling Vampire Chronicles, starting with Interview with a Vampire in 1976 (and further popularized by the 1994 movie) painted and alluring and seductive portrait of immortal, intelligent, and passionate vampires.

Bewitched – The sitcom about a suburban witch was one of several otherworldly new shows of the mid-60s, including The Addams Family, I Dream of Jeannie and The Twilight Zone. The popularity and seven-year run of Bewitched demonstrated how magical and real world situations could be effectively melded to appeal to a widespread audience.

Dracula – Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel is the source for most of the vampire “facts” we know today. Stoker gathered his lore from local folk legends. While not the first vampire book, Stoker’s is probably the earliest well-known source; many modern authors draw their conception of vampires at least in part from the mysterious and aristocratic character of Count Dracula.

Frankenstein – First published in 1818, Mary Shelley’s story of the scientist who creates a living monster from dead flesh is another enduring classic of the genre which has influenced and inspired so many works since that it is impossible to gauge the size of its effect. Shelley wrote the tale for a scary story contest with friends. Inspiring!

Gothic novels – Extremely popular in the 18th and 19th centuries, the genre of gothic fiction combined paranormal elements—ghosts and beyond-the-grave communication being a particular favorite—with stories of romantic, upper-class figures and mysterious, exotic settings. Ann Radcliff’s late-18th century novels (The Mysteries of Udolpho among others) were especially popular and have influenced such diverse figures as Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte and Anne Rice.

Fairy tales/folklore – Paranormal stories take their basic inspiration from long-told tales—from the traditional village storytellers to campfire stories to modern-day urban legends. The concepts of ghosts, vampires, and special mental powers, among other paranormal classics, have cropped up in the oral traditions of so many cultures that there must be something basic and fundamental about them—which accounts for their enduring popularity.

What are your favorite classics of paranormal?



  1. Oh! Wait! “Dark Shadows” originally aired from June 1966 to April 1971! A paranormal soap opera airing right after school (for me)…I used to watch it at my friend’s house before going home.

  2. Susan Krinard wrote the FIRST werewolf book I ever read and it’s still on my keeper shelf (and I picked it up after reading The Forest Lord). Otherwise i’d have to go WAY Back to Constance O’Day Flannery (sp?) and her time travels — I’d guess the early 80’s? So they’d pre-date Buffy and maybe X-files. I’m bad at dates but GREAT blog post!

  3. Can’t forget The Night Stalker starring Darren McGavin, that show use to scare me when I was a kid. And, The Twilight Zone, the original, that blended fantasy and reality perfectly.

  4. Definitely BUFFY and X-Files! They are two of my favorites. The original NIGHT STALKER series with Davin McGavin was also wonderful as Michelle pointed out.

    A few years ago there was a time travel show with Jonathan Lapaglia (Anthony’s much sexier younger brother) called 7 DAYS. It was on UPN and didn’t last very long, but it was good and had great romantic tension between the time traveler (Lapaglia) and the female head scientist on the project.

    I also loved the first season of MILLENIUM, another project from Chris Carter, the creator of the X-Files. Totally scary!!

  5. “Dark Shadows.” Good call. What about things like “Twilight Zone” and “Outer Limits”? (They were only paranormal some of the time.)

  6. Where are Chelsea Quinn Yarbro’s “Saint-Germain” books on this list? The vast influence of those books on current vampire fiction goes largely overlooked.

  7. There’s an interesting “Spotlight” article on paranormal romance and its various prose & media ancestors @ The Internet Review of Science Fiction @ http://www.irosf.com (you must register to read the article, but registration is free).

  8. My signature Reaper series of novels released from both Ellora’s Cave and New Concepts Publishing have werewolf/vampire shapeshifters who are tortured alpha males. The first Reaper novel was released in 1998 with BloodWind. The Reapers appear in several series: WindVerse (space werewolf/vampires), BlackWind (contemporary werewolves), WesternWind (cowboy werewolves!), WindWorld, and DemonWind. The novels have garnered a huge following for me and everyone who comments on the Reapers mention the fact that they are the loner type of alpha males that make them so memorable. The ninth book in the Reaper Western Wind series will be coming up from Ellora’s Cave in mid-2009.

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