I am trying to categorise sub-genres of Horror. For example I have "suspense", "gore", &c.

Now I feel like one genre consists of producing an emotion that I cannot put a word to. Feeling like something paranormal or impossible is happening, and feeling fear because of it.

What is the word for a fear that directly results from witnessing something that the witness cannot explain, or that challenges the accepted reality?

  • Lovecraftian. – Dan Bron Dec 6 '14 at 11:45
  • 1
    "Foreboding", perhaps? – Hot Licks Dec 6 '14 at 13:57

As Dan Bron said, the proper term is lovecraftian, which actually refers to a horror sub-genre which deals with the terror of the unknown and sometimes unknowable. While it technically means related to the work of the American horror writer, H.P. Lovecraft, it usually refers to that style of horror.

Lovecraftian horror is a sub-genre of horror fiction that emphasizes the cosmic horror of the unknown (and in some cases, unknowable) more than gore or other elements of shock, though these may still be present. It is named after American author H. P. Lovecraft (1890–1937). From Wikipedia

However, some also use it to extreme tentacle-y, misplaced limbs and appendage style horror as well, so might not always work.

If not, paranoia might work. It sounds good enough for a genre, and it means:

par·a·noi·a : suspicion and mistrust (of people or their actions) without evidence or justification.


dissonance (Merriam-Webster)

  1. lack of agreement; especially : inconsistency between the beliefs one holds or between one's actions and one's beliefs
  2. an instance of such inconsistency or disagreement

cognitive dissonance - psychological conflict resulting from incongruous beliefs and attitudes held simultaneously

Isn't that genre usually called psychological horror, though? Most of Hitchcock's films fit that description. And even though they were sci-fi, a lot of Twilight Zone and Outer Limits stories were mostly psychological horror as well.

  • 1
    You can post under your name, a community wiki post means you forfeit any reputation points you might earn through upvotes. I mention this because it's the second time I've seen a wiki post with your name. Have you posted others?! You might be unfamiliar with how the system works. – Mari-Lou A Dec 7 '14 at 9:17
  • Thanks, @Mari-LouA! I didn't know the community wiki affected reputation. I was just trying to be helpful. – miltonaut Dec 7 '14 at 10:26
  • I think one of the uses and principle behind community wiki posts is for posting people's comments which are effectively answers. By using this function you're not claiming rep for yourself, you are saying instead: "This is a good answer, but I'm not its author." I'm sure there are other uses, but that's the one that stands out most (for me anyway)! :) Here's the info: english.stackexchange.com/help/privileges/community-wiki – Mari-Lou A Dec 7 '14 at 10:32
  • Ah, thank you again! I think I'll just leave that unchecked and let the mods decide from now. – miltonaut Dec 7 '14 at 10:38
  • 1
    Removed Wiki from this post as it was obviously a mistake. – Andrew Leach Dec 7 '14 at 11:26

Uncanny, perhaps. Vague and undefined feelings about a situation.


This feeling can be called eeriness. (also spelled as eariness)

n. an undefined sense of fear; superstitious dread. [OED]

Feeling the sensation of eariness as twilight came on.
- T. De Quincey

As for the genre, you can consider supernatural horror or supernatural horror fiction.

Supernatural-Horror film is a sub-genre that includes ghosts, demons, or other depictions of supernatural occurrences.

Examples: The Exorcist, The Ring, The Omen.


In its broadest definition, supernatural fiction includes examples of weird fiction, horror fiction, fantasy fiction, and such sub-genres as vampire literature and the ghost story.


Wikipedia has a list of supernatural horror films. Some notable examples:

  • Paranormal activity
  • The Amityville Horror
  • The Blair Witch Project
  • The Conjuring
  • The Exorcist
  • The Grudge
  • Insidious
  • It
  • The Shining
  • Suspiria

You can check weird fiction also.


The only words I can think of do not specifically mean what you request, but could mean it in context. For example:

dread; spine-tingling; creeping; horror; disturbed/ance; perturbed; disbelieving.


"a sixth sense" could be used. For example:

He had a sixth sense that vampires were in the area.


Probably a 'weird sensation or presage ' is close to what you are looking for:

  • of, relating to, or suggestive of the preternatural or supernatural.

  • suggestive of or relating to the supernatural; eerie.

(from TFD)


The problem is, I think, that there's no one word that means exclusively 'fear of the supernatural|paranormal'. The noun terror has been used for the fear that is felt when encountering ghosts or demons, but one might experience terror if being chased by a perfectly natural grizzly bear.

  • Well .. there should be a word for it :p – jsj Dec 6 '14 at 13:53
  • You could invent one ... paraterror, parafear .... – Mynamite Dec 6 '14 at 13:57
  • I would call it otherworldly fear. – TRomano Dec 6 '14 at 14:45

There are several adjectives that convey a sense of both supernatural/unnatural elements and fear or unease. Words like "spooky" and "eerie" and "uncanny" capture the sense of fear of a supernatural or unexplainable thing, but the problem is, they don't really sound like genre names.

Personally I like the terms "occult horror" and "psychological horror", depending on whether the supernatural elements are treated as real or imaginary.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.