Beards and Horror

Let’s face it, some people think bearded men are scary. In this post, I’ll introduce you to some scary, bearded men. However these men aren’t scary because of their beards. They’re scary because of the stories they’ve created.

I grew my own beard while working on my physics degree in the late 1980s. My older brother had grown a beard during his college days and I always liked way it looked. In addition to that, I attended a technical university where many of my classmates grew beards. All those factors combined to make growing a beard an easy choice.

A decade after I first grew my beard, I experimented with writing horror. I also decided to experiment with my beard and I shaved it down to a goatee. I liked the way it looked and have, for the most part, kept it that way ever since. Some people say beards obscure a man’s appearance, but my beard has always seemed a natural part of my face. Trimming it to a goatee is a minor concession to fashion.

To write well, you must read well. Over the years I’ve read a lot of horror fiction, including many classics of the genre. It was fun to discover that many of the authors whose work influenced me and shaped the genre also had the good taste to grow beards. Without further ado, allow me to introduce you to some of the pioneers and greats of the field.


Sheridan Le Fanu

Joseph Thomas Sheridan Le Fanu was an Irish writer who lived from 1814 to 1872. His specialty was writing mysteries and ghost stories. His most famous work was undoubtedly the vampire novella “Carmilla” which he wrote in 1871 and predated Bram Stoker’s Dracula by twenty-six years.

I pay tribute to the story in my tale “Fountains of Blood” which appears in the anthology Straight Outta Tombstone edited by David Boop. In most pictures of Sheridan Le Fanu, he rocks the neck beard. However, later in life he grew a full beard. You can learn more about Straight Outta Tombstone at: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1481482696/


Lafcadio Hearn

Lafcadio Hearn was a journalist who lived from 1850 to 1904. Born in Ireland, he immigrated to the United States, lived for a time in New Orleans, and finally moved to Japan. I write a lot of stories set in the nineteenth century and I find Hearn a valuable resource. He makes the people he knew and the places he saw come alive on the page.

The reason he earns a spot on this list was that he not only wrote the obituary for Marie Laveau, Voodoo Queen of New Orleans, he also assembled collections of frightening Japanese stories. One of those collections was made into the 1965 movie Kwaidan. Most photos and illustrations of Hearn show him with only a mustache, but while in New Orleans, Hearn waxed his mustache and sported a goatee. He appears as a character in my novel Owl Riders, which you can learn about at: http://www.davidleesummers.com/owl_riders.html


Bram Stoker

Bram Stoker, who lived from 1847 to 1912, gave us Dracula. I first read his most famous novel while working at Kitt Peak National Observatory in 1994 during a fierce storm. I particularly remember reading the scene where the ship Demeter comes into Whitby harbor and the vampire, in the form of a large wolf, runs from the ship. My duties required that I had to leave my nice, comfortable reading nook periodically to check on the weather. Every time I stepped outside, I imaged the creature would run out of the shadows to attack me.

The experience of reading Dracula first led me to write my novel of vampire mercenaries called Vampires of the Scarlet Order. You can learn about this novel at http://www.davidleesummers.com/VSO.html. Years later, I would write a novel of a monster that prowled an observatory’s grounds called The Astronomer’s Crypt. You can learn about this novel at http://www.davidleesummers.com/Astronomers-Crypt.html. Mr. Stoker maintained an epic, full beard worthy of admiration!


Around the beginning of the twentieth century, beards tended to fall out of fashion. I’ve often wondered why that happened. A recent article at Vox.com suggests that beards fell victim to the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918. Claims were made that beards were unsanitary and led to greater rates of infection. According to the article, this isn’t necessarily true. It says shaving abrades the skin and can slightly raise the risk of infection. You can read the full article here: https://www.vox.com/the-goods/2020/3/30/21195447/beard-pandemic-coronavirus-masks-1918-spanish-flu-tuberculosis.

Of course this all makes me wonder whether the current pandemic will have an impact on beards or fashion in general. Do you have any predictions? Any favorite bearded writers? Share them in the comments.

7 comments on “Beards and Horror

  1. sftrails says:

    I’ve had beards off and on and got rid of mine when it turned gray. I don’t think science is going to support the virus theory. If that were true than we’d all need to shave our heads as well.

    • The idea of unsanitary beards is really a 1918 idea and I think is finally long behind us. That said, I’ve wondered if recent infographics from the CDC that remind us that beards make it harder to get a good seal on face masks may make a change in what beards people have or if they have them at all.

  2. During WW I and II, there was a lot of concern about spies coming into the US. Maybe people thought they needed to see men’s whole faces?

    • Interesting thought. It seems a lot of period cartoons from WWII showed spies as bearded men. I’m guessing that trope would have been inspired by some honest perception of the time. It could also have been one of the things that led to the perception of bearded men being “frightening.”

  3. I don’t remember ever hearing of a suspected Spanish flu–no beard connection; interesting.

    Before then, during what was perhaps the most horrifying time in American history, the Civil War, America was led by a man with a beard (which he grew very shortly before the war began).

    One thing I’ve noticed is that in American films of around the 1940s – early 1960s or so, if a man had a mustache and a goatee, odds were he was an evil mastermind. Even television’s *Doctor Who* did that with The Master, and, marginally, *Star Trek* with the mirror universe Spock.

    • A good point about the horror of the Civil War and Lincoln’s beard. Davis, Grant, and Lee also had beards. It would be easy to make a connection if beards fell out of favor after the Civil War, but they remained fashionable until the 20th century. In fact, every bearded president served between Lincoln and the beginning of the 20th century.

      As for Star Trek and beards — remember many of the original Klingons also had goatees, much like mirror Spock! It turns out Wikipedia has something to say on this subject, which I thought was interesting: “The use of goatees to designate evil characters has become enough of a trope that researchers from the University of Warwick conducted a study to assess the reasons for its prevalence. The study found that the human brain tends to perceive downwards-facing triangles as inherently threatening; brains tend to perceive goatees as making the human face resemble a downwards-facing triangle, causing individuals to subconsciously perceive those with goatees as inherently sinister or threatening.”

  4. […] via Beards and Horror — David Lee Summers’ Web Journal […]

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