Southern Gothic

The creepy, gothic version of the rural Southeast United States. Scenes show dying vegetation, decaying plantations, rusty farm implements, forbidding swamps with something lurking within, and frighteningly expressionless folk standing around doing...nothing, except staring at the protagonists.

The Southern Gothic is its own subgenre of Gothic media, characterized by bleak settings in the Deep South, flawed (and often disturbing) characters, and the darker side of the Southeastern United States including racism, sexism, and Barefoot Poverty. If you're in Louisiana, Hollywood Voodoo might make an appearance.

Unlike The Savage South where the southern areas are teeming with life (most of which wants you dead), Southern Gothic settings have a constant feel of decay, death and malaise. Anything living there will feel unnatural on top of possibly being very dangerous. Supernatural elements are popular, especially with themes of the undead or "things that should not be" instead of the typical wild animals and hostile natives usually seen in The Savage South.

See also Deep South, Southern Gothic's mother trope. Compare Lovecraft Country, Campbell Country, Nordic Noir, and ‹berwald.


Comic Books

  • Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter has the Old South be full of vampires who attack and Kill Lincoln's family, incite a civil war and eventually have Lincoln murdered.
  • Children of the Corn is a rare non-Southern example (it's set in Nebraska) with an Amish feel, however, the decay, staring unnatural inhabitants and eerie isolation are still present.
  • House of 1000 Corpses where it's not full of wild near-tribal crazies everything is decaying, depressing and/or dilapidated.
  • The Skeleton Key has this feel, with the primary setting being an old, run-down plantation house in Louisiana, owned by an old, run-down couple. There's also a bit of Hoodoo mysticism thrown in for an extra creepy factor which later becomes a major plot point.
  • Stoker, though set in Connecticut takes on a low-key, manicured version of the associated tropes (albeit populated with Fake Americans).
  • The Waterboy is comedic example where the decay and depressing state of the world is used to highlight Bobby's cheerful and optimistic Demeanor.
  • Winter's Bone
  • 1972 horror film The Other, along with the book it was based on. Set New England during 1935, and starring Creepy Twins, Niles and Holland Perry, it features old, decaying buildings, sun-parched yet oddly idyllic scenery, and horrible secrets.

  • To Kill a Mockingbird has elements of this, as well as being set in the Deep South.
    • Carson Mc Cullers' stories are soaked in this. She once accused Harper Lee of "poaching on her preserve".
  • Anne Rice's Blackwood Farm has more mausoleums than people, not to mention an entire house sunk to the second story in a swamp.
    • Pretty much everything Anne Rice does is Southern Gothic—with an emphasis on the Gothic part.
  • George R.R. Martin's Fevre Dream is very much this. Nineteenth century, steamers in the South, vampires with slaves and a creepy mansion.
  • A Rose for Emily, by William Faulkner, could well be the poster child of this trope. Emily Grierson's mansion, a symbol of better days long since past, is described in the most wretched terms of rot and decay—and the house hides terrible secrets.
  • H.P. Lovecraft's The Call of Cthulhu abandons the traditional New England as a setting for monstrous buried secrets, wandering Southwards to the dank swamps of Louisiana, where Cthulhu's cultists gather for celebration with orgies and human sacrifices.
  • Pretty much anything by Flannery O Connor.
  • John Saul set his horror novel The Right Hand of Evil in backwoods Louisiana and The Unloved in South Carolina.
  • Robert E. Howard's short story "Black Canaan" fits here.
  • Cherie Priest's Four and twenty Blackbirds mixes this with Magic Realism is a story of a girl who sees ghosts dealing with the legacy of her great-great grandfather, an evil sorcerer.
  • Many of the novels by V. C. Andrews.
  • Erskine Caldwell's Tobacco Road and God's Little Acre.
  • Shane Berryhill's Zora Banks Urban Fantasy series is a modernized example with Chattanooga, TN's genteel Southern heritage contrasted against its modern-day sleaze and supernatural crime.
  • The Caster Chronicles is not as horror-y as the classic model, but features a lot of the same atmosphere and elements, showing the Deep South as being full of things that aren't what they seem, that can't be explained, and that are often very dangerous.

Live-Action TV
  • American Horror Story: Coven, which takes place in New Orleans, Louisiana. And American Horror Story: Freak Show takes place in Jupiter, Florida in 1952 (back when Jupiter was still part of the South, rather than the Northern-and-Cuban sprawl emanating from Miami).
  • The [adult swim] series The Heart She Holler wallows in the clichťs of the genre, gleefully cranking the trashiness and degeneracy Up to Eleven.
  • Justified has the Truth family, a household full of brash, maladjusted criminals in rural Kentucky.
  • True Detective: The first season features two detectives investigating an occult-themed serial killing in the suburban and rural areas surrounding New Orleans. Although nothing is definitely supernatural, it's very much portrayed as a southern version of Lovecraft Country, with Thomas Ligotti being a major influence.
  • The Walking Dead dove headfirst into this territory the moment the survivors left the Atlanta Metro Area.
  • The Originals is set in storied and beautiful New Orleans. It weaves her extremely eventful history into the narrative, and makes use of the sometimes macabre beauty of the city's streets, cemeteries, and churches for visual interest. The story also ventures out into the surrounding rural areas of Louisiana—whose swamps and woods are both very different from the city, yet still have a similarly spooky beauty.


  • Sons of Perdition fits this trope to a T.

Professional Wrestling
  • The Wyatt Family - a Charles Manson-meets-True Detective stable of evil southern cultits - play upon this in a way that's so legitimately chilling that it's probably inappropriate for what is, ostensibly, family entertainment.

Tabletop Games
  • Rage Across Appalachia, a supplemental book for Werewolf: The Apocalypse, runs on this trope. Memorable examples of horror from the book include the Bledsons, a rural family of bane-possessed men, and the Pigeon River Howlers, a bluegrass band made up of Black Spiral Dancers who corrupt their audiences through music and dancing.
  • Realms Of Cthulhu, by Reality Blurs, is a Savage Worlds setting that uses Charleston, South Carolina, as the default location for its Cosmic Horror adventures.

Video Games


Western Animation
  • Scooby-Doo has visited these once in a while. Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island is one of the best examples of the trope.
    • Scooby and Shaggy both have ancestral (probably on mother sides) southern gothic homes. As depicted in "Scooby's Roots" and "Boo Brothers".
  • Played with on King of the Hill when we get to meet Bill Dauterive's family. He's from Louisiana and his family home is a typical crumbling plantation with weird family members and a secret. In this case barbecue sauce, but still.