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The Original Goth

“Goth” is one of those words that everybody knows, everybody knows the meaning of, yet few can really tell you the origins of the term or its history. What’s the common, everyday definition? Somebody who dresses all in black, dyes his hair black, is either naturally pale or wears corpse makeup, or both, and avoids the sunlight? Somebody who listens to maggot Rock and pretends to be a vampire? Here is an article that attempts to shed some light on the subject—which the subject probably hates, but it might be helpful to the rest of us. From the article: “Goth, or at least the movement we know of today, began in the late 1960s. And it was first used to describe music – specifically, the sound of The Doors, Jim Morrison’s rock band. Critic John Stickney coined the term ‘gothic rock’ way back in 1967 when describing a Doors gig, so it may be argued that Jim Morrison was the first modern goth.”

Interesting. I didn’t know that. Did you? Continuing from the article: “It wasn’t until a decade later, in the late 70s, that goth started to be thought of as a genre. And a striking image, involving pale make-up and wild hair, was presented by singers from bands like The Damned and Siouxsie and the Banshees… At the same time, goth was being reflected in cinemas with the arrival of films like SUSPIRIA and ERASERHEAD in 1977, and Werner Herzog’s NOSFERATU in 1979.” Okay, I did know that about the movies.

The article admits, though, that the term was around long before goth music or goth movies. “The first ever usage of the term ‘gothic’ came in 1764, when Horace Walpole was describing his novel, THE CASTLE OF OTRANTO. Walpole took the term Gothic from architecture, implying that these sort of tales would take place in (pseudo)-medieval buildings, which he happened to admire and live in himself.” Ah, so it came about in reference to architecture. Okay—but where did the term in reference to architecture come from, and what is its exact meaning? Let us consult ye olde dictionaries, aye? It defines “gothic” as “noting or pertaining to a style of architecture [and later Art] originating in France in the middle of the 12th century and existing in the western half of Europe through the middle of the 16th century…meaning ‘of the Goths,’ the ancient Germanic people, pertaining to the Goths or their language. It comes from the Latin ‘Gothicus,’ and was used by 17th Century scholars to mean ‘Germanic, Teutonic,’ hence its use as a term for the art style that emerged in northern Europe in the Middle Ages.” Clear as mud? Well, the “gothic” style didn’t follow the “classic” style at all, which means that it wasn’t at all like Greek or Roman architecture. The term was used in derision during the Renaissance to imply that the form was crude or barbaric. When you consider that the REAL original Goths were a Germanic people who invaded the Roman Empire between 200 and 500 AD, and that these invasions played a key role in the fall of the Empire in 476 AD, with Gothic culture supplanting Roman or “classical” culture, you can start to see the evolution of the word into what we know today.

WAYNE MILLER is the owner and creative director of EVIL CHEEZ PRODUCTIONS (,, specializing in theatrical performances and haunted attractions. He has written, produced and directed (and occasionally acted in) over a dozen plays, most of them in the Horror and Crime genres. His first novel, THE CONFESSIONS OF SAINT CHRISTOPHER: WEREWOLF, is available for purchase here:


TheCheezman • June 4, 2018

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